If you think cheetah is the fastest animal on earth, then you’re mistaken. Sure it is the fast land animal, but the crown of the fastest species in the entire animal kingdom goes to someone else. Below, we have compiled a list of 12 fastest animals on Earth. Some of these run on land, while others swim and fly.
A Male lion in Namibia | Image Courtesy: Kevin Pluck
Top Speed: 80.5 km/h
Scientific Name: Panthera Leo
As an apex predator, lions play an important role in the ecosystem. While they usually pray on large mammals, lions can also survive on smaller animals such as hare and monkeys.
A lion can reach the top speed of 80.5 km/h while hunting. They can maintain such speeds only for small periods; and thus needs to stay close to prey before commencing the attack.
Black Wildebeest | Image Courtesy: Derek Keats
Top Speed: 80.5 km/h
The wildebeest, also known as gnu, is an antelope species in genus Connochaetes (which includes goat, sheep and other horned animals). There are two species of wildebeests; the blue wildebeest (brindled gnu) and the black wildebeest (white-tailed gnu).
It’s been estimated that these two species were separated more than one million years ago. The black wildebeest has changed drastically (due to habitat) from the ancestral species, whereas the blue wildebeest has remained more or less the same.
Wildebeests are preyed upon by natural predators such as lion, cheetah, leopard, hyena, and crocodile. They, however, are not an easy target. Wildebeests are strong and have a maximum speed of 80 km/h.
In East Africa, where they are in most abundance, wildebeest is a popular game animal.
10. American Quarter Horse
Top Speed: 88 km/h
The world’s fastest horse, the American Quarter horse, was bred specifically to outrun every other horse breed for a quarter-mile (0.4 km). It was first introduced in the 1600s. According to the American Quarter Horse Association, about 3 million Quarter horses were living in 2014.
They are recognized by muscular but short stature with a wide chest (horses bred specifically for racing are somehow taller).
Today, the American Quarter Horses are being used in races, animal shows, reining and other competitions including team roping and barrel racing.
Top Speed: 88 km/h
Scientific Name: Antidorcas marsupialis
The springbok is one of more than 90 species of antelope, which is found exclusively in southwestern Africa. Three subspecies of springbok are known.
Though first described in 1780, it was only recently that the springbok (along with saiga antelope) was recognized as a completely different species of antelopes. With a top speed of 88 km/h, the springbok is perhaps the fastest antelope and second fastest land animal on earth.
Springbok antelope can live without water for months, and in some cases years, as they fulfill their requirements by consuming succulent plants and shrubs. They often display a peculiar movement known as pronking, in which an individual jumps into the air in a bowed fashion with stiffed legs.
It’s been speculated that such activity is done either to confuse a predator or raise alarm.
Pronghorns in Montana
Top Speed: 88.5 km/h
Scientific Name: Antilocapra americana
The pronghorn is one of the fastest land animals in the world. It is one of the many even-toed ungulates and the only extant member of the family Antilocapridae.
Though not exactly an antelope species, pronghorn is colloquially known in various parts of North America as prong buck, pronghorn antelope, American antelope, and prairie antelope.
Accurately measuring the top speed of a pronghorn is extremely difficult. For 6 km, a pronghorn can run at 56 km/h, and for 1.6 km at 67 km/h. The fastest recorded speed of a pronghorn is 88.5 km/h (for 0.8 km).
Pronghorn is often called the second-fastest land mammal, only after the cheetah.
7. Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s hummingbird | Image Courtesy: U.S Fish and Wildlife Service
Top Speed: 98.2 km/h
Scientific Name: Calypte anna
Anna’s hummingbird is a medium-sized (10.9 cm long) hummingbird species that are found only on the Pacific coast of North America. These little critters can achieve speeds up to 98.2 km/h for short distances during mating dives. The species was named after Anne d’Essling, Duchess of Rivoli.
According to a paper published in 2009, a hummingbird can reach an average speed of 27 m/s or about 385 of its body lengths per second. Furthermore, hummingbirds can vibrate their bodies about 55 times in a second while in flight. It is done either to shed rainwater or pollen dirt from feathers.
Kooshki, male Asiatic Cheetah
Top Speed: 110-120 km/h
Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetah, the fastest land animal, belongs to Felinae subfamily (which includes cats) and is the only extant member of genus Acinonyx. So far, only four subspecies of the cheetah have been recognized, all of which are dispersed in parts of Africa and Western Asia (exclusively Iran).
The cheetah’s slim and light body allows them to rapidly accelerate and launch themselves at furious speeds for a short time. During a high-speed chase, the respiratory rate of a cheetah can measure up to 150 breaths per minute.
The cheetah population has registered a significant decline in the 20th century, mostly due to poaching and habitat loss. In 2016, the world cheetah population stood at 7,100 individuals.
5. Black Marlin
Top Speed: 105 km/h
Scientific Name: Istiompax indica
The black marlin is a large marlin fish species found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. With a maximum recorded weight of 750 kg and a length of 4.65 m, the black marlin is one of the largest bony fish species in the world. And with the highest record speed of 105 km/h, the black Marlin is perhaps the fastest fish species in the world.
4. Grey Headed Albatross
A grey-headed albatross flying over Drake passage
Top Speed: 127 km/h
Scientific Name: Thalassarche Chrysostoma
The grey-headed albatross is a large seabird species in Diomedeidae family. The species is classified as endangered. About half of the world’s Grey Headed Albatross population resides in South Georgia, which unfortunately is rapidly declining.
A study published in 2004 by a group of international researchers, working near the sub-Antarctic, revealed that a satellite-tagged grey-headed albatross hit 127 km/h ground speed. It was the fastest ever for the species.
3. Mexican-Free Tailed Bat
Top Speed: 160 km/h
Scientific Name: Tadarida brasiliensis
The Mexican or Brazilian free-tailed bat is one of the most widespread mammals found in the Americas. They fly at a maximum altitude of 3300 m, the highest among any bat species in the world.
Furthermore, they can travel as far as 50 km in a direct flight pattern and are more active in summers than winters. Though unconfirmed, the Mexican free-tailed bat is the fastest (horizontal speed) animal in the world.
A study conducted by researchers at Wake Forest University, North Carolina in 2014 found that Mexican free-tailed bats emit a special ultrasonic signal that blocks echolocation (biological sonar used to find prey) of other bats.
2. Golden Eagle
A golden eagle | Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Top Speed: 241 km/h
Scientific Name: Aquila chrysaetos
The golden eagle is one of the most well-studied raptor species in the world and is easily recognized by the gold-colored plume on the crown (top of the head) and nape (back of the neck). They are also larger than most other raptor species.
Golden eagles are known for their almost unparalleled strength, agility, and speed, which makes them a fierce predator. During a typical horizontal flight, golden eagles can achieve speeds of 45-52 km/h. While performing a vertical hunting dive, however, they can clock up to a blistering 241 km/h.
Despite being negatively affected by the human population, the golden eagles are still widespread in North America, Eurasia and certain parts of North Africa.
1. Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine falcon | Image Courtesy: Christopher Watson
Speed: 389 km/h
Scientific Name: Falco peregrinus
The peregrine falcon, or simply peregrine, is the fastest bird/animal in flight on earth. A peregrine reaches its highest velocity (over 300 km/h) while performing high-speed hunting dive known as a stoop.
Perhaps the highest recorded speed of a peregrine falcon is 389 km/h. It was measured by falconer Ken Franklin in 2005. Based on its physical characteristics and flight physics, a study has estimated the theoretical limit of an “ideal falcon” to be about 625 km/h (high-altitude flight).
Peregrine falcons are found in almost every region of the world including the Arctic tundra (notable exceptions include New Zealand). About 19 subspecies of falco peregrinus are recognized.