CHASING A CHEETAH: The cheetah is the Bugatti Veyron of the animal world, achieving speeds of 29 ms-1 (65 mph), almost twice as fast as their nearest rival, the greyhound. Yet, both have a similar build and use a rotary gallup as opposed to the transverse gallop used by a horse.
• To chase down the cheetah’s secret, researchers buried 8 force plates in an enclosure of UK’s ZSL Whipsnade Zoo and tempted the big cats to sprint after a piece of chicken attached to a truck starter motor. Filming at 1000 frames s-1, they measured the forces exerted on the animals’ limbs, their body motion and footfall patterns. They did the same with trained greyhounds.
• The cheetah’s stride was slightly longer than the grayhound’s. But a striking difference was their ability to change gears: increasing stride frequency from 2.4 strides s–1 at a leisurely 9 m s–1, rising to 3.2 strides s–1 at 17 m s–1. In the wild, they probably reach 4 strides s-1! In contrast, greyhounds maintained a constant stride rate around 3.5 strides s–1 across their entire speed range. Cheetahs also had a longer stance time (length of time the foot stayed on the ground), which is thought to translate to greater acceleration.
“You better take it on the run, there’s a cheetah walking high
Liquid whispers dragonfly, charleston booties on painted toes”
REF: Hudson, P. E., Corr, S. A. and Wilson, A. M. (2012). High speed galloping in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and the racing greyhound (Canis familiaris): spatio-temporal and kinetic characteristics. J. Exp. Biol. 215, 2425-2434.