10 Fastest Land Animals

Some people may be surprised to learn that humans aren’t the fastest creatures on the planet. Yet, speed can be the difference between life and death in the wild.

All of the planet’s fastest terrestrial creatures are either prey or predators. To stay alive, they must actively hunt for food or constantly avoid predators. These exceptionally quick runners can outrun their enemies and even triumph over their prey.

Here are 10 of the fastest land animals in the world.

10. Lion

Speed: 35–50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Throughout Africa; a wide range of habitats
Scientific Name: Panthera leo
 Lifespan: 10-15 years

Lionphoto source: Flickr

As the “king of beasts,” lions have been admired throughout history. The coat of an adult lion is yellow-gold, while youngsters have faint patches that fade with maturity. Typically, only male lions have manes, the stunning fringe of long hair surrounding their heads.

Also, lions are the only cats living in big social groupings known as “prides.” A pride can contain three and thirty lions, including lionesses, their cubs, and a few unrelated adult males. The pride is tightly knit and unlikely to tolerate an outsider. The unrelated males remain for a few months or years, while the elder lionesses remain together for life.

In arid regions with little food, prides are smaller and led by two lionesses. Prides can contain between four and six adult lionesses in environments with more food and water. Males and females both leave a smell trail to indicate their territory.

Did You Know:

Lions sleep more than twenty hours a day to save energy between hunts.

9. Hartebeest

Speed: 43–50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Sub-Saharan Africa; savannas and grasslands
Scientific Name: Alcelaphus buselaphus
 Lifespan: 11-20 years

Hartebeestphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Hartebeests may have an unusual look, but they are one of the fastest and most resilient runners among antelopes. This antelope inhabits the western, eastern, and southern parts of Africa.

They live in savannas, plains, and woodland grasslands and frequently migrate to more arid regions following rains. However, they tolerate woody settings and are frequently spotted along the forest’s border.

Males and females may be identified by their respective coat colors. The males typically have a dark brown coat, while the females have a yellowish-brown coat. Hartebeests are predominantly active throughout the day, grazing in the early hours and late afternoon and resting in the shade around midday. They have herds of up to 300 and are social.

Did You Know:

Hartebeests flee by sprinting in zigzag patterns, which confuses their predators and makes it harder for them to catch them.

8. Grant’s Gazelle

Speed: 40-50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Eastern Africa; plains and grasslands
Scientific Name: Nanger granti
 Lifespan: 12-14 years

Grant's gazellephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Grant’s gazelle is a kind of animal belonging to the Bovidae family. In eastern Africa, it may be found in Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. Grant’s gazelle lives in dry habitats, including savannas, open plains, and semi-deserts.

This type of gazelle resembles Thomson’s gazelles but is somewhat bigger and recognized by a white patch that spans from the rump to the back. Grant’s gazelles live in typical, male-led, territorial herds. In more restricted settings, herds are often smaller and more sexually divided.

Did You Know:

Grant’s gazelles are capable of regulating their body temperature to preserve water.

7. Blackbuck

Speed: 50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: India and Nepal; plains and forests
Scientific Name: Antilope cervicapra
 Lifespan: 10-15 years

Blackbuckphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The blackbuck, or Indian antelope (Antilope cervicapra), is an antelope endemic to India, Pakistan, and Nepal. It inhabits grassy plains and sparsely wooded regions with permanent water sources.

They are a rare species of antelope in which males and females have distinct coloring. The backs, sides, and outsides of the legs of males are dark brown. In these regions, women have a significantly lighter tan color. Males and females alike are white underneath and have white eye patches.

Blackbucks are gregarious creatures that live in herds of five to fifty individuals.

Did You Know:

They have a weak sense of smell and hearing; therefore, they rely on their vision to detect danger.

6. Wildebeest

Speed: 50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Central, eastern, and southern Africa; plains and savannas
Scientific Name: Connochaetes
 Lifespan: 20 years

Wildebeestphoto source: Flickr

The wildebeest, often known as the gnu, belongs to the antelope family. They have a huge, rectangular-shaped skulls with curved horns. The front of their body is robust, but the hindquarters and legs are thin and wiry. They have a gray coat, a black mane, and a black or white beard.

Their habitat consists of the grassy plains and open forests of central, southern, and eastern Africa, especially the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania. They roam in vast herds and are continuously active, grazing day and night.

Their dramatic trek northward in pursuit of better pastures is governed by weather cycles but often occurs in May or June. It is regarded as one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth, with up to 1.5 million wildebeests and hundreds of thousands of other species, including zebra and gazelle, participating.

Did You Know:

Wildebeest typically coexist with other wildebeest; however, they have been observed temporarily cohabitating with zebras on the plains.

5. Thomson’s Gazelle

Speed: 50 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Eastern Africa; grasslands and savannas
Scientific Name: Eudorcas thomsonii
 Lifespan: 10-15 years

Thomson's gazellephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Thomson’s gazelle is among the most recognizable species of gazelle. It is frequently referred to as a “tommie” and is named after the explorer Joseph Thomson. They have white stomachs and reddish-brown backs separated by a prominent black stripe. Their rump patches are white, while their tails are black.

Thomson’s gazelles have reddish-brown fur on their faces, with a wide white stripe that goes from the eye to the nose and is bordered by a black stripe.

Thomson’s gazelles typically form groups of 5 to 60 members; however, transitory affiliations might include hundreds of individuals. In addition, the groups do not appear to have any permanent social structure.

Did You Know:

They sleep for brief durations of around 5 minutes at a time, totaling one hour every 24-hour day.

4. Tsessebe

Speed: 43–56 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia; grasslands and plains
Scientific Name: Damaliscus lunatus lunatus
 Lifespan: 15 years

Tsessebephoto source: Flickr

Tsessebes are huge, dark brown antelopes with a prominent neck hump and 16-inch horns. Common tsessebes are sociable antelopes with herds of around ten females and their young. Males leave their mother’s herd around one year of age and live in herds of about thirty males.

Their primary predators are lions, but jackals and hyenas also prey on juveniles.

Tsessebes are social creatures whose fundamental group structure comprises small breeding groups of six to ten cows with their young. This is most prominent near water and under favorable viewing conditions.

Did You Know:

Tsessebes, unlike other bovids, typically breed during the dry season.

3. Springbok

Speed: 55 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Southern Africa; savannas and deserts
Scientific Name: Antidorcas marsupialis
 Lifespan: 7-9 years

Springbokphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The springbok is a gazelle-like animal with distinctive markings. It features a white face with dark stripes that becomes darker and eventually white on the lower part of its body and a white back.

It measures around 80 cm tall at the shoulders and is distinguished by a skin fold that extends to the rear. This fold can be extended during agitation to reveal a white hair crest.

Both sexes have black, lyre-shaped, curving horns. Males of a larger size can grow horns between 36 and 48 centimeters in length.

Springboks inhabit the southern and southwestern regions of Africa. They are primarily limited to farms, parks, and game reserves in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa, where they have the largest populations. In addition, the southern region of Angola has a distinct population.

Did You Know:

Springbok derives from the Afrikaans words meaning “jump” and “antelope,” respectively.

2. Pronghorn

Speed: 50–60 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Western North America; desert and prairie regions
Scientific Name: Antilocapra americana
 Lifespan: 12-14 years

Pronghornphoto source: Flickr

The pronghorn is a native North American species. It is known by various names, including American antelope, prongbuck, and pronghorn antelope. Pronghorns resemble antelopes, thus their name, but has their own taxonomic family.

It can go long distances at 30-40 mph and reach 60 mph. Pronghorns sprint with their mouths open to get more air. Pronghorns inhabit grasslands, brushlands, and deserts. Seasonal pronghorn herds vary in size. Females and their young form bands of less than a dozen in summer. Young guys create bachelor herds. Breeding males claim territory.

The winter herd might have hundreds of pronghorns and males. Pronghorns move from summer to winter feeding grounds.

Did You Know:

Pronghorns are the fastest land mammal in the entire Western Hemisphere.

1. Cheetah

Speed: 68–75 miles per hour
 Habitat/Range: Eastern and Southern Africa; wide range of environments
Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus
 Lifespan: 8-10 years

Cheetahphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world, running up to around 75 miles per hour. When running fast, these cats can turn quickly and suddenly to catch their prey. The cheetah’s agile spine, claws, long legs, and long tail give it a unique body structure that lets it reach an incredible speed.

The cheetah’s body is thin and light, and its legs are long and thin. In addition, specialized muscles let the limbs swing more, which speeds up the animal.

Cheetahs are known for their spotted, tan fur. Each black spot has its own pattern, which helps the animals tell each other apart. Bold black stripes run from the inside corners of their eyes down to the sides of their mouths, like tears, and black rings are at the ends of their bushy tails.

The color of a cheetah’s coat depends on where it lives. Cheetahs live in many places in eastern and southern Africa, though they prefer open grasslands. One subspecies, the Asiatic cheetah, is only found in Iran, and it is so rare that only a few hundred are thought to be left.

Did You Know:

Cheetahs don’t roar like other “big cats”; instead, they growl, chirp, meow, and bark.

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