Cheetahs might be the fastest terrestrial hunter on the planet, but it has only recently been discovered that speed is not the most important factor to the big cats’ hunting success. A study conducted by the Royal Veterinary College in London determined that: “Grip and maneuverability, rather than top speed, were shown to be key to hunting success. Hunts involved considerable maneuvering.”
This information came from a 17-month study that saw three female and two male adult cheetahs make 367 hunting runs while fixed with GPS and motion sensing collar. While several runs exceeded speeds of 58 miles per hour, none saw cheetahs top out at the fastest recorded times of 75 mph. Speeds such as this have only been documented on captive cheetahs running in a straight line.
One interesting fact to come from the study deals with cheetah acceleration.
“The greatest acceleration and deceleration values were almost double values published for polo horses and exceeded the accelerations reported for greyhounds at the start of a race. The acceleration power for the cheetahs was four times higher than that achieved by Usain Bolt during his world record 100 meters run, about double that for racing greyhounds and more than three times higher than polo horses in competition.”