Wildlife Science: ‘Why Cheetahs Are So Fast’

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on Earth. So what’s the secret to their incredible speed?

A cheetah has a short muzzle, small canines, and other features to help reduce the overall weight of its head. All this results in a skull that weighs around 500 grams. That’s just over a pound. Now, cheetahs need this light skull to make space for a large nasal cavity. Because cheetahs need LOTS of oxygen. To help meet this need, they have large nostrils that allow for quick and large intakes of air while the cheetah’s large chest holds its lungs and heart, which work together to help circulate the oxygen throughout its body. And that’s crucial, since a cheetah can take anywhere between 60 to 150 breaths per minute. This is a drastic increase, since at rest, a cheetah takes in about 9 breaths per minute. That means that when these cats really get going, their breathing rate goes up to SIXTEEN TIMES faster. What’s even more fascinating is that while running, you’ll notice that a cheetah’s head doesn’t move. It stays incredible still.

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