The Fastest Land Animals

How fast are land animals? There are several records and facts regarding speed in the world of animals. Birds are the unbeaten champions regarding speed. But there are also many land animals, that have achieved remarkable records.

For example the cheetah which darts through the savannah at incredible speeds of 55.9 - 74.5 mph (90 - 120 km/h). The red kangaroo hops over the Australian continent at speeds of up to 54.6 mph (88 km/h). After the list containing the records you will find some interesting additional information on topics such as speed, short/long distances etc.

Cheetah Animal of prey 55.9 - 74.5 mph (90 - 120 km/h)
Mexican pronghorn Hoofed animal 54.6 mph (88 km/h)
Springbok Hoofed animal 54.6 mph (88 km/h)
Thomson’s gazelle Hoofed animal 49.7 - 59.6 mph (80-96 km/h)
Blackbuck Hoofed animal 49.7 mph (80 km/h)
American quarter horse Hoofed animal 43.4 - 49.7 mph (70 - 80 km/h)
Wildebeest Hoofed animal 43.4 - 49.7 mph (70 - 80 km/h)
Brown hare Leporidae 43.4 mph (70 km/h)
Ostrich Ratite 43.4 mph (70 km/h)
Afghan hound Animal of prey 43.4 mph (70 km/h)
Greyhound Animal of prey 40.3 - 43.4 mph (65 - 70km/h)
African wild dog Animal of prey 40.3 - 43.4 mph (65 - 70km/h)
Coyote Animal of prey 42.8 mph (69 km/h)
Kangaroo Diprotodontia 39.7 mph (64 km/h)
Moose Hoofed animal 37.2 mph (60 km/h)
Lion Animal of prey 34.1 - 37.2 mph (55 - 60 km/h)
Rhino Hoofed animal 27.9 - 31 mph (45-50 km/h)
Polar bear Animal of prey 24.8 mph (40 km/h)
African elephant Trunked animal 24.8 mph (40 km/h)
Hippo Hoofed animal 18.6 - 24.8 mph (30 - 40 km/h)
Spinytail iguana Reptile 21.6 mph (34.9 km/h)
Tiger beetle Beetle 5.5 mph (9 km/h)
Cockroach Insect 3.3 mph (5.4 km/h)

Mexican Pronghorn Mexican Pronghorn - Photo: Dennis Donohue/Shutterstock

Short and Long Distances

All speed records here relate to short distances, e.g. while hunting or trying to escape. This is very exhausting, and the animals cannot keep up these speeds for a long time. Only the Mexican pronghorn manages to cover long distances at a speed of 54.6 mph (88 km/h).

There’s a Difference Between Land and Water

Many animals live on shore and in the water – and achieve completely different speeds depending on the environment.

The polar bear is much faster on land than in the water for instance. It achieves impressive 40 km/h on land, but only reaches a maximum of 6.2 mph (10 km/h) in the water.

On the other hand, the gentoo reaches a speed of 21.1 mph (34 km/h) under water, but only 1.8 - 2.4 mph (3 - 4 km/h) on land. The animals are perfectly adapted to their habitats.

And how fast is the human?

The fastest human being currently is the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. In 2009, he covered the distance of 328 ft (100 m) in 9.58 seconds at a speed of 23.34 mph (37.57 km/h) – a world record. Yet, even Bolt would have no chance to escape from an elephant, a hippo or a rhino.

Speed in Relation to Size

10 - 20 km/h do not appear particularly fast to us humans. A trained jogger can easily reach 6.2 mph (10 km/h), and we can make 12.4 mph (20 km/h) on any bicycle. But compare this to a mouse: It can run at 8 mph (13 km/h) when in a hurry. But other than a 5.9 ft (1.80 m) tall human being it is not bigger than 2.7 - 4.3 inch (7 - 11 cm).

The Record

For a long time, the tiger beetle was the record holder regarding speed in relation to size and weight. Even though it does not get bigger than 2.7 inch (70 mm) and weighs only a few gram, it can run across the sand at 5.5 mph (9 km/h). A human being would have to run at crazy 478 mph (770 km/h) to keep up with the tiger beetle!

But scientists found out that there is an even faster, yet very small animal out there: a mite with the scientific name paratarsotomus macropalpis. A human being running at the same speed would be 1,242 mph (2,000 km/h) fast.