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The Fastest Animals

Which are the fastest animals in the air, on land and in the water?

Here is a list of the 18 fastest animals in the world. We also have exciting facts for you - for example how to measure their speed and why animals don't always move at maximum speed.

Did you know that during a peregrine falcon's nose dive is as fast as a formula 1 racing car? And that a cheetah, the fastest land animal, would probably be too fast for an ordinary speedometer?

The Fastest Animals by Type of Locomotion

To clarify which animals fly, run and swim the fastest, here are the absolute top 3:

Fastest animal in the air Peregrine falcon 200 mph (322 km/h)
Fastest animal on land Cheetah 56-74.5 mph (90-120 km/h)
Fastest animal in the water Sailfish 46-68 mph (75-110 km/h)

Top 18 Fastest Animals in the World

Fastest bird (nose dive) Peregrine falcon 200 mph (322 km/h)
Fastest mammal (flying) Mexican free-tailed bat 100 mph (160 km/h)
Fastest bird (flying) Grey-headed albatross 79 mph (127 km/h)
Fastest terrestrial animal (short distance) Cheetah 56-74.5 mph (90-120 km/h)
Fastest fish Sailfish 46-68 mph (75-110 km/h)
Fastest terrestrial animal (long distance) Mexican pronghorn 55 mph (88 km/h)
Fastest bird (running) Ostrich 43 mph (70 km/h)
Fastest dog Greyhound 43 mph (70 km/h)
Fastest rabbit Brown hare 43 mph (70 km/h)
Fastest marine mammal Orca 40 mph (65 km/h)
Fastest marsupial Kangaroo 34 mph (55 km/h)
Fastest insect (flying) Hawker dragonfly A. costalis 31 mph (50 km/h)
Fastest seal Californian seal 25 mph (40 km/h)
Fastest bird (in the water) Gentoo penguin 22 mph (36 km/h)
Fastest reptile (in the water) Leatherback turtle 22 mph (35 km/h)
Fastest reptile (running) Spinytail iguana 22 mph (35 km/h)
Fastest insect (running) Tiger beetle 5.5 mph (9 km/h)
Fastest starfish Common sunstar 9.8 ft/minute (3 m/minute)

Cheetah Cheetah - Photo: Stuart G Porter/Shutterstock

Average and Maximum Speed

While hunting or on the run, animals are able to move very fast for a short while. If you are late for the bus or for your first lesson at school you also tend to run much faster than usual. Yet, you cannot keep up this speed all day. This would be much too exhausting. The same with animals. The speeds listed here therefore apply for short distances only.

How to Measure Speed

The same cameras can be used that are applied to detect cars driving too fast. Sometimes stopwatches or collars with speedometers are used as well. Some scientists follow the animals in their cars and use the speedometer to determine their speed. All methods have in common that speed cannot be measured with absolute precision. Therefore, there is always different information and everyone claims to be right. Frequently, this causes scientific arguments. therefore always specifies a range of speeds such as 56-74.5 mph (90-120 km/h).

Example: Cheetah

It would not make sense to follow the cheetah with a car, as it frequently and abruptly changes its direction and cannot be trained to run straight for a long distance. In order to measure the speed of a cheetah you have to attach a collar to its neck and wait until it goes hunting for prey. But this still does not, mean that the cheetah is running at maximum speed. It only runs as fast as necessary to save energy – and only distances of 1,312-1,640 feet (400-500 meters).

Fun Facts

Cockroaches Are Faster than Expected

Yet, the “slow” animals among the fastest are stunning as well: A cockroach can easily keep up with a briskly walking human. The tiger beetle is even faster. And if you are not fast enough on your bicycle, you could be overtaken by a leguan.

More articles about fast animals: Here you can find everything about the fastest land animals, the fastest birds in the world and the fastest fish.

The Fastest Animals The Fastest Animals - Illustration: Silke/


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