- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids

The Fastest Animals

Luckily, speed cameras do not exist in the world of animals. Many of the following animals would be caught in a radar trap. We have a detailed list of the fastest animals and exciting background information! During a nose dive, the peregrine falcon is nearly as fast as a formula 1 racing car. The cheetah, the fastest terrestrial animal, would also probably be too fast for a common speedometer. It would be hardly possible to take a decent photo of it, because it can not only run incredibly fast, but changes direction while running, too. Faster than a speeding bullet!

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

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.

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).

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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