Sarah, an 11-year-old cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo, set a new world speed record this summer during a shoot for National Geographic magazine. She first earned the title of world’s fastest land mammal in 2009 when she covered 100 meters in 6.13 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 6.19 seconds set by a male South African cheetah named Nyana in 2001. On June 20, 2012, Sarah shattered all 100-meter times when she posted 5.95 seconds. By comparison, Sarah’s 100-meter run was nearly four seconds faster than the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt of Jamaica, whose fastest time for the same distance is 9.58 seconds. Sarah’s top speed was clocked at 61 mph.
Her run was photographed for a November 2012 National Geographic magazine article that will include never-before-seen high speed photographs and video of cheetah movement.
Cameras captured the record-breaking run on Sarah’s first attempt on a specially designed course certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field.
Sarah and the Cincinnati Zoo’s other four cheetahs in the Cat Ambassador Program regularly run at the Zoo’s Regional Cheetah Breeding Facility. The documentation of the run was supported in part by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative — http://www.causeanuproar.org — a long-term effort to halt the decline of big cats in the wild.
Cheetahs are endangered and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900 to an estimated 9,000 – 12,000 cheetahs today. The Cincinnati Zoo has been dubbed “The Cheetah Capital of the World” because of its conservation efforts through education, public interpretation, and the captive cheetah breeding program. The Zoo’s Regional Cheetah Breeding Center is one of only four similar facilities in the United States managed by the Species Survival Plan. In total, there have been 64 cheetah cubs born in Cincinnati.
The fastest cheetah on Earth has done it again, breaking her previous world record for the 100-meter dash and setting a new best time of 5.95 seconds.
This feat surpasses the fastest of all human 100-meter sprinters by almost four seconds. Usain Bolt, a Jamaican sprinter now competing at the 2012 London Olympics, holds the human world record at 9.58 seconds in the 100-meter dash.
Cheetahs, of course, are built to run faster than humans, regularly clocking speeds of up to around 60 miles per hour (96.5 kilometers per hour). During a photo shoot with National Geographic Magazine, a cheetah from the Cincinnati Zoo named Sarah covered 100 meters at 61 mph (98 kph).
The sprint broke Sarah’s previous world record, set in 2009 when she ran the same distance in 6.13 seconds. That sprint broke the previous record set in 2001, when a male South African cheetah named Nyana ran 100 meters in 6.19 seconds.
Sarah is 11 years old and is part of the zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program. Her sprint was documented with funding from the National Geographic’s cat conservation effort the Big Cats Initiative.
The record-breaking run took place on a course designed by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field. Sarah chased a fluffy toy lure around the course, breaking the record on her very first run.
The secret to cheetah speed is in its long, flexible spine, which allows the animal to cover up to 22 feet (6.7 meters) on every stride. Cheetahs also vary their strides per second as they speed up, taking more strides per second as they run faster. That seems to be a special talent, researchers reported in June in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Other speedy creatures such as greyhounds keep a steady number of strides per second no matter how fast they run.
Cheetahs’ sharp claws also act like cleats when they run, giving the big cats traction.
Cheetahs are endangered in the wild, with an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 living outside of zoos today.