Coach gets the measure of cheetahs

April 25, 1997

Everyone knows the cheetah is the fastest thing on four legs - but how fast? In 1965, a British athletics coach, visiting Kenya, turned his stop watch on a female cheetah.

Now in the school of physical education and sport at Brunel University, Craig Sharp has decided to publish the results of his experiment, which question the widely-held belief that cheetahs run at 70 miles an hour. He released a female cheetah from "starting blocks" 18 metres in front of a 220-yard course - simulating hunting when the major sprint is from a moving start. As she chased a Landrover trailing meat the cheetah was timed to the nearest 0.1 seconds as she broke pieces of wool strung between start and finish posts. The speed was 64 miles an hour, almost twice as fast as the 35-38 miles an hour of greyhounds and racehorses, and just fast enough to catch a gazelle, fleeing at 59 miles an hour.

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