Why Do Cheetahs Run so Fast?

Cheetahs use their incredible speed to catch their prey. While cheetahs will eat just about any animal they can catch, some of their primary prey species include Thomson’s gazelles and impala. Cheetahs evolved a number of adaptations that allow them to catch these swift animals, including non-retractable claws, streamlined bodies and very large lungs. These adaptations allow cheetahs to run faster than any other living species.

Cheetahs require exceptionally high quantities of oxygen to power their leg muscles. To accomplish this, cheetahs evolved very large lungs and nostrils that draw air very quickly. Cheetahs sometimes get very hot while running, so they must stop after running a short distance. Most chases do not end with kills, and cheetahs may attempt to kill several animals before succeeding in securing food.

The claws of cheetahs are always exposed, and they function as high-speed cleats that help the cats grip the ground. Cheetahs use their tails to help them balance while running at high speeds. Because cheetahs are very slight of build and lightweight, they cannot engage in combat with large competitors like lions. This means that when cheetahs make a kill, they must eat as much as they can as soon as they can before another predator steals it from them.