Home > Post A Week 2013 > Some Cats are Kinda Cool

Some Cats are Kinda Cool

In an effort post something before too much time passes, I thought I would share some information I received in an MIT Open CourseWare newsletter. MIT, as well as many other colleges and universities, offers world-class courses for those who desire the knowledge but do not require the academic credit. But this post is not about far-reaching studious types; it’s about fast cats.

I’m an unapologetic dog lover, but these facts about cheetahs are amazing. I’m not sure I want to know how scientists managed to get collars around the necks of the world’s fastest mammals, but the data achieved proves these are some very cool cats.

Cheetah Facts:

“The cheetah is the fastest mammal on earth, clocked at speeds exceeding 60 miles per hour while in captivity. Although it’s much harder to measure their speed in the wild, experts have long assumed that swiftness is what makes them such formidable hunters. But scientists from London’s Royal Veterinary College have recently discovered that a cheetah’s true talent lies more in its agility and maneuverability.


“They actually hunt their prey at somewhere much closer to 30 miles per hour, only slightly faster than a human at top speed. Yet in stark contrast with human biomechanics, cheetahs can quickly stop, change directions, and accelerate with startling effectiveness.

“The key to the discovery was the perfection of a lightweight, solar-powered collar—a tracking device ten years in the making—that contained a GPS module, accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope to precisely track the movement of these animals in three-dimensional space.

“Five cheetahs in Botswana were outfitted with the collars and tracked for 18 months in the wild. Data from a total of 367 runs were recorded with remarkable precision, allowing a rich portrait of these animals to emerge.

“We learned, for example, that cheetahs hunt as much in dense shrub as open fields, and they will hunt throughout the day, rather than just in the morning, as was commonly believed.

“What the data revealed about the cheetah’s locomotor skills was most impressive: They can accelerate by 7 miles per hour in a single stride—four times quicker than the fastest human, Usain Bolt. They can also reduce their speed by almost 9 miles per hour in a single stride, which greatly increases their ability to sharply change direction.”1

Agility trumps speed, but the speed is pretty impressive too.

1 MIT Open Courseware, http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

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