The fastest humans are capable of speeds just under 30 miles per hour. We're pretty good at endurance overall, but when compared to wild animals, our speed is a bit lacking. In fact, there are an exceptional number of animals that are much faster than humans. Some of these swift critters take advantage of things like gravity to help them swoop at great speeds, while others are remarkably fast when you take the whole size of the animal into consideration. It's a fast-paced world out there, so it's a good thing we invented bikes, cars, and planes to keep up.
If you know anything about speedy animals, you probably know most only attain high speeds in short bursts, kind of like humans. Others can sustain a pretty incredible speed over great distances and others will just use that speed for a push to catch prey or evade a predator. You probably know some of the most common fast animals out in the world, but do you know all of them? Most of them? A lot of them? How many do you think you can identify just from a photograph? Lucky for you, we put together a little list here to test your knowledge. Put on those running shoes and try to keep pace. See how many speedy animals you can identify in our quiz!
Anna's Hummingbird has been clocked at incredible speeds that, relative to its size, are pretty staggering. This bird can travel around 385 body lengths per second. A fighter jet only flies at 39 per second.
it shouldn't be surprising that ostriches run so fast, given what their legs look like. Not only can they reach 43 miles per hour or more, but they can also sustain a pace faster than a human for around 10 miles, meaning they have the endurance to back up that speed.
Thomson's Gazelle is a type of antelope found in Africa. They need to be fast to escape all the dangerous predators where they live and when they run it kind of looks like they're bouncing, thanks to the unique way their legs work.
Though it's not the fastest at level flying, in a dive the peregrine falcon can reach speeds of over 220 miles per hour. The pointed wings of the falcon allow it to achieve a streamlined shape, almost like a living torpedo, when it dives.
The Black Marlin lives off the cost of Australia and parts of the Indo-Pacific. Though the figures for its swimming speed are widespread, the BBC has published articles claiming that the data is not accurate and these fish may only hit speeds of 18 miles per hour at a maximum.
Greyhounds can reach speeds of 45 miles per hour and have long been specifically bred for their ability to race. When they're racing, a greyhound's heart can actually beat nearly 360 times per minute, or almost 6 times a second.
Zebras rely on camouflage to help them hide from predators in the wild, but when that doesn't work, running at 40 miles an hour can lend a hand too. Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, kind of like a fingerprint.
The black-tailed jackrabbit can hit speeds of over 35 miles per hour. Maybe more significant than the speed is what it can do at those speeds, leaping over 15 feet in one jump as it runs away in a zig-zag pattern, making it incredibly hard to catch.
The speedy black mamba can slither at speeds of up to 12 miles per hour. Not fast compared to a cheetah, but given that you're likely to only stumble on a mamba by accident and be pretty close to it when you do, that's more than fast enough to strike.
Frigatebirds can reach speeds around 95 miles per hour. Even more amazing is that studies have shown a frigatebird can stay in flight for an incredible amount of time. One juvenile bird was observed in flight for over 2 straight months, never once landing.
Springboks are gazelles in south-western Africa. They're capable of incredible speed bursts of around 62 miles per hour, and they can also jump about 13 feet into the air, just in case the speed wasn't enough to convince a predator to look for easier prey.
Yellowfin tuna have been measured at speeds of 47 miles per hour using a rod and reel. That's a pretty impressive speed for a fish that can weigh upwards of 400 pounds and reach around 6 feet in length, give or take.
Roadrunners are fast-running birds that also have the ability to fly. Their top speed is around 26 miles per hour, which may not be the fastest thing on the road, but given the size of the bird, it's still pretty impressive.
The red kangaroo can reach and sustain speeds of about 35 miles per hour. When a kangaroo is born, it's actually about the size of a cherry, and will stay in its mother's pouch for two whole months before coming out again.
Tigers don't seem like they're built for speed since they're so huge and can weigh up to 500 pounds, but they can pull off speeds that can outrun humans when they need to. Imagine a 500-pound human running faster than any other human you've ever heard of.
Who knew the common pigeon was a speed demon? They can reach speeds of over 90 miles per hour and they're also good at distance flights. A pigeon once flew from Africa to England over 55 days and 7,000 miles.
The Brazilian Free-Tailed bat can reach speeds of about 100 miles per hour, which is pretty intense. That's also a horizontal flight speed, not a dive, which is how most birds get their impressive numbers.
The onager is a type of wild donkey found in Asia. Their top speed is around 43 miles per hour while your average, everyday donkey usually tops out at about 30 miles per hour or so. Ironically, donkeys still have a reputation for being stubborn and lazy.
Golden Eagles tend to nest on cliffs which means they usually have a good spot from which to dive at prey and hit those amazing speeds. They also use those dives to impress potential mates, engaging in a behavior called "sky dancing" where they repeatedly swoop and dive to show off.
A sailfish is popular with trophy anglers who want that big, remarkable fish on a wall but they definitely have to work to catch one. They can swim at speeds faster than most cars are driving down the high way and they can weigh over 200 pounds.
Pronghorn live in the prairies of Canada and the United States. They can reach speeds of nearly 60 miles per hour, which is useful for evading their main predator the coyote. Unlike some animals, they're not very good jumpers, so when they encounter fences, they'll actually try to squeeze under them.
A pencil squid can be found off the coast of places like Singapore and, as the name implies, tend to be pretty tiny overall. Some are only a few inches in length which makes it all the more impressive when they hit speeds of 24 miles an hour, when human swim speed is less than 4 miles per hour.
Coyotes can hit speeds of 40 miles per hour and leap up to 14 feet. It's kind of ironic that Wile E. Coyote was always missing out on the Roadrunner since, in real life, a coyote is nearly twice as fast.
The bearded dragon can hit speeds of 25 miles per hour. They're also pretty good at climbing, giving them a couple of useful ways to help them evade predators out in the wild. Their so-called beard actually changes color when they get stressed out or confront a rival.
The Red-Breasted Merganser's flight speed was recorded by airplane back in the 1960s. The observation was that the bird kept pace with the plane for quite a distance at 80 miles per hour. They also noted they were flying into a 20 mile an hour wind at the time.
The Tiger Beetle was measured at speeds of 5.6 miles per hour by scientists in the Netherlands. These little guys move so fast they actually have to stop running on a regular basis because the speed makes them go temporarily blind.
The speed of the white-throated needletail is a bit of a debatable subject right now since it hasn't been adequately verified to any scientific standard. That said, there's no doubt it's incredibly fast, so it certainly gets on the list, no matter the ultimate speed.
The blackbuck can hit speeds of 50 miles per hour. They were once the most abundant of all the hoofed animals found throughout India and Pakistan, but hunting and habitat loss have greatly reduced those numbers.
The cheetah is almost the spokesanimal for speed in nature. A cheetah can hit a top speed of around 70 miles per hour in short bursts and not only that, they can go from a standstill to 60 miles per hour in just over 3 seconds!
You might mistake an African Wild Dog for a hyena, but they're not quite the same thing. These dogs are also highly endangered with only around 6,600 of them left in the wild. They tend to live in packs and some packs can get up to 40 members in size.
The Blue Wildebeest, sometimes called a gnu, certainly doesn't look like it's very speedy, but they can reach speeds of 50 miles per hour. During their migration, a group of wildebeests numbering over 1 million will travel together in search of food.
The Eurasian Hobby can dive at speeds of around 99 miles per hour. Despite its name, they sometimes show up in North America in places like Alaska or Washington state. Of course, they've also been spotted in Massachusetts so the name is more of a suggestion than anything else.
The common Bottlenose dolphin is able to swim at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour. If you've ever seen any Youtube videos of people dolphin watching, you've likely noticed just how easily dolphins keep pace with boats, even when they're traveling at great speed.
Horse racing has an incredibly long history in human history. The fastest horse on record is currently in the Guinness Book of World Records with a speed of 43.97 miles per hour. It was achieved by a thoroughbred horse named Winning Brew.
Gyrfalcons hunt cooperatively, working together to flush out prey. Back in the day, owning a gyrfalcon was a real status symbol and was the sort of thing royalty owned to show off. They're also the largest member of the falcon family.
The mantis shrimp doesn't swim fast on its own, but that's not where its speed lies. it can clamp its claw down to strike at prey with blinding speed, 50 miles per hour. Its little claw clamps down so fast that it lowers the pressure of the water in front of it causing it to boil.
Most people know them as the kings of the jungle, but lions are obviously kings of the race track too. Managing speed of 50 miles per hour, but only in short bursts, a lion is extremely adept at being able to chase down most of its prey.
The spotted hyena is also known by the less scientific name "laughing hyena." They got that name thanks to their remarkably unusual call that sounds like some really bizarre human laughter. They make the sound for a number of reasons, but probably not as laughter.
The black spiny-tailed iguana is native to Mexico and Central America. They're very aggressive for reptiles and tend to bite when they feel like something is threatening them, rather than simply running away.
Unlike a lot of mammals that live in cold climates, the Arctic Hare doesn't hibernate. When their speed can't help them they rely on other sneaky means to escape predators including their camouflage coat and their ability to dig into the snow to hide.