Zoo's cheetah sets land speed record

Sarah the Cheetah (Source: Cincinnati Zoo)
Sarah the Cheetah (Source: Cincinnati Zoo)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Sarah, the Cincinnati Zoo's 11-year-old cheetah, has set a world speed record.

Sarah first earned the title of world's fastest of all land mammals 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.

This year, 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. Cameras captured the record-breaking run on Sarah's first attempt as she chased a fluffy dog toy lure on a specially designed course certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field.

"At the Cincinnati Zoo it is our goal to inspire every visitor with wildlife every day, and nothing inspires awe like seeing a cheetah running full blast in our Cheetah Encounter.  We are very proud of Sarah, our World Record Holder, since she is a terrific ambassador for her cheetah cousins in the wild," said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. "The Cincinnati Zoo has supported cheetah conservation in Africa for more than 20 years, and thankfully, cheetahs are the one species that has a chance to out run extinction."

Sarah and the Cincinnati Zoo's other four cheetahs in the Cat Ambassador Program were at the Zoo's Regional Cheetah Breeding Facility as part of a project that will be featured in the November issue of National Geographic Magazine, which will include never-before-seen high speed photographs of cheetah movement.

Cheetahs are built for speed.  Their flexible spine allows their front legs to stretch far forward on each stride, covering 20 to 22 feet in one stride, about the same distance as a racehorse. Cheetahs are off the ground more than half of their running time. Their claws are hard and sharp like cleats, giving them great traction when they run.

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