Scientists at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are attempting to find out exactly what makes the cheetah the fastest animal on the planet.
Cheetahs can reach speeds of at least 104km/h (64mph) and they can achieve their top speed in just a few paces. This is 50% faster than any of the other animals the scientists are familiar with.
The study is being carried out with the help of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, where cheetahs in captivity are being enticed to run by tying chicken – wings and feet appear to be a cheetah delicacy – to a piece of fast moving string (pulled along by an electric motor. Special plates in a running track and 4 extremely high speed camaras monitor the cheetah as it runs.
Results so far are inconclusive, although the scientists have noticed that when a cheetahs run it does different things with either side of its body – it has an asymmetric gait. This could have something to do with it.
Unfortunately the cheetahs cant reach top speed in the enclosure at Whipnade – the team are hoping in future they will be able to continue their research using cheetahs in a larger area.