While it’s common knowledge that the cheetah is the fastest land animal (even without cheating) and gets the gold medal for its ability to reach top speeds of 70 mph, the silver and bronze medalists get little or no recognition. Grand View Outdoors recently compiled a list of the top 10 fastest animals and it’s the pronghorn antelope with a top speed of 60 mph that takes the silver, falling 10 mph behind the cheetah. Thus, the pronghorn can easily outrun predators, such as mountain lions and coyotes, as long as there are no cheetahs around.

Following the pronghorn are the blue wildebeest, springbok and lion, all bronze medalists at 50 mph, making the hunter and hunted about evenly matched on the race track, except that the lion is much bigger, stronger and is equipped with razor sharp claws and fangs and a bone-crushing bite, in addition to a healthy appetite for wildebeest and springbok. The brown hare and red fox fall behind them slightly, being neck and neck at 48 mph. Then it’s the Thompson’s gazelle and Grant’s gazelle, both at 47 mph, so they need to outmaneuver a lion, which can out-run them in a sprint.

Oddly, the caribou was left out of the list. According to some sources, the caribou, which is the wild version of the domesticated reindeer, can attain a maximum speed of 50 mph. Although they spend most days migrating across the tundra at a steady, leisurely walk and can trot for what seems like forever, they can activate their turbochargers if a pack of wolves attempts to rush them. I wonder what their top airborne speed is, when they’re pulling a sleigh?

A thoroughbred horse is just as fleet-of-hoof as a greyhound is fleet-of-paw, both hitting 45, which is why they’re both good at racing. Given their top speeds being identical, it might even be fun to watch horses and greyhounds race each other on the same track. Keep it clean fellas’ — no kicking, no biting. It just wouldn’t be very exciting watching a basset hound race. After the race started, you could walk over to the concession stand, have a cattleman-sized slab of prime rib (end cut, please), a baked potato with sour cream (and butter) and warm, freshly-baked bread (and butter) for dessert and still make it back before the dogs reached the finish line.

Interestingly, the Rocky Mountain elk also can achieve a top speed of 45 mph. Elk may look big and slow, but they’re big and fast. Maybe hunters could start gambling on them to make the hunt a little more interesting. They could observe a herd of elk in a big open meadow, size-up the fastest looking ones and wager their bets. A guy in a wolf suit then runs toward the herd, inciting an elk stampede and the other guys wait at the finish line at the opposite end of the meadow to see which one comes in first. Hit the trifecta and win a bonus prize.

Moose are slower in comparison to elk, and can trot steadily for long distances at 20 mph but can run as fast as 35. Wolves can also hit 35 mph when chasing prey over short distances, so they can — and do — catch up to moose. Coyotes are speedier at 43 mph while in pursuit, but the whitetail deer can only reach 35 mph, so a deer on the run is easy pickings for a pack of coyotes giving chase. The deer surviving the onslaught is a long shot.

Think you can outrun a bear because they appear big, heavy and clumsy? You can, but only if you’re saddled-up on a thoroughbred, or an elk maybe, or if you can outrun a deer. Black bears and grizzly bears have extremely powerful forelegs, and like a deer, they both can hit a top speed of 35 mph. The fastest human ever recorded ran at 27.8 mph, however the speed of the average human is about 15 mph over short distances, a lot less hustle than a bear. So if you find yourself a hop, skip and a jump ahead of a charging bear, either say your prayers or draw your .44 magnum revolver from its holster, turn and face the bear. Sneakers won’t help and little jingle bells will just signal other bears that dinner is ready. Pepper spray adds some spicy heat and will make the bears wish they had ice cubes for their rears the next day. Nothing runs like a deer? A bear may not run like a deer, but it can run just as fast as one.

I imagine that a face-to-face conflict with an angry, charging bear and a man armed with a large caliber revolver might go something like this.


“Eeeek! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Click! Click-click-click-click-click!”

Contrary to Looney Toons and Merrie Melodies, and also somewhat disenchanting, is that the roadrunner, in reality, is only half as fast as the coyote. The greater roadrunner, a scrawny bird compared to its animated counterpart, can only hit 20 mph on its best day. So Wile E. Coyote really didn’t need an Acme rocket-powered pogo stick or roller skates to catch the cocky slow-poke, which, with some mayonnaise, chopped celery and black pepper, would amount to a roadrunner salad sandwich. Wiley could’ve bought a lifetime supply of plucked, cleaned and frozen roadrunners for what he spent on Acme products. But like any good hunter, the coyote figures it’s all about the hunt, not the per-pound value in relation to the costs involved.

Incidentally, Acme was a great company. They sold everything, from giant rubber bands to bombs. You could even buy a hole. And they provided instant shipping. No sooner had Wiley dropped his order in the mailbox, a truck would pull up and drop off his package, which, for purposes of this column, would take the gold medal for world’s fastest shipper. Even back then, Acme was still leaps and bounds ahead of FedEx, UPS and the Post Office. The fastest running bird is the ostrich, which can sustain speeds of 30 mph with bursts up to 40, twice as swift as the roadrunner. Meep! Meep!

Africa’s most feared snake, the black mamba, holds the “fastest snake in the world” title, slithering as fast as 12 mph. The deadly serpent also is the second longest venomous snake in the world, reaching lengths of up to 14 feet. The king cobra, native to Asia, can reach 18 feet long, making it the longest venomous snake. Both snakes can raise the front third of their bodies off the ground while still moving forward to strike – high enough to stab a man in the chest with twin, venom-filled hypodermic needles.

The African elephant is the heaviest land mammal and can move along at 15 mph, like an average human, when it really gets going. They run funny though, like they don’t have any knees. The rhino is the second heaviest and is a Speedy Gonzalez compared to the elephant. The black rhino can run 34 and the white rhino 31. The hippo, which looks like a swollen tick with a huge body and tiny legs, can hit 19 mph and outrun the average man. No, I don’t want one for Christmas, thank you.

If you’re wondering what the fastest fish is, it’s the sailfish, which can attain 68 mph, followed by the marlin at 50 mph and the wahoo at 48. Fish on! Wahoo! Aww rats, fish off. The Bluefin tuna isn’t far behind at 45 mph. The fastest of the sharks is the mako, which can attain short bursts of speed up to 44 mph and they can leap up to 20 feet in the air.

The fastest animal on earth really is in the air. Scientists recently clocked Brazilian free-tailed bats at a blazing 99.5 mph but it’s the peregrine falcon that remains the undefeated world champion as the fastest animal on the planet. While the small raptor’s average cruising speed is 40 mph with a maximum horizontal speed of 68, it’s been clocked at an astounding 242 mph while in a nosedive after prey. Other birds have faster cruising speeds, like the golden eagle, which tops out at 80 mph on a horizontal flight but enjoys a maximum dive speed of 200, trailing the peregrine’s record velocity by 42 mph.

While most chickens can fly for short distances to escape predators and get up in their roosts, they’re not very fleet-of-wing, nor are they fleet-of-chicken feet. A fired-up rooster hot on your heels may seem like he’s going to beat you in the 100-yard dash to the barnyard gate, but he can only run about 9 mph. A chubby oven stuffer/roaster would be even slower, making either one no match for … the chicken hawk.

Marc Folco is the outdoor writer for The Standard-Times. Contact him at openseason1988@aol.com or through OpenSeasonSpecialties.com