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On the run.

All cats are quick, but here's one that's just plain fast.

The cheetah, native to Africa, is a long, lean predator that relies on its blazing foot-speed to catch its prey. It has been clocked at around 70 miles per hour. On many roads and streets, that would let it pass your family's mini-van--for 400 yards or so before it runs out of steam.

The cheetah needs that much speed because it preys mostly on the tiny but lightning fast Thompson's gazelle. The cheetah is faster, but the gazelles, sometimes called tommies, can twist and turn like the hottest sports car.

To stay on a tommy's tail, the cheetah uses its own tail. Built heavy, with a weighty end, the tail flips this way and that, helping the cheetah keep its balance and make the razor-sharp turns the tommy uses to escape. Non-retractable claws let the cheetah's paws grip the ground like track shoes, and its lungs are huge to handle the extra air it needs during the chase.

Its speed and ability to turn on a dime gives the cheetah one of the best success rates on the hunt of any predator. It makes a kill about 7 out of every 10 times it sets out after prey.

The cheetah must succeed often, because many of its kills end up being stolen by larger predators like lions or leopards. It is lean and fast, but that makes it too short of strength to fight the larger cats.
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Title Annotation:cheetah
Publication:U.S. Kids
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Previous Article:Elmer Gumshoe's tree hunt.
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