Video: Slow-Motion Capture of a Running Cheetah

Candice Gaukel Andrews February 19, 2015 18
From spine to skull, a cheetah's body is perfectly designed for running. ©Eric Rock

From skull to spine, a cheetah’s body is perfectly designed for running. ©Eric Rock

Cheetahs are the fastest runners on the planet: they can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in only three seconds. And thanks to their spines that are proportionally the longest and most flexible in any large cat species—and which work in conjunction with fast-twitch fibers in their legs—cheetahs can cover 25 feet in a single bound.

A few centuries ago, cheetahs ranged from India west to the Red Sea and throughout most of Africa. Today, sadly, cheetahs are the most vulnerable of the world’s big cats. Loss of habitat from human settlement, sport hunting and poaching for the exotic pet trade have decimated cheetah populations. Found in the wild today just in Africa and parts of Iran, cheetahs number only 7,000 to 10,000.

By bunching and coiling its spine, a cheetah can expand to a great stride length. ©From the video “Cheetahs on the Edge — Director’s Cut” by National Geographic

By bunching and coiling its spine, a cheetah can expand to a great stride length. ©From the video “Cheetahs on the Edge—Director’s Cut” by National Geographic

Putting human impacts on cheetahs aside, even nature seems to be stacked against cheetah survival. Cubs face the threats of being killed by hyenas or lions, dying of exposure or being abandoned by mothers that aren’t skilled enough to support them. Mortality among cheetah cubs in certain areas runs as high as 95 percent. Even inside Africa’s game parks, cheetahs have to struggle more than other big cats. Shy and slight of build—also the only big cats that cannot roar—cheetahs are forced into the margins by lions, which are stronger in both body and numbers.

Watch the two videos below, produced by National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo. In the first, three-and-a-half-minute film, the science of how a cheetah attains such high speeds is explained.

A cheetah can cover 25 feet in a single bound. ©From the video “Cheetahs on the Edge — Director’s Cut” by National Geographic

A cheetah can cover 25 feet in a single bound. ©From the video “Cheetahs on the Edge—Director’s Cut” by National Geographic

In the second, seven-minute video, you’ll be able to watch—in a manner like none before—footage of a cheetah running. Experts from National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo collaborated with a Hollywood action-movie crew on a three-day shoot to film five cheetahs running. Using a Phantom camera (“Phantom” is a registered trademark of Vision Research, Inc.) that shot 1,200 frames per second while zooming beside a sprinting cheetah, the team put together a compilation that captured every nuance of a cheetah’s movements as it reached its top speeds. In the last two minutes of this “director’s cut” video, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how the footage was captured.

Cheetahs are often called “nature’s perfect running machines.” Let’s hope they can outpace their many challenges to survival.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,




  1. Deb S March 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm - Reply

    Exquisite! I almost passed over this video, but am so glad I didn’t. Astounding. I cried for the sheer wonder of it.

  2. Tamara Watson March 9, 2015 at 4:36 pm - Reply

    Spectacular animals and amazing footage! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Lorraine Dumas March 8, 2015 at 8:21 am - Reply


  4. Melania Padilla March 4, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Cats are my favorite animals, thank for posting!

  5. Dave Schmidt February 28, 2015 at 5:06 am - Reply

    Thank you. The question remains; ‘what to do?’ It’s like crying in the wilderness, what little remains.

  6. James A February 28, 2015 at 5:05 am - Reply

    David & Nadine, I also could not agree with you more!! I have nothing to add, except Thank you!!

  7. Wendy Dearing February 24, 2015 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    So majestic and peaceful ..

  8. Dave Schmidt February 24, 2015 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    “… incredibly urgent need to save our precious wildlife & the habitats which are their homes!” I totally agree. The only problem is, which I believe is unsolvable, the logarithmic growth in the global population. More people translates to more completion for resources whether one is talking about habitat, in the case of the cats, etc. or water – or oil. And the more affluent the world population becomes the greater the demand for the Earth’s limited natural resources. One can set aside parks, etc. but as can be seen in the case of the United States, a ‘developed’ nation, there is significant pressure to drill for oil in The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). One can readily imagine the pressures to develop resources in protected regions of a developing country.

  9. Nadine K. February 24, 2015 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Absolutely gorgeous! Lord above we need to ensure Cheetahs & the other big cat species survive & thrive inspite of the continuing idiocy of governments too ignorantly blind to the incredibly urgent need to save our precious wildlife & the habitats which are their homes!

  10. Eusebio Manuel Pecurto February 24, 2015 at 5:12 am - Reply

    beautiful video thank you

  11. Oded Liran February 23, 2015 at 7:46 am - Reply

    It is a fantastic film ! and such a majestic animal. The film is very inspiring both the background music and the slow motion captures… I actually watched it several times and found myself glancing at different parts of the animal during each run.

    The center of the short film was describing how the head doesnt move at all during the chase where the chittah is totally fixed on its pray. But I noticed another interesting thing: there are two triangle planes stabilizing the animals every move- back legs and head, tail and front legs.

    I find the back plane very interesting. If I draw an imaginary triangle between those 3 points, the center of the triangle is tangent to the rib cage at all times !.. ☺

    Thank you for such an amazing share..

  12. laura lotfi February 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm - Reply

    wow! incredible!! 😀

  13. Dan Shea February 22, 2015 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I could watch that all day!

  14. Ivana Handanovičová February 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    That´s an amazing video! And amazing animal 🙂

  15. Hamadi Davis February 22, 2015 at 2:07 pm - Reply

    Absolutely beautiful.

  16. Richard Budd February 21, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    Awesome animals.

  17. Danielle Saint-Pierre Robinson February 21, 2015 at 11:18 am - Reply


  18. Joan February 20, 2015 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    It’s amazing (and unexpected) to see that each paw lands separately. It’s not a “2+2” gait, which I expected, but a “1+1+1+1” stride. I’ve watched cheetahs run, but without this slowed-down view, the details were but a blur. Fantastic.

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