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Cat Speed and Dog Endurance

This is a post about cat speed and dog endurance. These companion animals run differently. The cat is built for speed. The chase to catch and kill prey in the wild is designed to be fierce, rapid and over quickly. This means that the cat has to be close to prey before attempting to chase it down. This is turn means stalking low to the ground. Stalking is an inefficient use of the body's energy (src: Duke University study) . But as the prey is successfully caught a sufficient number of times to survive things are in balance.

The classic sprinter as opposed to long distance runner is the cheetah. The classic long distance runner is the humble Mongolian ass. Here is a chart comparing speed, which comes from a web page on the cheetah's speed :

Animal Speed mph Distance (yds)
Human (male) - 2008 Usain Bolt 30 (max) 220
Human (male) - 2007 Haile Gebrselassie 12.6 (average) 46,147 (26.22 miles)
Horse 43 (average) 440
Cheetah 70 - 75 (max) 440 (max 600)
Mongolian Wild Ass 30 (average) 28,000 (16 miles)
Domestic cat 30 400 estimate

Of all these records perhaps the most remarkable is that of the humble Ass. Like the ass or horse the dog is built to run more efficiently. The body movement during running uses less energy allowing the dog to sustain speed over a longer distance, a much longer distance, in fact. For example, the African dog is a cursorial hunter. This means that this animal of great stamina pursues its prey in a long and open chase (and in coordination with other dogs of the pack in contrast with most cats who are solitary). They can run at about 37 miles per hour (60 kph) for up to 3 miles (4.8 kms). The cheetah can sustain speed (60+ mph) for about 400 yards. It cat speed versus dog endurance

Cheetah Speed - diagram showing horse and cheetah
The amount of flexion and extension of the spine of the Horse and Cheetah
Reproduced under the terms of a license granted by

One immediately noticeable difference even to the naked eye in the running styles of dogs and cats is the flexibility of the spine. The dog (and horse) has a more static spine, the legs move efficiently. The cat and particularly the cheetah has a very flexible spine, allowing for a longer stride, more swing of the legs and a higher leg speed on impact with the ground. But with a greater expenditure of energy. Domestic cats with noticeably flexible spines are the Sokoke and Savannah - there are others.

Dogs can reduce the amount of muscular work needed in running by up to 70% through "exchanging potential and kinetic energy with each step" Cats, though reduce muscular work by about 37% only (src: Duke University (2008, December 4). Dogs Chase Efficiently, But Cats Skulk). It is a case of cat speed and dog endurance. And both are different ways of catching prey.

Here are the dog's, shorter stride, more static back and spine:

And here is a cat, the cheetah with a stride of about 25 feet, the same stride as a horse, a much bigger animal :

From Cat Speed and Dog Endurance to cheetah habitat


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