Fantastic slow motion video of sprinting cheetahs

Few things are as fun as attaching a toy to a string and dragging it behind a jeep at 60 mph to videotape a cheetah chasing it.

Cheetahs are the fastest runners on the planet. Combining the resources of National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo, and drawing on the skills of a Hollywood action movie crew, we documented these amazing cats in a way that’s never been done before.

Using a Phantom camera filming at 1200 frames per second while zooming beside a sprinting cheetah, the team captured every nuance of the cat’s movement as it reached top speeds of 60+ miles per hour.

The extraordinary footage that follows is a compilation of multiple runs by five cheetahs during three days of filming.


  1. I like how you can see the cat alter its stride just as it nears the toy, trying to pounce on it.

    Then the ball zips away and the cheetah is all “what the fuck is this shit, that shouldn’t be faster than me.”

  2. There’s a baby cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo at the moment, too. I don’t know if the mother was the one in the video or not, but the baby’s pretty adorable.

    When I loaded the photos on a good screen I was surprised to notice that the cheetah seems to have round pupils. Make’s sense since they hunt in daylight, but I just always assumed they were slits like housecat eyes.

      1. Man alive that’s gorgeous. I was way off on my assumption about cat’s eyes.

        The more I look at photos of those the more I think I did see it. I had thought I was looking at small snow leopards in an extremely rocky habitat display.

      2. Yes.  And they win my vote for the angriest looking animal on the planet.  Usually when we see them at the zoo, we get the feeling they don’t just want us to die, but to die slowly and painfully.  Other times they seem to be in a better mood and try to kill us quickly by attacking through the glass as you walk past the exhibit.

  3. Note just how efficient that stride is. Very little energy is wasted in letting the body move up and down; all the work goes directly into forward momentum.


    Cheetahs have been nearly impossible to breed in captivity — they need a good long run to kick the anatomy into gear. Rumor has it that biologists are finally starting to understand the hormone chain involved in that, so I’m hopeful that we’ll at least be able to maintain a zoo population, inferior as that would be to having them in the wild.

    (Cheetahs are also reportedly the one Big Cat which can be reliably domesticated. So if the breeding problem is ever beaten, we may wind up with house-cheetahs that you don’t have to be a Roaring 20’s millionaire to afford. I’m completely undecided whether that would be a good thing or not.)

    1. If you haven’t read it already (even if you are a grownup and not a kid), I highly recommend this strong wild true book about an amazing cheetah and his boy:

      How It Was with Dooms: A True Story from Africa

      Maybe it’s out of print. Check if you can’t locate it at your local used bookstore. 

      Every parent and every kid should have at least one story for bedtime involving a cheetah, a real cheetah, who does amazing things like not eat the family’s toddler children, or finds a big cobra and kills it, or barges into the neighbor’s house and eats their dinner party food.

    2.  One reason they are hard to breed is they are very in bred.  Very little genetic diversity means that the species is stuck with low fertility for basically forever.

    3. The Pharaohs kept tame (not domesticated) cheetahs for hunting- they passed the practice on to the Kings of Persia, who passed it on to the Mughal Emperors. Hunting with cheetahs must have been more like falconry than hunting with dogs…

      And here’s a National Geographic film from 1939 of people hunting with tame cheetahs:

  4. I don’t think they are pulling that behind a jeep. Looks like they are doing it like coursing – that’s a competition done with sight hounds where they chase a lure pulled by a cable as it is wound up by a motor driven reel.

    Anyway, those mf’s are fast, right?

  5. I guess their brains are optimised for those fast speeds and they experience time slower. So what we are seing might just be a little bit closer to what a cheetah actually experiences while running. Fascinating. And beautiful. 

  6. If you get a chance, make sure to see the cheetahs at the Cincinnati Zoo.  They do a run a couple times a day with the cheetahs chasing a lure on a special course in front of the crowd.  As the woman in charge explains, this is the only place on Earth for the public to reliably see cheetahs at full speed.   Decades of studying them in Africa and she’s only seen a chase twice there.  But you can see it at the zoo 4 times a day.

    They also deserve props for rhino breeding, the insect zoo, and the 1.56 MW solar array shading the parking lot.

  7. Neat to see super slow mo of greyhounds vs the cheetah.  Same gait of front feet down, then back feet, with right/left foot striking the ground slightly before left/right foot.

    Most interesting to me is the way the cheetah’s head stays totally focused on the prey with total concentration stare and minimal head bobbing, while the dog’s long super-powerful neck seems to pump along with the gait aiding speed and acceleration.

  8. Epic.
    The upper body does not move, the legs and feet contract at the same time but land staggered for positioning and extra momentum in that single stride, the tail auto corrects for weight and direction change. Perfect evolution of speed.

  9. That was one of the most beautiful videos of ‘nature’ that I’ve seen.  Maybe I’m just getting more sentimental as I age. But when I see something so beautiful that’s so endangered, I have to ask, “What are we doing to this planet and why don’t more people care??” I can say, for certain, that I’ll be using my iPhone4 for another couple years. I don’t want it to end up in a dump in Africa or China.

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