Struthio camelus the Ostrich and Acinonyx jubatus the Cheetah comparison

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The cheetah's remarkable speed

The cheetah is the fastest land mammal, capable of reaching speeds of over 100 kilometers per hour. (Daley et al., 2016) Formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized formalized Notably, its remarkable speed is supported by its distinct morphology and physiology. Acinonyx jubatus has a distinctive body configuration that includes semi-retractable claws, long legs, a very flexible back, and a long tail. Furthermore, the animal has spots and stripes, which do not help it achieve the necessary velocity but do aid in camouflage during its search for prey and hiding from predators (Corr et al., 2011). The cheetah's foot pads are less rounded and harder than those of other cats. These features enable the pads to function like the treads in a tire and provides them with increased traction in sharp and fast turns during the run.

The cheetah's unique morphology

On the other side, the claws are short, blunt and are considered to be semi-retractable work to grip the ground with the aim of traction when running just like the cleats of a track shoe thus aiding the speed increase (Quirke et al., 2013). The cheetah also has an extremely flexible spine that allows for more extension during running. In fact, the flexibility enables the animal to make such long stride and achieve the speed. Markedly, the shoulder blades of a cheetah does are not attached to collarbone; hence the shoulders move much freely. Moreover, the pivoting of the hips allow the rear legs to stretch further apart during the full extension of the body. These features aid the animal in achieving as long as seven meters and the completion of four strides in a second.

The role of the cheetah's tail

Pointedly, the Cheetah's long and muscular tail also plays a role when the animal is in action (Schaller et al., 2011). The tail works rudder and grants stability besides acting as a counterbalance to the weight of the whole body. The functions of the tail allow for sudden sharp turns during the high-speed chases of the cheetah. The animal also has a distinctive black tear stripes that run from the eye down to the mouth. Purposefully, the strips protect the eyes from the sun's glare and have the same functions as the rifle scope of helping to focus on the prey (Smith, Nicola, Wilson & Alan, 2013). Another factor that helps in the increase of the velocity of the cheetah is its long fibred muscles that aid the translation of the scapula along the ribcage. This translation increases the effective limb length of the cheetah, enabling it to take the long strides and also have a longer contact length for a particular speed (Gordon & Olav, 2002).

The cheetah's physiological adaptations

The cheetah also has an oversized and sturdy that pumps huge amount of blood making is contributing to its excellent running ability. Moreover, it has large lungs and nostrils that allow natural profound and fast air intake. The large lungs capture a lot of oxygen that is essential during the sprint. The eyes are exceptionally extra-long which help them get a quick and wide-angle view of the surrounding even when in fast motion. The flexible spine also curves with each stride acting like a spring for the back legs that increases movement. It has a small head and streamlined body that quickly penetrates the air and encounters less obstruction. Additionally, both the forelimbs and hind limbs are highly muscular and propel the animal's lightweight to achieve a high speed.

The disadvantages of being the fastest

The features that enable cheetahs to be the fastest appear to be disadvantaged when it comes to self-protection. In as much as the rate affects its life positively during hunting down of its preys and escaping its predators, its lightweight, and small teeth make the animal vulnerable to other bigger cats like the lion. For instance, after a sprint and a successful catch, the cheetah has to rest for about thirty minutes to regain the strength used during that race and to cool down (Hudson et al., 2017). In this duration of normalizing, other animals come along, and it cannot protect either itself or its kill and therefore runs away. This inability to defend itself also explains the reason as to why very few cubs survive into adult cheetahs.

The ostrich's remarkable speed and endurance

On the flip side, the Struthio camelus is the fastest bird on land and is capable of both remarkable speed and exceptional endurance. Their hindlimb morphology tends to provide the mechanical basis for the locomotor performance. Further, they possess the longest limbs that allow them to achieve the great lengths of their steps. Their combined possession of long, light distal segments and proximally concentrated hindlimb muscle mass enables them to make high stride frequency under the principles of the pendulum dynamics.

The functionality of the ostrich's musculoskeletal system

Functionally, the system of multi-joined muscle tendon interconnects the toes, pelvis and also couples of extensions and flexion of joints throughout the hindlimb (Rubenson et al., 2007). Notably, the mediolateral joint is directed and constrained by the ligaments at the knee, hip, and intertarsal joints; hence, application of muscle force is allowed predominantly to limb movement. Due to its flightlessness, the bird exhibits advanced cursorial abilities that are evident in its great speed and endurance. Besides the active musculoskeletal complex of ostrich, passive structures are incorporated by its powerful pelvic limbs wherein the ligaments interact with the cartilage, the joint surface, and other connective tissue in the process of moving. Significant energy conservation is enabled by the said arrangement through the orientation of optimized limb segment, provision of joint stabilization, and automatic positioning of the elements that contact the ground without direct muscle control.

Similarities and differences between the cheetah and ostrich

There is a particular interest considering the exposure of the intertarsal joint to high load during a stance with the significant inertial forces during the swing phase, and its position near the midpoint of the extended limb and its interaction with the ligaments is in a full motion cycle. Therefore in similarity with the cheetah, this bird relies on long and masculine arms to outrun both the predators and preys (Schaller et al., 2011). However, its ability to store a lot of energy in the limb muscles and retrieve it during the runs enable it to run for long distances as opposed to cheetahs. In both animals, the eyes are strategic and play significant roles. For instance, the ostrich has the biggest eye compared to any animal on land and helps them sense predators from a distance. The same way, the cheetah's eyes are also highly placed enabling them to see both danger and food from a distance.

Another similarity is their large nostril that is used in much air intake in both. Also, the bird's body is also streamlined reducing friction against it during the run just like the cheetah (Smith et al., 2013). The long fibred muscles that help the cheetah in sprinting may be compared to the intertarsal joints in the ostrich which performs the same function of enabling long strides to be made. Ostriches have two toes which to some extent act like the pads and the semi-retractable claws of the cheetah. Moreover, the bird has the longest foot bone compared to any other bird. The long bone gives the foot a lot of power that helps in both sprinting and as a defense mechanism by kicking the predators and other animals posing a danger.


In conclusion, both the Struthio camelus and the Acinonyx jubatus are great sprinters. Their ability to run fast is aided by the uniqueness in both the internal and external body structure that they have. For instance, their muscles, the limbs, general body streamline shape, the size of the nostril, lungs, and heart. The two also have some differences like the bird can manage long distance running while the cheetah cannot go beyond 550 meters due to the exhaustion and the hotness of its body (Wilson et al., 2013). Again, the bird can protect itself by kicking the predator while the cheetah only saves itself by running away. After running, the cheetah has to rest and cannot even eat the prey immediately as opposed to the bird that does not experience such extreme exhaustion. Therefore the two are advantaged by their physiological structure that is perfectly adapted to running short and long distance each as already demonstrated.



Alexander, R., Maloiy, Njau, R., & Jayes, A. (2002). Mechanics of Running in Ostrich.

In this article, there is the demonstration of the muscles that are used in the running and how they enhance the bird's speed. Moreover, it also talks about the adaptations of the muscles to their function of long distance and high-speed running.

Corr, Sandra, Emily, Payne, D., Rachel, c., & Allan et al. (2011). Functional Anatomy of the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus). Anatomy, (00218782).

This article elaborates on the morphology and anatomy of the cheetah and how each affects or enables the cheetah to sprint at such a speed. Additionally, it shows the potential strides that the cheetah takes and the powerful muscles like the psoas that make the strides possible to take quickly.

Daley, Monicah, A., Chanon, Anthony, J., Nolan, & Grant, S. et al. (2016). Preferred Gait and Walk-Run Transition Speeds in Ostriches Measured Using GPS-IMU Sensors. Experimental Biology, 219(20).

This article shows the dimensionless speeds that are of either the walk-run or run-walk of the ostriches. Moreover, it displays the broad rate distribution when in the running motion and its importance to the maintenance of ostrich's speed.

Gordon, R., & Olav, J. (2002). Anatomical and Physiological Characteristics of Ostrich, 73.

This article helps in the explanation of how the muscles and the great joints help propel the ostrich during running. Besides its other physiological characteristics such as the wide eyes are also explained and their importance to the daily life of the ostrich.

Hudson, P., Davis, P., Corr, Clancy, Lane, E., & Wilson, A. (2017). Functional Anatomy of the Hindlimb of Cheetah.

There is a broad explanation of the structure of the cheetah's limbs including their length, the semi-retractable claws, the hard pads and their functions in enabling the cheetah's swiftness in making sharp turns and its high-speed achievement.

Quirke, Thomas, O'Riordan, Ruth, John, & Devenport. (2013). A Comparative Study of Speeds Attained by Captive Cheetah during the Enrichment Practice of Cheetah Run. Zoo Biology, 32(5), 490, 7.

The article displays the cheetah's behavior within a confined setting and the various enrichments which maximize the cheetah's potential to benefit in that particular environment. Also, shows the difference between the speeds of male and female cheetahs and the reasons for the difference.

Rubenson, J., David, L., Thor, F., & Paul, A. (2007). Running Ostrich.

In this article, there is an explanation of the benefits the ostrich has regarding its ability to run for extended distances and relatively high speed without tiring. Besides, it depicts how speed affects the life of an ostrich and its survival in the habitat.

Schaller, Ursula, N., Villa, Rikk, Peter, & Bernd et al. (2011). Toe Function and Dynamic Pressure Distribution in Ostrich Locomotion. Experimental Biology.

The article shows the great specialties of the ostrich in locomotion. In fact, it indicates the bird as the only one that is both didactyl and also exhibits an elevated joint which provides it with the opportunity to adapt to sustained and fast bipedal locomotion.

Smith, Nicola, C., Wilson, & Alan, M. (2013). Mechanical and Energetic Scaling Relationship of Running Gait through Ontogeny in The Ostrich (Struthio camelus). Experimental Biology, 841-849.

This article shows the advantage the ostrich has due to its elastic energy during locomotion. The kind of power enables the ostrich to locomote for long distances without stopping or necessarily getting hot like the cheetah.

Wilson, A., Lowe, J., Roskilly, K., Hudson, P., Golabek, K., & McNutt, J. (2013). Locomotion Dynamics of Hunting in Wild Cheetah.

The reasons behind the cheetah's ability to capture its prey in less than one-meter chase are explained in this article. Apparently, it shows how powerful the cheetah is in speed but cannot defend itself by fighting against the enemy animals.

December 08, 2022

Science Economics


Zoology Physics Workforce

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Animals Speed Structure

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