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J Exp Biol. 2012 Jul 15;215(Pt 14):2425-34. doi: 10.1242/jeb.066720.

High speed galloping in the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and the racing greyhound (Canis familiaris): spatio-temporal and kinetic characteristics.

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  • 1Structure and Motion Laboratory, Royal Veterinary College, University of London, Hawkshead Lane, South Mymms AL9 7TA, UK.


The cheetah and racing greyhound are of a similar size and gross morphology and yet the cheetah is able to achieve a far higher top speed. We compared the kinematics and kinetics of galloping in the cheetah and greyhound to investigate how the cheetah can attain such remarkable maximum speeds. This also presented an opportunity to investigate some of the potential limits to maximum running speed in quadrupeds, which remain poorly understood. By combining force plate and high speed video data of galloping cheetahs and greyhounds, we show how the cheetah uses a lower stride frequency/longer stride length than the greyhound at any given speed. In some trials, the cheetahs used swing times as low as those of the greyhounds (0.2 s) so the cheetah has scope to use higher stride frequencies (up to 4.0 Hz), which may contribute to it having a higher top speed that the greyhound. Weight distribution between the animal's limbs varied with increasing speed. At high speed, the hindlimbs support the majority of the animal's body weight, with the cheetah supporting 70% of its body weight on its hindlimbs at 18 m s(-1); however, the greyhound hindlimbs support just 62% of its body weight. Supporting a greater proportion of body weight on a particular limb is likely to reduce the risk of slipping during propulsive efforts. Our results demonstrate several features of galloping and highlight differences between the cheetah and greyhound that may account for the cheetah's faster maximum speeds.

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