The Aristocrat of Speed
By Awake! correspondent in South Africa
WHO bears this title? The cheetah, the world’s fastest animal over short distances. Each cheetah has its own unique pattern of spots—thus, the name cheetah, which comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “speckled body.”
Some say that at first glance it seems that this cat is all legs. Others remark that its back sags and its head is too small. But these very traits work to the cheetah’s advantage. The long hind legs provide leverage, enabling the cheetah to walk with grace and to run with elegance. And this animal can truly run! From a stationary position, within several seconds a cheetah can reach about 70 miles [110 km] per hour.
The cheetah is well designed for optimum speed. Its lightweight skeleton includes an unusually supple backbone that can coil and uncoil like a spring. The cheetah is also endowed with a deep chest, ample lungs, a strong heart, a tail that provides balance, and large nasal passages that allow for rapid breathing—all of which contribute toward this animal’s unmatched swiftness. The cheetah’s burst of energy, however, is short-lived. After a mere quarter mile [400 m] at full speed, it must stop to cool down.
Cheetahs are usually not a threat to humans. Ann van Dyk, who has been breeding cheetahs for years, writes in her book The Cheetahs of De Wildt: “After feeding was completed, I loved spending those few last moments before dark with my family of cats. A feeling of trust had developed between us and although they were not tame I knew they would not harm me.”
Humans, however, have not always been so kind to the cheetah. Hunters in Africa, for example, coveted its exceptional coat, and colonization has limited the space in which the cheetah can run. This has shrunk the cheetah population considerably. At one time plentiful in India, the cheetah became extinct there in 1952. They are also no longer found in some countries bordering the eastern Mediterranean.
How happy we can be that in God’s new world, animals will no longer be threatened by greedy humans! (Isaiah 11:6-9) Perhaps at that time you will have the privilege of seeing this marvelously designed aristocrat of speed, the cheetah.