From Our 2012 Archives

Olympic-Class Athletes Abound in Animal Kingdom

FRIDAY, July 27 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to speed, strength and endurance, even Olympic athletes can't compete with the animals who are champions in their fields, a British researcher says.

For example, cheetahs and pronghorn antelopes are among the animals that are faster than Usain Bolt, who is currently the fastest person in the world, according to Craig Sharp of the Center for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University in London.

The fastest a human can run is 23.4 miles per hour (mph). A cheetah is nearly twice as fast, at 64 mph, while a pronghorn antelope can run at 55 mph.

An ostrich is the world's fastest running bird at 40 mph, or 59 feet per second. The fastest greyhound has been clocked at 43 mph and the fastest thoroughbred racehorse at 55 mph.

When it comes to strength, an African elephant can lift 661 pounds with its trunk and carry 1,807 pounds. A gorilla can lift 1,984 pounds and a grizzly bear can lift 1,000 pounds.

Humans have various features that make them well-suited for long-distance running, such as long legs, short toes, arched feet and ample fuel storage capacity, Sharp said. But the top marathoners would be hard-pressed to beat camels, which can maintain speeds of 10 mph for more than 18 hours, or the Siberian huskies that set a record in 2011, racing for eight days, 19 hours and 47 minutes, covering 114 miles a day.

In long jumping, a red kangaroo has covered 42 feet, compared with the human record of 29 feet. In high jump, the red kangaroo can leap 10 feet, compared with the human record of 8 feet.

However, no single animal species matches the physical versatility of humans, which is what the Olympic Games are designed to showcase to best effect, Sharp concluded.

The article was published July 28 in the journal Veterinary Record.

-- Robert Preidt

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SOURCE: Veterinary Record, news release, July 27, 2012