Speed by Design (The Cheetah)

Curious Facts

  • Ancient people captured cheetahs and used them to hunt wild game. An emperor in India was said to have kept 1000 cheetahs.
  • After the cheetah makes a sprint and kills its prey, it needs half an hour to catch its breath before it can eat! And she is so tired that she won’t be able to hunt again until the next day.
  • Baby cheetahs have a grayish puffy mane of 3″ hair that makes them look bigger than they are. Looking bigger to a predator is a handy, built-in defense!
  • Mother cheetahs systematically teach their young the techniques of hunting. At about eight months, when the cubs have their full complement of adult teeth, she starts her teaching program. She does this by bringing live fawns or young gazelles back to her cubs to chase as the prey attempt to escape. These chase-capture-kill lessons go on for many months until the young cheetahs become proficient in hunting.
  • Baby cheetahs have a strong odor. To help keep them from being found by predators while she is out on a hunt, the mother moves her litter of three to six cubs to a new location almost daily. This constant moving is her way of keeping them alive while they are an easy meal for a lion or hyena.
  • The average territory of a male is about 38 square kilometers. The average female home range extends to over 800 square kilometers.

Can you picture an animal the size of a human being running alongside your car as you drive down the expressway between 65 and 70 miles per hour? The cheetah has actually been known to reach 71 miles per hour! Did this animal realize it needed such speed to catch its prey and adapt its body accordingly? Did the cheetah just happen to survive because “nature” made so many mistakes (mutations) in its favor? Or did an all-knowing God design the cheetah for survival?

According to one scientific study, “the cheetah is distinctly different from all other cats, both in its anatomy and its behavior.” If the theories of evolution were true, shouldn’t it be like those it developed from?

Like most of the cat family, the cheetah is an excellent hunter. But unlike most of them, it usually hunts during the day, and is therefore equipped with excellent eyesight. Sometimes it perches on high places to sight the right type of animal, then springs onto its prey. If it must chase, it usually chases its prey at about half its maximum speed. When the cheetah is within a few hundred yards of the prey, it makes a lightning dash, swiping the hind legs from under the prey and pouncing on it.

The cheetah survives by its speed. At top running speed, it covers an amazing 23 feet per stride!

Did this amazing creature adapt itself because of its needs for survival? What did it do before it had all the features it needed for speed? Did only the speediest of its kind survive because they chanced to have all or most of the anatomy that made speed possible?

Compare a jet bomber and a railroad car. Isn’t someone planning that one can dart very fast and the other can carry heavy cargo? If you were hired to design a jet bomber, would you use the same materials you would use if building a railroad car? Isn’t intelligence needed to select the materials appropriate for each?

Look at the singular, highly designed features of the cheetah. The cheetah has:

  • A streamlined, greyhound-like body, with light-weight bones, small collar bones and vertical shoulder blades to facilitate speed (Was the cheetah able to select “lightweight” for his bones?)
  • A long heavy tail for balancing during high-speed leaping, also for quickly changing directions and breaking quickly from high speed (How did Mr. Cheetah keep from summersaulting forward when he tried to stop—before he had such a tail? )
  • A flexible backbone that stretches and contracts like a spring, giving the cheetah the ability to bring its feet very close together, then very far apart, in this way maximizing its stride (Imagine a backbone that acts like a spring—without any designer!)
  • A small rounded head set on a long neck (Did the cheetah stretch his neck so often that his neck actually grew longer?)
  • Eyes that have an elongated retinal fovea, giving the cheetah a sharp, wide-angle view of its surroundings. (Did the cheetah “see” its need for better range of vision and change the shape of its eyes to accommodate its need?)
  • Dark tear marks beneath each eye, which may enhance its vision by minimizing the sun’s glare.
  • Extra long legs and complicated muscular systems that increase the rate and length of the stride and give the cheetah extra power for each spring. (Did the cheetah design its own muscle system? Did you and I—with far more brain power than the cheetah—design our own?)
  • Oversized nostrils and lungs to provide quick air intake needed for rapid acceleration; the teeth are small to accommodate the extra large nasal passages (Did the exhausted cheetah say, “I really need more air more quickly. I’ll increase the size of my nostrils and grow bigger lungs—and I can get along with smaller teeth”?)
  • An oversized liver, heart, and adrenals to facilitate a rapid physical response (Did the cheetah decide on the size of its organs?!)
  • Special paw pads and non-retractable claws to increase traction. Even the pads of the toes are specialized. Very hard and sharply pointed anteriorly, they act as cleats when the cheetah breaks from a fast run or makes a sharp turn. (We can put cleats in our shoes, but how did the cheetah figure out how to grow special paw and toe pads to serve its needs?)

The cheetah’s spine acts like a spring. As its spine bends upward, the cheetah’s hind legs actually reach ahead of its front legs.
When its spine bends downward, the cheetah’s legs extend far out in front and in back of its body, allowing the cheetah to spring an amazing 23 feet per stride.

As a result of these features, cheetahs have the ability to accelerate very quickly. From a standing start, it is said that a cheetah can reach a speed of 60 miles per hour more quickly than many racing cars!

Cheetahs depend on their speed to kill their prey. And because they very often lose their prey to hungry lions and hyenas, once they have their prey at hand they devour it as soon as they can. They even know where to start to get maximum benefit fast—they consume the hind quarters of the prey first, because these have the largest concentration of protein—how did the cheetah learn this?

I would say that the cheetah is another of God Almighty’s awesome designs! As said the Psalmist of Israel, “Your workmanship is marvelous—and how well I know it”! (Psalm 139:14 NLT)

Sources of Scientific Data in this Article:

The Cheetah Spot
Kratt’s Creature Profile
American Wildlife Foundation
The Cyber Zoomobile National Geographic.com Kids