Olympic athletes have to go through a lot. They train seven days a week, every week for years on end, pushing their body past its limits time and time again, all so that—every four years—they can compete against their peers for a chance to become ‘the best’ in the world. But what if they had to compete for Gold every day? That’s what these animals athletes have to do, and the prize is no wreath of laurels, but the ability to survive for yet another night in the wild. Meet nine authentic animal athletes whose daily routines includes feats so extreme even our best Olympians can only dream of matching them.
Fastest runner: Cheetah
The cheetah can reach 65mph thanks to its 23ft stride, but that’s not what makes it a top hunter. Instead, to make a successful kill this big cat relies on its ability to change speed quickly and turn on a sixpence, gripping the ground with its claws and using its tail for balance.
Fastest swimmer: Sailfish
This ocean predator clocks in at 68mph. It’s powerfully built, reaching over 11ft long and weighing up to 220lb. While speed and size make the sailfish a formidable hunter, they also make it a prize trophy for recreational fishers too.
Fastest flyer: Peregrine falcon
The peregrine falcon is not just the fastest bird, it’s the fastest vertebrate. It can dive 3000ft straight down, reaching speeds of up to 238mph. Special adaptations protect its nostrils and eyes and allow it to withstand g-forces that would make a human pass out.
Best endurance runner: Pronghorn antelope
With a top speed of 55mph, the pronghorn is the fastest-running land animal in North America. However its real claim to fame lies in its legendary endurance. Pronghorns can maintain a pace of 30mph for about an hour and could complete a marathon at least 80 minutes quicker than its human counterparts.
Fastest endurance flyer: Great snipe
Who would guess this plump bird could pull off the longest non-stop flight in the animal kingdom? Ample fat stores allow it to complete its 4200-mile journey from Sweden to Sub-Saharan Africa in two days with no rest, cruising at an average of 60mph.
Best climber: Rocky Mountain goat
These excellent climbers are fast and agile, able to scale 1500-vertical-ft (over one-and-a-half times the height of the Eiffel Tower) in just 20 minutes and take 12ft-long leaps. It’s all due to their unique hooves, which have two widely-spread toes and rough pads for gripping slippery surfaces.
Highest jumper: Bottlenose dolphin
This sprightly cetacean can leap 16ft above the water: higher than the roof of a double-decker bus. This is especially impressive considering it can weigh 1400lb. Its powerful tail generates thrust on the upstroke and downstroke and stores energy in a spring-like mechanism, allowing it to beat efficiently.
Best long jumper: Snow leopard
This beautiful and reclusive feline has been known to leap 50ft, besting the human long jump record by more than 20ft. It is well adapted to its cold and craggy habitat: its short forelegs and long hind legs give it dexterity and its long tail serves as both balancing aid and scarf.
Strongest: Blue whale
Since whales are the largest animals on Earth, they have the largest muscles and can generate the most force. The blue whale is the largest of all and can produce a force of over 60 kiloNewtons—that’s the equivalent of 6118 kilograms of force. However, when strength is calculated relative to body size, it is far outcompeted by the humble copepod, oribatid mite, and dung beetle.
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