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30 Fastest Animals in the World: Land, Air, Water

What are the fastest animals in the world? In this post, you’ll learn about the world’s 30 fastest animals. They are organized by land, air, and water. And include mammals, birds, sharks, fish. And both predator and prey.

The world’s fastest land animal is the cheetah with a top speed of 76 mph (122 km/h). The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird at 242 mph (389 km/h). And the fastest water-based animal is the black marlin that can move 82 mph (132 km/h). Here are the ten fastest animals in each category.

fastest animals in the world
The fastest animals in the world are cheetahs (land), peregrine falcons (air), and black marlins (water).

In this article, you’re going to learn about 30 of the fastest animals (pause for dramatic effect) in the world. You’ll learn top speeds, how they use it, and where to find them.

Saddle up for this speedy ride. The following lists will be in ascending order (going from slowest to fastest).

But first, here are the fastest animals in each category. If you just want to know the fastest land, air, or water animal here they are.

World’s Fastest Animals

The following animals are the top fastest animals in each category.

Fastest Land Animal: Cheetah

cheetah top speed

Cheetahs have the record for the fastest animal on land.

At a top speed of 61 mph and the ability to get there within seconds, no other land animal comes close unaided.

This is useful, as cheetahs often prey on animals that are speedy themselves.

  • Latin Name: Acinonyx jubatus
  • Top Speed: 76 mph (122 km/h) estimated; 61 mph (98 km/h) recorded
  • Speed Type: Sprint, top speed maintained for around 0.28 miles
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, stalk and ambush
  • Location: Throughout Africa, small pocket in Iran
  • Habitat: Variety of habitats, from savannahs to dry mountain ranges

Fastest Flying Animal: Peregrine Falcon

fastest bird in the world

When it comes to the sky, Peregrine falcons have the crown. The fastest of all creatures on any list, Peregrine falcons can get to a whopping 242 mph!

In comparison, humans have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to get close to that speed.

  • Latin Name: Falco peregrinus
  • Top Speed: 242 mph (389 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Dive speed
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Throughout the world, all continents except Africa
  • Habitat: Wide open areas preferred, near coasts where prey (shorebirds) can be found; but can be found in large variety of habitats

Fastest Water Animal: Black Marlin

black marlin fastest fish

The water speed record goes to the black marlin.

While some scientists suggest that they have a burst speed of only 22 mph (35 km/h), some reports have them pulling a fishing line at 120 ft (36.5m) per second, which equates to 82 mph (132 km/h)!

  • Latin Name: Istiompax indica
  • Speed type: Burst speed
  • Top Speed: 82 mph (132 km/h)
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, evasion
  • Location: Indian, Pacific Oceans
  • Habitat: Shallow waters, close to shores, water temperatures of 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 30 degrees Celsius)

To compare, the fastest human can get to 28 mph (45 km/h). So we humans could get nowhere near this list, no matter how hard we trained nor whatever physical gifts we may have.

Now that we’ve seen the fastest of the fastest, let’s take look at a more comprehensive list of 30 of the fastest animals on the planet.

10 Fastest Land Animals in the World

These magnificent creatures can be summed up generally in two categories, those who use their speed to catch their prey, and those who use their speed to escape predators.

10. Cougar

cougar fast land animal
  • Latin Name: Puma concolor
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Ambush predator, capable of sprinting
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: North and South America
  • Habitat: Prefers dense underbrush, rocky areas, which

9. Lynx (Eurasian, Canada, Iberian)

canadian lynx speed
  • Latin Name: Lynx lynx (Eurasian Lynx), Lynx canadesis (Canadian lynx), Lynx pardinus (Iberian Lynx)
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Stalk and Ambush
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Throughout Europe and Asia (Eurasian lynx); Canada, Alaska, Northern USA (Canada Lynx); Small pockets of Iberian peninsula and South France (Iberian Lynx)
  • Habitat: High altitude forests, with lots of thick cover

8. Blackbuck or Indian Antelope

blackbuck antelope
  • Latin Name: Antilope cervicapra
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Sprint, but has high endurance
  • Use of Speed: Escape predators or threats
  • Location: Indian subcontinent
  • Habitat: grassy plains, light forests, with constant water sources

7. Lion

lion fast land animal
  • Latin Name: Panthera leo
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Bursts of speed, ambush
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Small areas throughout Africa; Asiatic lion (Panthera leo leo) found in Gir National Park, India
  • Habitat: Grassy plains, savannahs

Learn more about African lions.

6. Blue Wildebeest

big antelope blue wildebeest
  • Latin Name: Connochaetes taurinus
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Endurance
  • Use of Speed: Fleeing from threats, protection, migration
  • Location: Southern and East Africa
  • Habitat: short-grass plains, next to acacia savannahs; areas not too dry nor wet

Blue wildebeest are among the largest antelopes in Africa.

5. Thomson’s Gazelle

thomsons gazelle running
  • Latin Name: Eudorcas thonsonii
  • Top Speed: 50 mph (80 km/h) (some reports of 60 mph (96.5 km/h)), sustained speeds of 30-40 mph (48-64 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Agility, endurance
  • Use of Speed: Escaping predators
  • Location: East Africa
  • Habitat: Savannahs and grasslands

4. Springbok

springbok antelope in africa
Springbok antelope in the air
  • Latin Name: Antidorcas marsupialis
  • Top Speed: 55 (88.5 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Agility
  • Use of Speed: Escaping predators
  • Location: South and southwestern Africa
  • Habitat: Open plains, dry areas

Learn more about all 74 types of African antelopes.

3. Common Tsessebe or Sassaby

Common Tsessebe speed
  • Latin Name: Damaliscus lunatus lunatus
  • Top Speed: 56 mph (90 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Endurance
  • Use of Speed: Predator evasion
  • Location: South central Africa
  • Habitat: Prefer open areas like grasslands, lightly wooded savannahs, or open plains without trees

2. Pronghorn

pronghorn speed
  • Latin Name: Antilocapra americana
  • Top Speed: 55 to 60 mph (88.5 to 96.6 km/h), sustained 35 mph for 4 miles (56 km/h for 6.4 km)
  • Speed Type: Endurance (top speed at 0.5 miles/0.8 km)
  • Use of Speed: Predator evasion
  • Location: Western North America
  • Habitat: Open terrain, elevations of around 3,000 to 5,900 feet (914 to 1,798 m)

1. Cheetah

how fast can a cheetah run
  • Latin Name: Acinonyx jubatus
  • Top Speed: 76 mph (122 km/h) estimated; 61 mph (98 km/h) recorded
  • Speed Type: Sprint, top speed maintained for around 0.28 miles
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, stalk and ambush
  • Location: Throughout Africa, small pocket in Iran
  • Habitat: Variety of habitats, from savannahs to dry mountain ranges

Learn more about how fast a cheetah can run. And how to tell a cheetah and leopard apart. Check out these photos of adorable cheetah cubs.

10 Fastest Flying Animals in the World

Not only are the following the fastest creatures in the air, but they are considered to be the top 10 fastest animals in the world, full stop.

10. Eurasian hobby

Eurasian hobby fast bird
  • Latin Name: Falco subbuteo
  • Top Speed: 99 mph (160 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, general movement
  • Location: Throughout Eurasia, Africa
  • Habitat: Open areas, like farmlands, marshes, boreal forests, savannahs

9. African Crowned Eagle

crowned eagle
  • Latin Name: Stephanoaetus coronatus
  • Top Speed: 100 mph (161 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Subsahran Africa
  • Habitat: Dense woodlands and forests

Check out our guide to crowned eagles.

8. Mexican or Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat

  • Latin Name: Tadarida brasiliensis
  • Top Speed: 101 mph (162 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Level flight
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, general movement
  • Location: Throughout Central or Southern United States, Central America, South America
  • Habitat: Mainly caves, sometimes in buildings with opening and dark areas in the ceilings or walls

7. White-Throated Needletail Swift

  • Latin Name: Hirundapus cudacutus
  • Top Speed: 105 mph (170 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Level flight (considered the fastest in this type of speed)
  • Use of Speed: General movement (travel, migration)
  • Location: Central Asia, Southern Siberia, Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Eastern Australia
  • Habitat: wide range of habitats, generally have nests in rock crevices in hollow trees, or cliffs

6. Red-Tailed Hawk

red tailed hawk in flight
  • Latin Name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Top Speed: 118 mph (190 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, battling over prey
  • Location: Throughout North America
  • Habitat: Wide range of habitats, like deserts, grasslands, forests, urban areas

5. Gyrfalcon

Gyrfalcon in flight
  • Latin Name: Falco rusticolus
  • Top Speed: 130 mph (209 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Artica areas; North America, Eurosiberia
  • Habitat: Tundra, mountains, sea ice

4. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk fast bird
  • Latin Name: Buteo regalis
  • Top Speed: 150 mph (241 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Courtship ritual
  • Location: Western North America
  • Habitat: Arid and semiarid grasslands

3. Golden Eagle

golden eagle
Golden eagle in flight
  • Latin Name: Aquila chrysaetos
  • Top Speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Throughout Holartic, or Northern Hemisphere
  • Habitat: Open, or semi-open areas ideal for hunting

The golden eagle is one of the largest eagles in the world. Learn more about all 68 types of eagles.

2. Saker Falcon

saker falcon in flight
  • Latin Name: Falco cherrug
  • Top Speed: 200 mph (322 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting (though are more likely to hunt through horizontal flight)
  • Location: North Africa, Central Asia
  • Habitat: Open grasslands with trees and cliffs

1. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon fastest bird
  • Latin Name: Falco peregrinus
  • Top Speed: 242 mph (389 km/h)
  • Speed Type: High-speed dive
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Throughout the world, all continents except Antartica
  • Habitat: Wide open areas preferred, near coasts where prey (shorebirds) can be found; but can be found in large variety of habitats

10 Fastest Water Animals in the World

Water is a tricky thing when it comes to speed. Some scientists estimate any records of speed beyond 22 mph may be questionable, as they claim that fish may not actually be able to go beyond that. They say this is due to physical limitations.

As a result, the following speeds may need to be taken with a grain of salt.

10. Killer Whale

killer whale
  • Latin Name: Orcinus orca
  • Top Speed: 35 mph (56 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, fighting
  • Location: Throughout all oceans
  • Habitat: Variety, more abundant in colder waters

9. Great Barracuda

Great Barracuda swimming
  • Latin Name: Sphyraena barracuda
  • Top Speed: 36 mph (58 km/h) (though there are several species of barracuda)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Indian, Pacific, Atlantic Oceans
  • Habitat: Shallow waters; tropical or subtropical climates

8. Flying Fish

flying fish in flight
  • Latin Name: Genus: Exocoetidae
  • Top Speed: 37 mph (60 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst, gliding through the air
  • Use of Speed: Predator evasion
  • Location: Throughout all oceans
  • Habitat: Tropical, temperate areas, usually open oceans

7. Atlantic Bonito

  • Latin Name: Sarda sarda
  • Top Speed: 40 mph (64 km/h) (though there are several species of bonito)
  • Speed Type: Burst, can skip out of water
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, evasion
  • Location: Atlantic Ocean, Mediterraneian Sea, Black Sea
  • Habitat: Shallow waters

6. Bonefish

bonefish swimming speed
  • Latin Name: Albula vulpes
  • Top Speed: 40 mph (64 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed
  • Use of Speed: Escape and evasion
  • Location: Throughout coastlines North and South America, and Hawaii
  • Habitat: Coastal areas

5. Shortfin Mako Shark

Shortfin Mako Shark swimming
  • Latin Name: Isurus oxyrinchus
  • Top Speed: 45 mph (72 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed, lunging vertically
  • Use of Speed: Hunting
  • Location: Throughout all oceans
  • Habitat: Warm, temperate waters; depths of around 490 feet (150 m); usually no colder than 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius)

4. Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna swimming speed
  • Latin Name: Thunnus albacares
  • Top Speed: 47 mph (75 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Agility
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, evasion
  • Location: Throughout Atlantic, Pacific, Indian Oceans
  • Habitat: Tropical, subtropical areas; water depths of 820 feet (250 m)

3. Swordfish

  • Latin Name: Xiphias gladius
  • Top Speed: 60 mph (97 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, evasion
  • Location: Throughout world’s oceans
  • Habitat: Water of temperatures of 64 to 72 degrees Farenheit (18 to 22 degrees Celsius)

2. Atlantic and Indo-Pacific Sailfish

atlantic sailfish speed
  • Latin Name: Istiophorus albicans (Atlantic); Istiophorus platypterus (Indo-Pacific)
  • Top Speed: 68 mph (110 km/h)
  • Speed Type: Burst speed
  • Use of Speed: Huntng, evasion
  • Location: Atlantic, Indian, Pacific Oceans
  • Habitat: Temperate, tropical areas; open ocean

1. Black Marlin

black marlin fastest fish
  • Latin Name: Istiompax indica
  • Speed type: Burst speed
  • Top Speed: 82 mph (132 km/h)
  • Use of Speed: Hunting, evasion
  • Location: Indian, Pacific Oceans
  • Habitat: Shallow waters, close to shores, water temperatures of 59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 30 degrees Celsius)

Why Isn’t a Particular Animal here?

It’s important to note that many of these speeds are estimated.

So the ordering may constantly be in flux. Some animals that are missing here may deserve a place in their respective top 10s.

Another reason could be the disparity of estimated speeds, along with the lack of verified information.

For example, some estimated top speeds of the common ostrich can range anywhere from 43 to 60 mph (69 to 97 km/h). That’s a big difference!

fastest animal
Peregrine falcon in flight – the world’s fastest bird

Keep reading: 13 Fastest Animals in Africa.

Your Turn!

Let me know what you thought of this speed list. Which one is your favorite animal? Comment below!

Have an addition to the list? Let me know, along with a reference for speed, and I’ll do my best to add them.


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