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Sometimes it’s good to be fast. Fast animals can outrun predators that may want to eat them. Fast predators may be able to run or swim fast enough to make it easier for them to catch food.

Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land, running 65 to 75 mph in short stretches. Cheetahs run fast to catch animals to eat.

Pronghorn antelope are the fastest land animals in North America. They can run up to 60 mph. An elk may sprint along at 45 mph.

In the ocean, the sailfish — with a huge fin on its back — is the fastest fish in the water. Sailfish have been timed swimming at speeds of almost 70 mph. Marlin are another fast fish with a big fin on their back. They can hit speeds of 50 mph.

In the sky, the peregrine falcon can dive at speeds of 200 mph to attack other birds in the air.

Usain Bolt, a track star from Jamaica, is the fastest human ever timed. He ran about 27.8 mph when he set the record in the 100 meter dash in 2009. A horse can go almost twice as fast as a human. The fastest horse ever timed hit a speed of almost 44 mph.

Besides riding horses, humans have found other ways to make themselves faster. The fastest skier hit a speed of 156.8 mph. The fastest speed on a snowboard was 126 mph. The fastest sky diver beat them all by hitting a speed of almost 834 mph during a four-minute free fall.

Unlike other animals, humans don’t rely on speed to survive. We use our big brains to help us craft tools to protect ourselves or to capture food, as well as to figure out ways to go faster. That big brain also helped humans learn how to farm so they didn’t have to rely only on meat to eat.

— Brett French,

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