Jeanne Zimmerman, age 13, of Allentown, Penna., for her question:
What is the fastest animal on foot?
The fleetest animals in the world bound over the wide plains of Africa. This sunny land. teems with a vast variety of lively creatures. Most of them are vegetarians, always searching for food and always on the alert to keep themselves from being eaten. A few are meat eaters who prowl the plains hoping to bring down a careless or feeble grass eater.
The grass eaters are, as a rule, fast and sturdy distance runners, There are the gaily striped zebras who can gallop along at 40 miles an hour for miles and miles. When scared, a zebra can start off with a burst of speed far greater than 40 miles an hour. The long legged ostrich can keep up with a herd of zebras over a great distance. He has only two lags on which to run and he makes 40 miles an hour in 12 to is foot strides.
The speed of the rhinoceros, like that of the ostrich, is also surprising. The huge fellow, built like an army tank, can charge at 30 miles an hour. He is too bulky, however, to rate as a. distance runner. The graceful giraffe is a distance runner. He can keep up a steady pace of 32 milers an hour.
The fastest and most graceful of all distance runners is the gazelle. There are a wide variety of these fairy like creatures and most of them live in Africa. Certain gazelles reach 60 miles an hour at top speed and many can race for ten miles at a steady 30 miles an hour.
All of these animals are vegetarians, the swift footed creatures that must be caught if the meat eaters are to be fed. The meat eaters, then, must be faster or cleverer than these wary speeders, Most of the meat eaters use strategy. They prowl and pounce with every skill known to the hunter.
One animal of the African plains can outrun even the fleetest gazelle He is the spotted cheetah, a member of the cat tribe. Mr. Cheetah is a long legged, rather scrawny follow about the size of a leopard. Though he is definitely the fastest sprinter in the world, he is no distance runner. For this reason, the cheetah uses great skill before he sprints and pounces.
He scents his quarry and then crouches to the ground. He inches from bush to bush, closer and closer with a cat like crawl. When within a quarter of a mile he tenses himself for the dash.
It the last moment he hurls himself along at a speed of 70 miles an hour. In a few seconds he has pounced upon his startled victim. After the first quarter of a mile the cheetah is pretty much winded. But, in a 500 yard dash, he can outrun the fastest gazelle or greyhound. In a distance run, however, any of these animals can leave the world's fastest sprinter far behind.