Nature's Speed Aces
By Robert Woodall
Although in these days man's mechanical genius enables him to travel at ever faster speeds on land and in the air, his performance on his own two legs is unimpressive when compred with that of most animals and birds. The fastest Olympic sprinter, for example, does a mere 22 m.p.h., which is only twice the maximum speed of a pig - and animal scarcely noted it athletic build - and less than half that of a good racehorse over a short distance.
But even racehorses, though undeniably fast, are not the speed merchants many people imagine them to be. The Derby is run at an average speed of 35 m.p.h., and as only the best three-year-olds of each year are entered for it, it is reasonable to assume that the average speed of less important races is appreciably lower. Nevertheless, the crack American horse, Man o' War, once achieved 43 m.ph. in a short burst, and another horse 48 m.ph. over a measured 100 yards.
From the horse to that other animal whose speed is of interest to the gambling fraternity - the greyhound. A really top-notch dog can reach 40 m.p.h. in a short sprint, but it is doubtful it the average greyhound is capable of much more than 32 m.p.h. over 525 yards, the usual maximum distance for races at public tracks.
The truth is that domesticated animals generally travel slower than wild ones. Among the latter, the hare, for example, may reach 45 m.p.h. when hard pressed - and the fox is probably slightly faster.
The fastest British mammals area undoubtedly found among the deer. The red deer can touch 50 m.p.h. and the roe deer 55 m.p.h.
It is the cheetah, however, which is the undisputed speed champion of the animal world. It can reach 70 m.p.h. over a sprinting distance, a remarkable performance enough, but perhaps even more remarkable is the animal's power of acceleration. From a standing start it can attain a speed of 45 m.p.h in two seconds!
But even a cheetah would be outstripped by some of the birds. For although it is true that birds do not generally exceed 35 m.p.h., there are a few that are capable of truly amazing speeds. Lapwings have been known to cross the Atlantic from East to West in 24 hours, which represents an average speed of over 80 m.p.h. Aeroplane timing has given a speed of 90 m.p.h. for the eider duck, while the world record for racing pigeons stands at 100 m.p.h.
There is no doubt, however, that the fastest British birds are the golden eagle and the peregrine falcon. The grandmother of the present Duke of Bedford, a famous airwoman in her day, once tried to photograph a golden eagle from a plane travelling at 80 m.p.h. But she had to abandon the attempt, as the bird easily drew away from her. This is scarcely surprising when it is realised that a golden eagle has since been timed by stop-watch from a plane and found to have been flying effortlessly at no less than 120 m.p.h.
Yet the eagle has been proved to be almost a slow-coach in comparison with a peregrine falcon. For from tests which have been scientifically carried out, it has been shown that this bird touches 200 m.p.h. when diving onto its prey!
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There are three intolerable things in life - cold coffee, luke-warm champagne and over-excited women.
CUT OUT SMOMKING! . . .
. . . NO MORE SWEETS! . . .
. . . EARLY TO BED ! . . .
. . . DEVELOP SOME WILL-POWER ! !