Article | Published:

Locomotion dynamics of hunting in wild cheetahs

Nature volume 498, pages 185189 (13 June 2013) | Download Citation



Although the cheetah is recognised as the fastest land animal, little is known about other aspects of its notable athleticism, particularly when hunting in the wild. Here we describe and use a new tracking collar of our own design, containing a combination of Global Positioning System (GPS) and inertial measurement units, to capture the locomotor dynamics and outcome of 367 predominantly hunting runs of five wild cheetahs in Botswana. A remarkable top speed of 25.9 m s−1 (58 m.p.h. or 93 km h−1) was recorded, but most cheetah hunts involved only moderate speeds. We recorded some of the highest measured values for lateral and forward acceleration, deceleration and body-mass-specific power for any terrestrial mammal. To our knowledge, this is the first detailed locomotor information on the hunting dynamics of a large cursorial predator in its natural habitat.

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We thank S. Amos and M. Dickson for fabricating collars, and F. Broekhuis, R. Furrer and N. Jordan for working with us in the study area; P. Apps for many discussions; T. Hubel and A. Wills for helping to collect and analyse validation data; P. Apps, J. Usherwood and A. Wilson for comments on the manuscript; and the EPSRC (EP/H013016/1), BBSRC (BB/J018007/1) and DARPA M3 Program (W91CRB-11-C-0048, with Boston Dynamics) for funding. This work was approved by RVC Ethics & Welfare Committee and was carried out under a Botswana Government Research Permit held by J.W.M. and Botswana Veterinary Registration held by A.M.W.

Author information

Author notes

    • P. E. Hudson
    •  & K. A. Golabek

    Present addresses: Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester, West Sussex PO19 6PE, UK (P.E.H.); Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Private Bag 13, Maun, Botswana, and Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX13 5QL, UK (K.A.G.)


  1. Structure & Motion Laboratory, The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, Hatfield AL9 7TA, UK

    • A. M. Wilson
    • , J. C. Lowe
    • , K. Roskilly
    •  & P. E. Hudson
  2. Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Private Bag 13, Maun, Botswana

    • K. A. Golabek
    •  & J. W. McNutt


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A.M.W. conceived, designed and led the study, A.M.W. and J.C.L. designed the collars, J.C.L. developed collar hardware and software, K.R. developed GPS–IMU filtering, K.R., P.E.H. and A.M.W. analysed data, A.M.W. wrote the paper with input from all authors, K.A.G. and J.W.M. organized field work, monitored animals and downloaded data. A.M.W. performed veterinary work.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. M. Wilson.

Supplementary information

PDF files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Figures 1-7, Supplementary Text and Data and Supplementary Table 1.

Zip files

  1. 1.

    Supplementary Data

    This KML (Google Earth) file contains the GPS positions of the cheetah over an 11 hour period. To view, Google Earth must first be installed from, then double click on the file to open it. To see the cheetah’s movement through time you can slide the bar in the top left. The markers are colour coded by collar state such that Alert:blue, Mooch:green, Ready:yellow, Chase:red.


  1. 1.

    The accelerometer, horizontal speed trace and position profile of a successful hunt.

    On the speed plot and hunt profile, warmer colours represent faster speeds.

  2. 2.

    Horizontal speed and position profile for 367 runs

    This video will not play as a pop-up, in order to view it, please download the video file to your desktop before playing it. Warmer (bright red) colours represent faster speeds, and the arrows on the position plots represent the average horizontal acceleration vector during each stride, with the length indicating the magnitude of the acceleration.

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