Animal Records

The Summer Olympics is where the world's best athletes face off in relay races, diving competitions, and dozens of other sporting events.

Olympic athletes may be at the top of their game on the track and in the pool, but they’re no match for these amazing animal athletes.




Fastest Sky Diver: Peregrine Falcon

When hunting prey, a peregrine falcon can dive through the air at speeds reaching 200 miles (320 kilometers) an hour, as fast as a race car at the Daytona 500. A man, Alan Eustace, reached a top speed of 822 miles (1323 kilometers) an hour. But to be fair to falcons, the man started his dive from more than 25 miles (40 kilometers) above the earth, whereas a peregrine falcon will start its hunting dive from just over half a mile (around one kilometer) above the ground.


Bet You Didn’t Know: The peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world.



Deepest Diver: Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

This whale surprised scientists by reaching depths of nearly 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) below the ocean surface—the farthest depth ever observed among mammals. That’s close to seven times the height of the Empire State Building! Scuba diver Ahmed Gabr set the human diving record at just over 1,000 feet (305 meters).


Bet You Didn’t Know: The gentoo penguin is the fastest diving bird, reaching speeds of up to 22 miles (35 kilometers) an hour when diving headfirst into icy waters.



Fastest Runner: Cheetah

The fastest recorded speed of a cheetah was 61 miles (98 kilometers) an hour, or as fast as a car on some highways. The fastest human runner, Usain Bolt, clocked in at 27.49 miles (43.99 kilometers) an hour.


Bet You Didn't Know: When running, cheetahs take about three strides a second. Olympic sprinters take just over two strides a second.

Fastest Swimmer: Sailfish

A sailfish can reach speeds of up to 68 miles (110 kilometers) an hour, or about as fast as the world’s fastest sailboat. Olympic medalist Michael Phelps reaches just 4.4 miles (7.08 kilometers) an hour doing the 100-meter butterfly stroke.


Bet You Didn’t Know: The sailfish uses its speed, as well as the giant dorsal fin on its back, to corral schools of sardines and anchovies for dinner.



Longest Jumper: Snow Leopard

The longest jump observed by a snow leopard was more than 49 feet (15 meters), even longer than the length of an average school bus. The long jump world record is held by Mike Powell, at 29 feet (8.95 meters).


Bet You Didn't Know: Snow leopards can't roar.



Best Fighter: Elephant or Porcupine (Tie)

A single wild porcupine and an elephant both made headlines in 2014 by fighting off prides of more than 13 lions each. ESPN ranks Sugar Ray Robinson as the all-time greatest boxer, holding world titles for much of the 1940s and 50s.


Bet You Didn't Know: Elephants sometimes make purr-like sounds when content.







Text by Jed Winer, National Geographic Staff

Which is your fave fast animal?

Make your choice

Which clever critter do you like the best?

Make your choice

Play Now!


Which super power would you rather have?    

What's your favorite water sport?