Reaching speeds of up to 68 miles per hour, the cheetah is the world's fastest terrestrial animal. With its long legs, small head and slender body, this animal is literally built for speed. When the cheetah runs, its backbone coils and uncoils with every stride, which helps to propel the animal forward during a chase. By some estimates, this feature may increase the cheetah's speed by up to 20 miles per hour. However, the cheetah's impressive speed comes at a high price: the animal is unable to run for longer than 10 to 20 seconds before it overheats. Because it makes its home in the savannah and other open areas where there is little opportunity to hide, the cheetah must rely on its speed to capture prey and time its kills precisely in order to bring down prey swiftly.