Colorado’s Fastest Animal Rivals The Cheetah

A pronghorn gazes out over the plains. Photo Credit: bgsmith.

The pronghorn, often spotted grazing on the Colorado plains, is the fastest mammal in North America. Experts also suggest that it’s the second fastest mammal in the world, only bested by the cheetah, which regularly hits speed in the upper 60 mph range. That being said, the pronghorn is able to maintain a higher speed for a longer distance than the cheetah, capable of running at 55 mph for half a mile and a very quick 35 mph for 4 miles.

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While many often confuse this animal with an antelope, experts have determined that its closest relative is actually a giraffe. No joke. It’s a member of the superfamily Giraffoidea.

The pronghorn can run so fast because of  the size of its windpipe. The windpipe is very large compared to the size of the pronghorn’s body, which allows the pronghorn to take in tons of air while on the run.

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It was once thought that the fencing and hunting practices of settlers heading west would cause the pronghorn to go extinct. But in fact, recent efforts made to protect this species have resulted in bringing population numbers from a dwindling 13,000 to close to a million pronghorns.

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If you’d like to see some pronghorns, you can usually find a herd lurking around the Hartsel, Colorado area. If you spot them in the winter, the group is most likely a mixed-sex herd, while in the summer, males split off to either protect a group of females or protect their territory.

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