World’s fastest cheetah dies at Cincinnati Zoo

Photo by Tom Uhlman, courtesy Cincinnati Zoo

CINCINNATI, Ohio (WLWT)—The Cincinnati Zoo said 15-year-old cheetah Sahara, also known as Sarah, was euthanized Wednesday due to diminishing quality of life.

Sarah’s claim to fame is being the fastest captive cheetah in the world, WLWT reported.


During the filming of a National Geographic cheetah special in 2012, Sarah ran 100 meters in 5.95 seconds–with a top speed of 61 mph.

This beat her previous world record of 6.13 seconds, set in 2009.

That’s more than three seconds faster than the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt of Jamaica. His fastest time for the same distance is 9.58 seconds.

The average lifespan of a cheetah is eight to 12 years, the Zoo said.

Sarah as a kitten (CREDIT: WLWT)
Sarah as a kitten (CREDIT: WLWT)

Sarah was 6 weeks old when she came to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. She was hand-raised by zoo staff.

Sarah was a “cat ambassador” for the Zoo, and visited hundreds of schools over the last decade and a half to raise awareness of her species. She also dazzled visitors to the Zoo with her extraordinary speed.

Sarah and Alexa (CREDIT: WLWT)
Sarah and Alexa (CREDIT: WLWT)

Sarah was one of the first cubs to be raised with a puppy companion, an Anatolian shepherd named Alexa. The zoo says this is a common practice now.

“She lived a full life and was a phenomenal ambassador for her species,” Linda Castaneda, lead trainer for the Cincinnati Zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program, said in a news release. “Sarah was the queen bee around here. She had a very expressive face that communicated what she wanted. And we obliged. She was a dynamic individual and we were privileged to know her and learn from her. We will all miss the princess cat.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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