Who's Faster, a Horse or Deer?

By Betty Lewis

Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images

If you've ever won a few bucks at the racetrack, you know horses are speedy animals. They're magnificent at full speed, and it's hard to imagine another animal keeping up with them. Though they have a different need for speed, deer are pretty swift, but in the end, the horse probably will win the race.

Fast and Agile Deer

The white-tailed deer is the most abundant deer in the United States, though they aren't found in California, Nevada, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii. Speed is of the essence for this guy, as he has to be able to outrun large predators. Wolves, coyotes and mountain lions will give chase to deer, who rely on speed and agility to survive. The white-tailed deer can sprint as fast as 35 miles per hour; however, he can't maintain the speed for long periods of time. As a bonus, he's a great jumper, able to clear a 7-foot height from a standing position and up to 10 feet when running. He can bound well too, covering as much as 30 feet in a single leap.

Horse Speed

The horse has four gaits to choose from: a four-beat walk, averaging 4 miles per hour; a two-beat trot, averaging eight to 10 miles per hour; a three-beat gait known as a canter or lope, averaging 12 to 15 miles per hour; and the gallop. The gallop averages about 25 to 30 miles per hour, but at a sprint, a horse can kick it up to a higher level, as high as 55 miles per hour.

Born to Run

The horse's large, well-muscled upper legs provide him with speed. His long, thin legs give him a long stride. Quarter horses and thoroughbreds are the fastest horses, though they have different talents. The quarter horse is suited for short distance running, able to run a quarter mile in less than 21 seconds. A thoroughbred will go the distance, running an entire mile in little more than 90 seconds.

Other Speedy Animals

Though the horse would win the race against the deer, it wouldn't fare so well against the pronghorn, which can reach speeds of 60 miles per hour, or the speedy cheetah, at 74 miles per hour. Surprisingly, an ostrich would be better competition than the deer, reaching a speed of 43 miles per hour. The deer could keep pace with a rabbit, who clocks in around 30 miles per hour, and easily have his way with a roadrunner, who races at almost 20 miles per hour.

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