A study of cheetahs has shown that instead, the animal uses incredible acceleration and rapid changes in speed when hunting. The animals get this acceleration by exerting nearly five times more power than that of famed sprinter Usain Bolt during his record-breaking 100m run.
The results are published in the journal Nature. The findings amazed the scientist who led the research, Prof Alan Wilson of the Royal Veterinary College in Hatfield, UK.
"They are remarkable athletes - not just in terms of their speed, but also with their ability to accelerate and manoeuvre in capturing the prey," he told BBC News.
The top speed for a cheetah is often quoted is 65mph (105km/h). This was measured in 1965 by a scientist in Kenya timing the run of a semi-domesticated cheetah in Kenya running in a straight line on a firm dirt track. But a well-fed zoo cheetah is not accustomed to running very fast - it does not need to - and so no one had seen zoo cheetah speeds greater than 40 mph (64km/h).
So for years, researchers wondered whether Cheetah's might run much faster than 65 mph in the wild in order to capture prey.