| Latin Name
| Conservation Status
||Africa & West Asia
||Tan with Black Spots
||1.1 - 1.5 m (3.5 - 5 ft)
||60 - 80 cms (23.5 - 32 inches)
||21 - 72 Kgs (46 - 160 lbs)
| Life Expectancy
12 - 14 Yrs
Cheetahs are tall, slender cats that are built for speed. They have a body length between 1.1 and 1.5 m (3.5 - 5 ft), a tail length between 60 - 80 cms (23.5 - 32 inches) and they weigh between 21 and 72 Kgs (46 - 160 lbs).
They have long, muscular legs with blunt, semi-retractable claws which enables them to have better traction while running. Their fur is tan coloured with small, round, solid black spots, and they have a white stomach. On their tail the spots merge to form 4 - 6 dark rings and at the end there is usually a bushy white tuft.
Their head is small and rounded and they have black "tear marks" running from the corner of their eyes to the corner their mouth. These tear marks help keep the sun light out of the Cheetahs eyes to enable them to see better while hunting.
Male Cheetahs are slightly larger than females but it is difficult to tell them apart by sight alone.
Some Cheetahs have a blotched appearance to their coat with stripes and loops. These are known as King Cheetahs and until recently they were thought to be a separate subspecies of Cheetah but they are merely a mutation of the African Cheetah.
Cheetahs inhabit the desert, savannah, scrub, bush and open woodlands of Africa.
Cheetahs have a unique social structure in comparison to other cats. Females tend to be solitary unless they have cubs but sometimes mother/daughter pairs have been known to stay together for a while. Generally females tend to avoid each other but they may share home ranges that overlap.
Most male Cheetahs also live alone but some of them live in groups of 2 - 4. These groups are known as coalitions and they last for a lifetime. Males that live in coalitions are very territorial and they mark their territories by urinating on logs, trees or termite mounds. If their territory is threatened they will fiercely defend it.
The size of their home range depends on the availability of prey but solitary males and females can have ranges as large as 800 - 1500 Km (500 - 930 miles) where as male coalitions have smaller territories of 12 - 35 Kms (7.5 - 21.5 miles).
Cheetahs are carnivores and they mainly eat mammals that weigh under 40 Kgs (90lbs). Their diet mainly consists of thomson's gazelles, impala, springbok, kob, warthogs, blackbuck, lesser kudu, guinea fowl and hares. When Cheetahs hunt together they may prey upon wildebeest and their calves.
Cheetahs stalk their prey to within 30 m (98 ft) then they chase. If they are not successful within 1 minute they quite often give up as their bodies can quickly overheat. Cheetahs kill their prey by tripping it up during the chase then biting the underside of its neck to suffocate it.
The Cheetah then quickly consumes as much of its catch as possible before it is taken by stronger predators, such as lions or hyenas.
Following a gestation period of 90 - 98 days Cheetahs give birth to 1 - 5 cubs. At birth the cubs weigh between 150 and 300 g (5 - 10 oz) and their fur already has their characteristic spots. They also have downy fur known as a mantle on their necks extending to their mid back. This gives them a mane like appearance that is shed as they grow older.
Cub mortality is high and almost 75% are killed by other predators such as lions, hyenas, baboons and leopards. The cubs leave their mothers after about 18 months but some siblings may remain together for another few months, or in the case of male coalitions, for life.
Cheetahs don't usually mate until they are around 3 years old, and mating occurs throughout the year.
Cheetahs have no real predators, other than humans.
There are six subspecies of Cheetah:
Acinonyx jubatus hecki - West Africa
Acinonyx jubatus jubatus - Southern Africa
Acinonyx jubatus raineyii - East Africa
Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii - Central Asia
Acinonyx jubatus velox
Acinonyx jubatus venaticus
The Cheetah is the worlds fastest land animal and it can reach speeds of up to 113 Km/h (70 mph) in short bursts. It can also accelerate from 0 - 100 Km/h (approx 60 mph) in 3 seconds. See Top 10 Fastest Land Animals.
Unlike other big cats, Cheetahs cannot roar but they are very vocal. They emit sound such as chirps, hums, purrs and yelps. The most distinctive of these is the yelp that can carry for up to 2 Km (1.2 miles).
Cheetahs are one of only four cats that cannot retract their claws, the others being the fishing cat , flat-headed cat and iriomote cat.
A rare subspecies of Cheetah has been caught on camera. Continue>