Scientific Name
Acinonyx jubatus

Common Names Classification

Close Relatives

The cheetah is a large cat (of the Felidae family) that generally has a body length of 1.3m (50 inches) and a tail of 80 cm (33 inches), the length of their tail can also be a good indication of how tall they stand. In ratio to their body size, cheetah’s have a small head; one of many attributes that contribute to their unbelievable speed. Their name, cheetah, comes from a Hindi word which can roughly translate to “spotted animal”; they are nearly covered in spots with the exception of their throat and abdomen. On average they weigh about 50 kilograms (110 pounds), and as with most mammals the male is larger than their female counterpart.

Perhaps the most known fact about cheetahs is their speed, and this fame is very well earned indeed. Their speed may have turned into something of a myth, many report a top speed of around 120kph (75 mph) which could well be the case; more realistic however is around 100 kph (62 mph). Whatever the top speed of the fastest cheetah actually is, one thing is certain: they are fast! Their acceleration is equally as impressive as their speed, where they reach top speed in only a few seconds; this gives the cheetah a very useful element of surprise when hunting prey. Reaching such speed comes at a price for the cheetah, it requires huge amounts of energy and in turn drives their body temperatures high just as quickly! Their endurance therefore suffers as they are forced to slow down, giving the prey the advantage. Even at such impressive speeds hunting is not always succesful or easy for the cheetah, most of their prey such as gazelles or impalas are themselves very fast also, and are able to outrun cheetahs by distance with ease. They therefore employ a number of strategies to outsmart their prey; firstly they often hunt together with other cheetahs to increase their chance of success, but most importantly their stealth-like ability is superb. They will often sneak to within just 20 metres of their prey, crouching, moving slowly and silently before launching at full speed; their prey has little time to respond.

Another extreme ability of the cheetah is their eyesight, their eyes are set high in their head and protected by their whiskers. Their distinct black tear-drop marking (which is one easy method of differentiating cheetahs and leopards) around their eyes offers some shielding to harsh sunlight; the equivalent of sun glasses in the animal world perhaps.

An amazing African animal They are found mostly in Saharan Africa, south of the Sahara desert. They hunt in packs, and usually dominate a territory of about 35 square kilometres.

Did you know?: Cheetahs often get confused with leopards. One way to distinguish is to check for the tear mark. Cheetahs have a tear mark on their face, while leopards do not. A tear mark is the black fur leading from the eyes down to the mouth.

Amazing Fact: The cheetah is the fastest land animal, they can bound at speeds of up to 113 km/h !

The females give birth to 3 to 5 cubs, after a gestation of 90 to 95 days. The cubs weigh from 150 to 300g at birth. They leave their mother between 13 and 20 months after birth. The cheetah can live over 20 years. Unlike other felines, the adult females do not have true territories and seem to avoid each other. Males sometimes form small groups, especially when they came from the same litter.

The cheetah’s body is svelte and muscular, though it seems slender and almost fragile in build. Its chest is deep and its waist narrow. It has a small head and short muzzle, high-placed eyes, large nostrils, and small round ears. The fur of the cheetah is fauve yellow with round black spots. The adult animal weighs from 39 to 65 kg. Its total length is from 112 to 135 cm, while the tail can measure up to 84 cm.

The ‘cheetah’ (‘Acinonyx jubatus’) is an atypical member of the cat family(‘[Felidae]’) that hunts by sight and speed rather than by stealth. It is the only cat that cannot completely retract its claws (the [genus] name,’Acinonyx’, means “no-move-claw” in [Greek language|Greek], while the [species] name, ‘jubatus’, means “maned” in [Latin language|Latin], a reference to the mane found in cheetah cubs). Even when retracted, the claws remain visible and are used for grip during the cheetah’s acceleration and maneuvering.

The cheetah is the fastest known four-footed animal and can reach speeds of over 110 kilometers per hour, if only in very short bursts.

Cheetahs are found in the wild only in Africa, but in the past their range extended into northern India and the Iranian plateau, where they were domesticated by aristocrats and used to hunt antelopes in much the same way as is still done with members of the [greyhound] family.

The cheetah is a [carnivore], eating mostly mammals under 40 kg ([gazelle], [impala], [gnu]] calf, [hare]). The prey is stalked to about ten meters’ distance, then chased. A hunt is usually over in less than a minute and if the cheetah fails to make a quick catch, it will often give up rather than waste energy.

The cheetah is a carnivore, and therefore eats small animals. They have keen eyesight, and use this primarily when hunting. They stay almost camoflouged in grass, or climb a tree and scan for their prey. They then chase their prey at speeds of up to 80 km/h. If the animal is small, such as a hare, the cheetah will simply maul the hare to death, but if it is larger, the cheetah will go for the throat, and block the windpipe until the animal stops breathing.

Being cats, cheetahs can purr and growl. They can also bark and hiss, but they do not roar like a lion.

Cheetah’s have a gestation period of between 90 to 95 days with 2 to 4 cubs born. After 6 weeks, the cub leaves their den, and is strong enough to join hunts with the pack. When they are 6 months old, the mother is known to capture live prey and for the cub to practice its kill technique. The cub continues to live with mother for a further year learning hunting skills and survival techniques.