Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Length: 4 to 5 feet (1.2 to 1.5 m) 
Weight: 74 to 140 pounds (34 to 63 kg)
Diet: Hoofed animals, hares and rodents
Distribution: Africa and Middle East
Young:  Up to 8 cubs per litter
Animal Predators:  Hyenas and lions prey on the cubs
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Terms: Young: Cub or Kitten  Group: Coalition
Lifespan: 7 to 14 years in the wild and 12 years in captivity



·       The cheetah does not roar, but it can bark, chirp and purr.

·       “Cheetah” means “spotted one” in the Hindi language.

·       Cheetahs have enlarged hearts, lungs and livers and increased lung capacity.

·       The claws of a cheetah are only partially retractable.

·       Egyptian pharaohs trained cheetahs to help them on hunting expeditions.



Cheetahs are long, sleek cats. They have light orange or beige fur covered with black spots. Their ears are rounded and they have a long tail that has spots at the top, and four to six black rings on the tip. Their limbs are long and powerful. Cheetahs have a thin black line on their face that runs from the corner of their eyes to the corner of their mouth. Males and females are similar in appearance, although males tend to be slightly larger. 



Cheetahs live in a variety of habitats, from grasslands to semi-deserts to mountainous terrain. They like areas that have high points so they can perch there to scan for prey.   


Feeding Habits

Cheetahs scan the area from a tree limb or a termite hill, then stalk a herd of gazelle, impala or antelope, outrunning one of the young, old or injured in a short burst of speed and bringing it down, first by tripping the prey and then clamping his jaws over the victim’s windpipe until it is dead. The cheetah feeds on the prey quickly, before a hyena or lion can interrupt and take over the prey. Cheetahs never eat carrion or anything but fresh meat, so they leave behind whatever they cannot eat in one sitting.



Mating season is year round, and males and females only socialize when they are ready to mate. Afterwards, the male leaves the female and provides no help in raising the cubs. The female is pregnant for a three-month period. The cubs are born helpless, with their eyes closed, but can walk and see within two weeks. The mother needs to leave the cubs alone when she goes to hunt, so she moves the nest on a daily basis. The cubs can follow their mothers on a hunt at six weeks and by the age of six to eight months, the mother will bring them live prey to practice with. Female cubs leave the family first at around 18 months of age, then the males leave together in a group. 



Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals in the world over short distances, able to reach speeds of over 70 miles (180 km) per hour in seconds from a complete standstill. Male cheetahs live in groups of two to three cats, usually brothers from the same litter. A female often lives within the same range as her mother, but is solitary except when she has a litter of cubs. 



The cheetah has been widely hunted for its fur, and became extinct in India in the mid-20th century. In northwestern African countries such as Morocco and Algeria, the cheetah is considered endangered and it is specifically listed as critically endangered in Iran by the IUCN. In the rest of its range, it is considered vulnerable. In Africa, the country of Namibia has the largest population of cheetahs in the world, being home to nearly 2,500, or one-sixth of the world’s remaining cheetahs. The reduced numbers of cheetahs leads to a serious problem—inbreeding decreases their immunity to disease.



Cheetah Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US