Cheetahs are the fastest land animal.  They are known for their great speeds, even if they only maintain those speeds in bursts over short spans of time.  Cheetahs can run up to 70 miles per hour to catch their prey.  There are five subspecies of cheetahs which include the Asiatic cheetah, Northwest African cheetah, South African cheetah, Sudan cheetah, and Tanzanian cheetah.

Lifespan

Cheetahs, on average, live between 8 and 10 years in the wild and between 10 and 12 years in captivity. There are a few documented cases of captive cheetahs living to be 20 years old.

Shape & Size

Cheetahs have long, slender bodies with deep chests. They are typically about three feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh between 110 and 140 pounds.

Color Pattern

Cheetahs have a yellow or golden coat with solid black spots.

Behavior

Cheetahs are typically solitary animals, however, at times, males will form coalitions of two or three brothers from the same litter. Females are solitary unless they are raising a litter of cubs.

Habitat

Cheetahs hunt mainly on the open or mostly open savannas and plains of Africa and Asia. They use the tall grasses to their advantage to camouflage them from their prey.

Principal Threats

Cheetahs' numbers over the last couple decades have declined dramatically due mostly to poaching but also to habitat loss. Cheetah fur brings in a lot of money on the black market.

Acinonyx jubatus

Range Map

Range

Cheetahs are most prevalent in Africa but only inhabit about 6% of their original range. There is a small population of about 200 cheetahs in Iran and a few in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent.

Food

Cheetahs prefer to hunt medium-sized prey. They will often go after medium-sized hoofstalk including antelope, impala, and springbok. They have also been known to hunt hares, foxes, and occasionally warthogs.

Reproductive Habits

The gestation period for cheetahs is about three months. Females have between two and four cubs in a litter and the cubs stay with their mother until they are about a year old. The mortality rate of cheetah cubs is high. Nearly 83% of cubs die before reaching adolescence. About 77% of those deaths are attributed to lions.

Behavior

When hunting, cheetahs stalk their prey to get as close as they can. When they are able, their method of knocking prey down is to swat at their legs and feet as they run. Cheetahs then suffocate the animal as quickly as possible and eat as much as they can before larger predators come in and steal their food. Cheetahs are typically diurnal, meaning they do most of their hunting during the day. This is not true for most large predators in Africa, who would be considered enemies of cheetahs.

Conservation

Cheetahs are considered "vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List. The main reasons for a decline in population are habitat loss and poaching for cheetah pelts.

Fun Facts

  • Cheetahs are the fastest land animal and can reach speeds up to 70 mph

  • Cheetahs are the only cats that do not have fully retractable claws; their semi-retractable claws allow them to gain traction as they build up speed chasing after their prey

  • Cheetahs' long, thick tails help them balance and make sharp turns when they reach top speeds

  • Cheetahs are unable to roar and can only purr on exhales; this contributes to the big debate on whether cheetahs are big cats or small cats because big cats roar and small cats can purr on inhales and exhales