Known as the fastest land animals, cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are members of the big cat family, which includes tigers, jaguars, lions, leopards, snow leopards and pumas. Their name comes from the Hindi word “chita,” which means “spotted one,”

The word “Cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word “Chita” meaning “spotted one”. The Cheetah is the fastest land animal reaching speeds of 45 – 70 mph. Cheetahs have also been known to swim, although they do not like to. The Cheetah is not one of the Great Cats, because it does not have a floating Hyoid bone in its neck it can not roar, therefore it is a Lesser Cat. Cheetahs have been considered through out history to be a sleek and beautiful cat.

The Cheetah weighs an average of 83-145 lbs., making them about the same weight as that of a leopard. The length of a Cheetah is approximately 70″-86″ from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail. Being an extremely tall cat the Cheetah stands at an average of 32″ tall.

Size Of A Male Cheetah

An adult cheetah weighs 75 to 140 pounds (34 to 64 kilograms), is about 30 inches (77 centimeters) tall at the shoulder and 44 to 56 inches (112 to 142 centimeters) long with another 26 to 33 inches (66 to 84 centimeters) in tail length. Males are slightly larger than females. Cheetahs are sometimes confused with leopards—a much heavier animal with rosette-shaped spots and no tear marks.

Native Habitat Of A Male Cheetah

Cheetahs inhabit a broad section of Africa including areas of North Africa, the Sahel, eastern and southern Africa. Over the past 50 years, cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries, and they are most prevalent in Kenya and Tanzania in east Africa, and Namibia and Botswana in southern Africa. The Asiatic cheetah is known to survive in Iran, but is critically endangered. Cheetahs thrive in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. In Namibia, cheetahs live in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, savannahs, dense vegetation and mountainous terrain. As human development expands in to their preferred habitat, cheetahs can now commonly be found on commercial farms.

Physical Characteristics Of Adult Cheetahs

Adult cheetahs’ weight averages between 75 and 125 pounds. They can measure from 40 to 60 inches in length, measured from the head to the hind quarters. The tail can add a further 24 to 32 inches bringing the total overall length up to 7.5 feet. On average, cheetahs stand 28 to 36 inches tall at the shoulder.

The cheetah is a sexually dimorphic species though it is difficult to identify cheetahs’ sex by appearance alone. Male cheetahs are slightly bigger than females and they have larger heads, but they do not display the same degree of physical difference between the sexes of other big cat species like lions.

What Do Cheetahs Look Like?

Adult cheetahs are, on average, 2.5 feet (0.8 meters) tall at the shoulder, and up to nearly 5 feet (1.5 m) long from head to rump, with their tails adding another 26 to 33 inches (66 to 84 centimeters). Typically, these large cats weigh between 75 and 140 lbs. (34 to 64 kilograms), according to the Smithsonian.

How Fast Do Cheetahs Run?

Cheetahs’ long, slender bodies, powerful legs and flexible spine enable them to fully stretch their bodies when they sprint and cover significant ground  — around 20 to 22 feet (6 to 6.7 m) per stride, according to the San Diego Zoo. Cheetahs have been known to accelerate from 0 to 45 mph (72 km/h) in just 2.5 seconds. For comparison, the fastest cars in the world can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.5 seconds, according to Consumer Reports. As noted by Women’s Health Magazine, the fastest a human can run is about 28 mph (45 km/h), which means it’s impossible for a person to outrun a cheetah on foot. 

Cheetahs can execute quick turns even while in midair thanks to their long tail, which counters their body weight. Their semi-retractable claws, which are more dog-like than a typical cat claw, provide great traction during sprints and sudden changes in direction.

Where Do Cheetahs Live?

Cheetahs are native to Africa and Asia, although the Asiatic cheetah has become all but extinct. According to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), the large cats currently only inhabit about 10% of their historic range, and are primarily found in North Africa, the Sahel (the region between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian savanna), eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), and southern Africa (Namibia and Botswana). A small population also lives in Iran, where they are critically endangered.

Cheetahs don’t have one home location where they seek shelter day in and day out. Instead, these nomadic cats have home territories or ranges — expanses of grasslands, savannas, forest land and mountainous terrain, ranging from 5 to over 300 square miles (13 to over 780 square kilometers) in size, which they regularly roam, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo. When not actively hunting, they prefer to sleep and rest in tall grasses, under trees, or on rocky outposts. 

How Do Cheetahs Socialize?

While female cheetahs tend to live alone or with their cubs, males typically live in small groups called “coalitions,” which are made up of male cheetah siblings. Females socialize with males only when mating, and they raise their offspring on their own.

The gestation period for cheetahs is around three months, and litter sizes vary between three and five cubs, according to the San Diego Zoo. Cheetah cubs weigh between 5 and 10 ounces (140 to 280 grams) when born — not much larger than newborn housecats, which typically weigh 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 110 g). Cubs are born with all their spots, as well as mane-like hair on their neck and shoulders. However, these so-called “mantles” disappear as the cubs age. 

Lifespan Of A Male Cheetah

The median life expectancy for cheetahs in the wild is about 12 years.

Threats:

Human-wildlife life conflict is a major threat to cheetahs. As their habitat and available natural prey decreases, cheetahs tend to encounter conflict with farmers. Cheetahs are more likely to attack livestock, resulting in farmers killing them in retaliation.

Habitat loss is another major threat to cheetahs, as human activities expand in the cheetah’s habitat. Cheetahs need large areas of connected habitat for their survival, as there is a low density of the cat across its range. The illegal wildlife trade and the exotic pet trade are other major threats to the species. Cheetahs are often poached for their skin.

Conservation Status:

Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN’s list of endangered species.

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