Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus
The Cheetah's slender body, deep chest, narrow waist and long legs are the immediate things one notices about the Cheetah. A small head, short muzzle and distinguishing black "tear lines", from the corner of each eye, to the corner of its mouth separate it from the Leopard
& Serval Cat
. The background colour of its body varies slightly, from near white to tan, spotted with uniform black dots. There are no spots on its white underneath parts. Its very long tail is spotted, then striped, finishing with a white tip, which is used as a rudder in high-speed turns. A rarity amongs cats, the Cheetah has semi-retractable claws. Longevity
Cheetah mums give birth to between 1-5 cubs (usually 3 or 4, but known up to 9), after 92 days gestation, weighing up to 300gms, which are dropped at any time of the year - complete with their spots and a furry 'mantle' on their hind necks. However, there's a very high mortaility rate of up to 75%, due to predation by Lion
, African Wild Dogs and even larger Eagles. Cheetah will live up to 21 years in captivity, but around 12 in the wild. Predators
The Cheetah is predated by other big cats, especially the Lion. Seen as competition in the food chain, other big cats will kill a Cheetah if they can get within pouncing distance. As is so often the case today, the Cheetah also suffers from human / animal conflict, due to loss of habitat and prey - and the illegal pet trade, where 100's disappear every year. This practice has been ongoing since the time of Ancient Egyptians, who not only kept Cheetahs as pets, but trained them to hunt. Behaviour
Cheetah are normally seen singly, in pairs or a mother with cubs. Adult males move singly, or in small betchelor coalitions of related animals. Females establish territories and drive out other females. Conversely, males may move over the territories of several females.
Cheetah favour open country (plains, grassland, savanna and even slightly wooded areas). Diet
Cheetahs favour medium-sized mammals, especially Antelope up to 60kg. Thomson's Gazelle
are favourites, although Hares
are a good 'hamburger-sized snack'. Birds also feature in their diet, an Ostrich
being the largest Cheetahs will tackle. Its main hunting strategy is to trip its prey with a paw, saving it getting kicked. It catches its prey 50% of the times it runs - and loses 50% of what it catches to other predators. Other Cheetah Facts
The Cheetah is often called "the Greyhound of cats", achieving by far the fastest land speed of any living animal—between 112 and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts, covering distances up to 500 m (1,600 ft). The Cheetah can accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in three seconds. At such speeds, its breating increases to 150 breaths per minute.
The Cheetah's night-sight is not as well adapted as that of other big cats, so is seen more during the day, hunting early morning and late afternoon - sometimes, during a full moon.
The Cheetah can purr (when inhaling), but not roar. Photographs
Photographed in Kenya's Masai Mara & Olare Orok Conservancy.