#4 out of our 6 featured CATS: the speed machine – CHEETAH:
The CHEETAH is a large cat of the subfamily Felinae that occurs in a variety of mostly arid habitats like dry forests, scrub forests, and savannahs. Its yellowish tan coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots. Its body is slender with a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, deep chest, long thin legs and long spotted tail.
Fastest animal on land!
Lifespan: 10 – 12 years (in the wild) and up to 20 years or longer in captivity
Speed: 100 – 120 km/h (in short bursts, running)
Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus
Mass: 21 – 72 kg (Adult)
Height: 70–90 cm at the shoulder
Did you know:
Vulnerability: All populations of cheetah are on the decline, with the total population estimated at less than 7,000 individuals.
Roar: Unlike other big cats, cheetahs cannot roar because it does not have a floating Hyoid bone in its neck. However, they can purr on both inhale and exhale, like domestic cats.
Built for speed: The fastest land animal in the world, a cheetah can reach 112km/h in just three seconds – that’s faster than most sports cars accelerate!
They stalk its prey to within 100-300m and charge, however they can only keep this high-speed-chase up for shorts distances of ~ 100m.
Its body has evolved for speed, with long legs, an elongated spine, adapted claws (blunt claws, more like studs on sports shoes!) to grip the ground and a long tail for balance. When running, cheetahs use their tail to steer, like a rudder for a boat. Cheetahs are the only big cat that can turn in mid-air while sprinting.
Male bond: Male cheetahs are the more social despite their territoriality, spending most of their lives in small groups called “coalitions”, while females live with their youngsters until they are independent and rarely associate with adult cheetahs other than for brief breeding encounters.
Diurnal: The cheetah is active mainly during the day, with hunting its major activity. A cheetah has amazing eyesight during the day and can spot prey from 5 km away.
Surrender: Due to their light body weight, slender build and blunt claws, the cheetah is not well designed to protect themselves or their prey against a larger or more aggressive animals and will often give up its catch to avoid a fight.
Cubs: Cheetahs breed throughout the year and gestation lasts nearly three months, resulting in a litter of typically three to five, in rare cases up to eight cubs. Until about 3 month of age, cheetah cubs have thick silver-grey mantle down their back. The mantle helps camouflage the cubs by imitating the look of an aggressive animal called the honey badger. Honey badgers are known for their “bad-temper” and not being afraid of anything, even predators such as lions & hyaenas give it a wide berth.
The cubs are weaned at the age of about six months. After siblings become independent from their mother, they usually stay together for some time.
Tear-drop: Distinctive back tear stripes run from the eyes to the mouth. The stripes are thought to protect the eyes from the sun’s glare. It is believed that they have the same function as the rifle scope, helping cheetahs focus on their prey.