The cheetah, the world’s fastest animal
on land over short distances, can cover speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.
Its long, slim and muscular legs are built for speed with a small, rounded
head set on a long neck, a flexible spine, a deep chest,
special pads on its feet for traction and a long tail for
balance. It is also the only known cat that cannot retract its
claws (other cats have retractable claws which enable them
climb up trees), an adaptation to help maintain traction
while on top flight like a soccer boot cleats. The cheetah
has a distinctive black "tear tracks" running
from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth which serve as
an antiglare mechanism for daytime hunting.
Cheetahs are mostly found in open savannah plains.
The cheetah is mostly a solitary animal and at times, a male
will accompany a female for a short while after mating. Most often the female is
found alone or with her cubs. The female Cheetah
spend a lot of time with their young teaching them how to hunt.
Small live antelopes are brought back to the cubs so they
can learn to chase and catch them.
Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but they purr, hiss, whine
and growl. They also make a variety of contact calls; the
most common is a birdlike chirping sound.
Cheetahs usually prey on small antelopes such as
gazelles and impalas, but also hunt small mammals and birds.
The cheetah gets as close to the prey as possible, then in a
burst of speed it tries to outrun its quarry. Once the
cheetah closes in, it knocks the prey to the ground with its
paw and suffocates the animal with a bite to the neck. Once
a cheetah has made a kill, it eats quickly and keeps an eye
out for scavengers —
hyenas, vultures and
jackals will steal from this timid predator. Unlike most
other cats, the cheetah usually hunts during daylight,
preferring early morning or early evening.
Predators and Threats
A shy creature that roams widely, the cheetah is not seen as
easily as some other cats. Never numerous, cheetahs have
become extinct in many areas, principally due to shrinking
habitat, loss of species to prey upon, disease and a high
rate of cub mortality. In some areas 50 to 75% of cheetah
cubs die before 3 months, as they are highly susceptible to
disease at this age.
Thought You Should Know
That the name cheetah comes from an Indian word meaning
That the young cub has a long
grey-blue coat and a black
underbelly that rapidly lightens and becomes spotted.
n the early days, people trained cheetahs for hunting, and
were depicted by many
civilizations in their art and in written