The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large feline, a wild cat. It is a mammal.
The Cheetah is tawny-coloured with clear solid round and oval black spots and with a white underbelly. Its spots are on its fur and also on its skin. It is a ‘sway-backed’ cat with a thin waist, and long legs. Its head is rounded and small, with a unique black ‘tear’ stain below each eye. It has dog-like feet with blunt claws that cannot retract – their claws cannot go in and out; the claws are always visible. Its tail is long and spotted, with several closely-spaced black rings near the end. It has short, thin whiskers.
It grows to 112-150 centimetres (45-60 inches) long and about 90 centimetres (35 inches) tall. Its tail is 66-84 centimetres (26-34 inches) long.
The Cheetah is native to sub-Saharan Africa. It prefers open savannahs. It is usually not found in rain forests or wet coastal regions.
It is diurnal, hunting in the morning or early evening before it gets dark. It is carnivorous, eating meat, such as small mammals, particularly gazelles and impala. It stalks its prey, getting closer and closer, before making a sprint.
It is the fastest land mammal, running at a speed of 112 kilometres per hour (70 miles per hour) for short distances. It lacks the stamina of wild dogs, so it must catch its prey quickly, otherwise it will give up and try again later.
The male Cheetah is territorial. It forms a coalition (group) of 3-4 males.
Females have 1-6 young, called cubs, after a pregnancy of 90-95 days.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
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