You are on page 1of 3

Cheetah 1

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large feline (family Felidae, subfamily Felinae) inhabiting most of 2
Africa and parts of the Middle East. It is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx. The cheetah can 3
run faster than any other land animal as fast as 112 to 120 km/h (70 to 75 mph) in short bursts 4
covering distances up to 500 m (1,600 ft), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 5
mph) in five seconds. 6
This cat is also notable for modifications in the species' paws. It is one of the few felids with semi- 7
retractable claws. 8
The cheetah's chest is deep and its waist is narrow. The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with 9
round black spots measuring from 2 to 3 cm (0.79 to 1.2 in) across, affording it some camouflage while 10
hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form four to 11
six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The cheetah has a small head with 12
high-set eyes. Black "tear marks" running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its 13
mouth keep sunlight out of its eyes and aid in hunting and seeing long distances. Its thin and fragile body 14
make it well-suited to short bursts of high speed, but not to long-distance running. 15
The adult cheetah weighs from 21 to 72 kg (46 to 160 lb). Its total head-and-body length is from 110 to 16
150 cm (43 to 59 in), while the tail can measure 60 to 84 cm (24 to 33 in) in length. Cheetahs are 66 to 17
94 cm (26 to 37 in) tall at the shoulder. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and have slightly 18
bigger heads, but there is not a great variation in cheetah sizes and it is difficult to tell males and 19
females apart by appearance alone. Compared to a similarly sized leopard, the cheetah is generally 20
shorter-bodied, but is longer tailed and taller (it averages about 90 cm (35 in) tall) and so it appears 21
more streamlined. 22
Some cheetahs have a rare fur pattern mutation of larger, blotchy, merged spots. Known as "king 23
cheetahs," they were once thought to constitute a separate subspecies but are in fact African cheetahs; 24
their unusual fur pattern is the result of a single recessive gene. The "king cheetah" has only been seen 25
in the wild a handful of times, but it has been bred in captivity. 26
The cheetah's paws have semi-retractable claws (known only in three other cat species: the fishing cat, 27
the flat-headed cat and the Iriomote cat), offering extra grip in its high-speed pursuits. The ligament 28
structure of the cheetah's claws is the same as those of other cats; it simply lacks the sheath of skin and 29
fur present in other varieties, and therefore, with the exception of the dewclaw, the claws are always 30
visible. The dewclaw is much shorter and straighter than that of other cats. 31
Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow for 32
increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate oxygen 33
efficiently. During a typical chase, its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. 34
While running, in addition to having good traction due to its semi-retractable claws, the cheetah uses its 35
tail as a rudder-like means of steering[citation needed] to allow it to make sharp turns, necessary to 36
outflank prey animals that often make such turns to escape. 37

Unlike true big cats of subfamily Pantherinae, the cheetah can purr as it inhales, but cannot roar. By 38
contrast, the big cats can roar but cannot purr, except while exhaling. The cheetah is still considered by 39
some to be the smallest of the big cats. While it is often mistaken for the leopard, the cheetah does have 40
distinguishing features, such as the aforementioned long "tear-streak" lines that run from the corners of 41
its eyes to its mouth, and spots that are not "rosettes". The thinner body frame of the cheetah is also 42
very different from that of the leopard. 43
The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Of all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments. 44
It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although recently a few zoos have managed to 45
succeed at this. One technique has been to introduce a dog as a playmate and guard dog to enable a 46
captive cheetah to feel less threatened. 47
Once widely hunted for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from the loss of both habitat and prey. 48
The cheetah was formerly considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and to have evolved 49
approximately 18 million years ago. However, new research suggests the last common ancestor of all 40 50
existing species of felines lived more recently than about 11 million years ago. The same research 51
indicates that the cheetah, while highly derived morphologically, is not of particularly ancient lineage, 52
having separated from its closest living relatives (Puma concolor, the cougar, and Puma yaguarondi, the 53
jaguarundi) around five million years ago. These felids have not changed appreciably since they first 54
appeared in the fossil record. 55
Range and habitat 56
There are several geographically isolated populations of cheetah, all of which are found in Africa or 57
southwestern Asia. A small population (estimated at about fifty) survive in the Khorasan Province of 58
Iran, where conservationists are taking steps to protect them. 59
It is possible, though doubtful, that some cheetahs remain in India.[citation needed] There have also 60
been several unconfirmed reports of Asiatic Cheetahs in the Balochistan province of Pakistan, with at 61
least one dead animal being discovered recently. 62
The cheetah thrives in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. The cheetah likes to 63
live in an open biotope, such as semidesert, prairie, and thick brush, though it can be found in a variety 64
of habitats. In Namibia, for example, it lives in grasslands, savannahs, areas of dense vegetation, and 65
mountainous terrain. 66
In much of its former range, the cheetah was tamed by aristocrats and used to hunt antelopes in much 67
the same way as is still done with members of the greyhound group of dogs. 68
Diet and hunting 69
The cheetah is a carnivore, eating mostly mammals under 40 kg (88 lb), including the Thomson's gazelle, 70
the Grant's gazelle, the springbok and the impala. The young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and 71
zebras are taken at times, and adults too, when cheetahs hunt in groups. Guineafowl and hares are also 72

prey. While the other big cats often hunt by night, the cheetah is a diurnal hunter. It hunts usually either 73
early in the morning or later in the evening when it is not so hot, but there is still enough light. 74
The cheetah hunts by vision rather than by scent. Prey is stalked to within 1030 m (3398 ft), then 75
chased. This is usually over in less than a minute, and if the cheetah fails to make a catch quickly, it will 76
give up. The cheetah has an average hunting success rate of around 50%. 77
Running at very high speeds puts a great deal of strain on the cheetah's body. When sprinting, the 78
cheetah's body temperature quickly elevates. If it is a hard chase, it sometimes needs to rest for half an 79
hour or more. 80
The cheetah kills its prey by tripping it during the chase, then biting it on the underside of the throat to 81
suffocate it; the cheetah is not strong enough to break the necks of most prey. The bite may also 82
puncture a vital artery in the neck. Then the cheetah proceeds to devour its catch as quickly as possible 83
before the kill is taken by stronger predators. 84
The diet of a cheetah is dependent upon the area in which it lives. For example, on the East African 85
plains, its preferred prey is the Thomson's gazelle. This small antelope is smaller and slower than the 86
cheetah, which makes it an appropriate prey. Cheetahs look for individuals which have strayed some 87
distance from their group, and do not necessarily seek out old or weak ones. 88