The cheetah is the fastest of all land animals. It's long-legged, slender body is built for speed (up to 70mph). Their semi-retractable claws provide extra traction while it's long, white-tipped tail acts as a rudder for making abrupt turns during high-speed pursuits. The cheetah's coat is tan in color with round black spots covering most of its body, except for it's white throat and underbelly. Perhaps it's most distinguishing feature is it's tear shaped markings that extend from the corner of the eyes to the mouth.
Height about 32 inches tall at the shoulders
Length from 45-56 inches long with another 27-33 inches in tale
Weight anywhere from 90 -140 pounds
Males tend to be slightly larger than females but the sizes are not in great variation making it hard to tell females and males apart by just appearance.
10-15 years in the wild, longer in captivity
The cheetah is a carnivore, eating mostly gazelles, rabbits, impalasand other grazing animals. Their diet also includes frogs, birds, rodents, lizard and eggs.
Range and Population
Cheetahs prefer to live in open areas. They occupy vast expanses of land in habitats including savannahs, dense vegetation, and grasslands (thriving in simi-desert, thick brush, and prairie environments). Found primarily in Africa (south of the Sahara Desert) current population is estimated at up to 12,000 cheetahs. Another small population of about 200 cheetahs are confined to parts of Iran.
Female cheetahs are typically solitary, except when they are raising their cubs. While males usually will form a coalitions, often of 3 or more that will live and hunt together for life. Cheetah's are primarily diurnal, relying on it's sight rather than smell to hunt. They stalk their prey and catch an animal by knocking it to the ground. They kill with a suffocating bite, clamping down on the animals windpipe. Only half of the cheetah's chases will end in success, and if it fails to make a catch quickly, it will give up. A great deal of strain is put on the cheetah's body running at high speeds, causing their body temperature to increase dangerously high. At this point rest is crucial.
Mating Season Throughout the year.
Gestation About 3 months.
Litter size up to 9 cubs (average is 3-5)
Cubs weight from 5 to 10 ounces at birth and are born with a smoky colored coat with its characteristic spots. They are also born with a woolly underlying fur (mantle) running from their necks down their backs. This fur will shed as the cheetah grows older. Once they reach about 5-6 weeks old, cubs follow the hunt and begin eating from the mother's kills. The mother leaves the cubs when they are about 18 months. This young "group" will remain together for another six or so months. At about two years, the female siblings leave the group, and the males remain together for life.