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Cheetahs – 30 Fascinating Facts, Info & Pictures

From their streamlined bodies built for speed to their strikingly beautiful spotted coats, cheetahs are truly a marvel of nature. As the fastest land animals on Earth, they are the embodiment of agility and grace. But there is much more to these fascinating creatures than meets the eye.

In this article, we’ll uncover thirty surprising facts about cheetahs, offering a glimpse into the life of these extraordinary big cats. Prepare to venture into the world of cheetahs, where every fact you learn will leave you more intrigued than the last!

Essential Information About Cheetahs

  • Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus
  • Type of Animal: Mammal
  • Size: 1.10-1.50 m (43-59 in) long + a 60-80 cm (23-31 in) tail
  • Weight: 34-56 kg (75-125 lbs)
  • Geographic range: Subsaharan Africa, and one critically endangered subspecies in Iran.
  • Habitat: Mostly savannahs, open grasslands
  • Diet: They are carnivorous and mainly eat various species of antelopes and gazelles.
  • Predators: Mainly lions, hyenas, leopards.
  • Reproduction: Mating can happen throughout the year. The gestation period typically lasts 93 days and the female gives birth to a little of 3 to 5 cubs.
  • Conservation status: Vulnerable. Population is decreasing.
Cheetah walking in grass

30 Fascinating Facts About Cheetahs

  1. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals: Reaching speeds up to 60-70 miles per hour (110 km/h), cheetahs are the ultimate sprinters of the animal kingdom. Their acceleration can even rival some sports cars, going from 0 to 60 mph in just about 3 seconds.
  2. Their bodies are built for speed: They have a lightweight frame, a deep chest, and a narrow waist, all of which contributes to their incredible speed. Their large nostrils allow for increased oxygen intake, and their adrenal glands produce adrenaline to help them maintain this speed.
  3. They cannot roar: Unlike other big cats such as lions, tigers, and leopards, cheetahs can’t roar. Instead, they purr, hiss, whine, and growl. They also make a unique bird-like call known as a ‘chirp’ when trying to locate each other.
  4. Cheetahs have specialized ‘running shoes’: Their paws have hard pads and lack the fluffy fur and sharp retractable claws found in other cats. This gives them better traction and acts like cleats when they’re running at high speeds.
  5. Their spots and tear marks have a purpose: Cheetahs’ coats are covered in black spots that aid in camouflage, while the tear marks on their faces help reduce the glare of the sun and focus on their prey.
  6. Cheetahs have amazing eyesight: Their eyes have a high concentration of nerve cells in the area responsible for sharp focus. This means they can spot prey from up to 5 kilometers away.
  7. They are not good climbers: Unlike many other big cats, cheetahs are not adept at climbing trees due to their large size and blunt claws. It doesn’t mean they can’t, but they rarely do so.
  8. Cheetahs have a short-lived top speed: Although they can run incredibly fast, cheetahs can only maintain their top speed for about 20 to 30 seconds because it requires so much energy.
Cheetah face
  1. Females are solitary: Female cheetahs tend to live alone, except when they are raising cubs. Males, on the other hand, live in small groups called coalitions, usually with their brothers from the same litter.
  2. They have a gestation period of about 90 days: Cheetah cubs are born after a gestation period of approximately 90 to 95 days. The cubs are born with a protective mantle of fur that eventually disappears as they get older.
  3. Their hunting success rate is not very high: Despite their speed, hunting isn’t easy, and cheetahs have quite average hunting success rates, capturing their prey in about half of their attempts (40 to 50% success rate).
  4. Cheetah populations are declining: Cheetahs are currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, with habitat loss, human conflict, and illegal wildlife trade being the main threats to their survival.
  5. Their tail helps with steering: Like a rudder on a ship, a cheetah’s long, flat tail helps them balance and make sharp turns when they’re chasing prey at high speeds.
  6. Cheetahs are efficient with water: Despite living in often arid environments, cheetahs only need to drink water every 3-4 days. They get some hydration from the blood of their prey, but they also rely on watering holes. They can even go 10 days without drinking.
  7. They rest after hunting: After a high-speed chase, a cheetah needs to rest and recuperate. It may take up to half an hour before they can eat their prey, during which time they are vulnerable to other predators who may steal their meal.
  8. Cheetahs have a special ‘social network’: Males usually form coalitions, typically with their brothers from the same litter. They do this for life, and it helps them to defend territories and increase their chances of mating.
Two cheetahs
  1. They cannot defend themselves well: Despite being classified as big cats, cheetahs aren’t well-equipped for fighting and will often lose their kills to other larger predators. Their lightweight bodies are designed for speed, not combat.
  2. Their cubs have high mortality rates: Sadly, around 50-75% of cheetah cubs don’t survive past the first year. They often fall prey to lions, hyenas, and even eagles.
  3. Each cheetah has a unique pattern of spots: Just as human fingerprints are unique, so too is the pattern of a cheetah’s spots. This can help researchers identify individual animals in the wild.
  4. Cheetahs do not have a specific breeding season: Unlike many animals, cheetahs can breed any time of the year. The females typically give birth to three to five cubs at a time.
  5. They are native to Africa and parts of Iran: Today, most wild cheetahs are found in sub-Saharan Africa. A small population of a different subspecies, the Asiatic cheetah, can still be found in Iran.
  6. Cheetahs have been in existence for over 5 million years: Fossil records indicate that ancient cheetahs’ ancestors were spread across North America, Europe, and Asia during the Miocene era.
  7. Cheetahs use high-pitched calls to find each other: These unique calls can be heard from a mile away and are used by mothers to locate their cubs and by males to locate potential mates.
Cheetah resting on a rock
  1. They cover large territories: Cheetahs are not territory-bound and can roam across vast landscapes. Some have been known to range across areas as large as 300 square miles (800 square km).
  2. Their name comes from the Sanskrit word ‘chitraka,’ which means ‘the spotted one’. This perfectly describes the cheetah’s distinct spotted coat.
  3. Cheetahs were once tamed and used for hunting: In ancient Egypt and Persia, cheetahs were caught and trained for hunting game.
  4. They have a low genetic diversity: It’s believed that a mass extinction event thousands of years ago led to a genetic bottleneck in cheetah populations. This means that today’s cheetahs are highly inbred, which poses challenges for their long-term survival.
  5. Cheetahs don’t do well in captivity: In zoos, cheetahs often exhibit signs of stress, and females typically have a lower breeding success rate compared to those in the wild or other big cats in zoos.
  6. Cubs spend a long time with their mother: Cheetah cubs typically stay with their mother for around 18 months to two years, learning vital skills for survival before they venture off on their own.
  7. They are not keen on swimming: Unlike some other big cats, cheetahs aren’t particularly fond of water even though they usually are strong swimmers. They can wade through water bodies when necessary, but they generally prefer to avoid getting into deep water whenever possible.

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