Conservation Status: Endangered
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a vulnerable member of the cat family (Felidae), a poor
climber that hunts by speed and stealth. As such, it is placed in its own genus, Acinonyx. It is
the fastest of all land animals and can reach speeds of up to 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph)
[3] in short bursts up to 460 metres (500 yards), and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to 110
kilometres per hour (68 mph) in three seconds, faster than most supercars. However, different
rates of speed have been documented for cheetahs (ranging from 55 to 75 mph) which
suggests that the speeds are different depending on the specific cheetah.

The word "cheetah" is derived from the Sanskrit word chitrakāyaḥ चित्रकायः meaning
"variegated body", via the Hindi cītā चीता

The cheetah has a slender body and long legs, with blunt semi-retractable claws. Its chest is
deep and its waist is narrow. The coarse, short fur of the Cheetah is tan with round black spots
measuring from 2-3 centimetres (¾ to 1¼ inches) across, affording it some camouflage while
hunting. There are no spots on its white underside, but the tail has spots, which merge to form
four to six dark rings at the end. The tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. The Cheetah has a
small head with high-set eyes. Black "tear marks" run from the corner of its eyes down the sides
of the nose to its mouth to keep sunlight out of its eyes and to aid in hunting and seeing long

The adult animal weighs from 40 to 65 kilograms (90 to 140 lb). Its total body length is from 115
to 135 centimetres (45 in to 55 in), while the tail can measure up to 84 centimetres (33 in) in
length. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and have slightly bigger heads, but there
is not a great variation in Cheetah sizes and it is difficult to tell males and females apart by
appearance alone. Compared to a similarly-sized Leopard, the Cheetah is generally shorter-
bodied, but is longer tailed and taller (it averages about 90 cm or 36 in tall) and so it appears
more streamlined.

Some cheetahs also have a rare fur pattern mutation: cheetahs with larger, blotchy, merged
spots are known as 'king Cheetahs'. It was once thought to be a separate subspecies, but it is
merely a mutation of the African Cheetah. The 'king Cheetah' has only been seen in the wild a
handful of times, but it has been bred in captivity.

The Cheetah's paws have semi-retractable claws(known only in three other cat species - the
Fishing Cat, the Flat-headed Cat and the Iriomote Cat) offering the cat extra grip in its high-
speed pursuits. The ligament structure of the Cheetah's claws is the same as those of other
cats; it simply lacks the sheath of skin and fur present in other varieties, and therefore the
claws are always visible, with the exception of the dewclaw. The dewclaw itself is much
shorter and straighter than other cats.

Adaptations that enable the cheetah to run as fast as it does include large nostrils that allow
for increased oxygen intake, and an enlarged heart and lungs that work together to circulate
oxygen efficiently. During a typical chase its respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths
per minute[6]. While running, in addition to having good traction due to its semi-retractable
claws, the Cheetah uses its tail as a rudder-like means of steering to allow it to make sharp
turns, necessary to outflank prey who often make such turns to escape.

Unlike "true" big cats, the cheetah can purr as it inhales, but cannot roar. By contrast, the big
cats can roar but cannot purr, except while exhaling. However, the cheetah is
still considered by some to be the smallest of the big cats. While it is often mistaken for the
Leopard, the cheetah does have distinguishing features, such as the aforementioned long
"tear-streak" lines that run from the corners of its eyes to its mouth. The body frame of the
Cheetah is also very different from that of the leopard, most notably so in its thinner and
longer tail, and unlike the leopard, its spots are not arranged into rosettes.

The Cheetah is a vulnerable species. Out of all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to
new environments. It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although recently a
few zoos have been successful. Once widely hunted for its fur, the Cheetah now suffers more
from the loss of both habitat and prey.

The Cheetah was formerly considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and to
have evolved approximately 18 million years ago. New research, however puts the last
common ancestor of all 40 existing species of feline more recently, at 11 million years. The
same research indicates that the Cheetah, while highly derived morphologically, is not a
particularly ancient lineage, having separated from its closest living relatives (the cougar
Puma concolor and the jaguarundi Puma yaguarondi) around 5 million years ago.

Interactive Crossword Puzzle

Printer Friendly Crossword Puzzle    Answer Key

Make an Origami Cheetah : Joost Langeveld Origami

FREE eBook to Print : Explore the Big Cats

Behaviour Reproduction & Habitat

Colouring Picture of Cheetah Cub

Cheetah Origami Paper Craft How To Video

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