These large cats are the fastest land animals on the planet, and in this post, you’ll discover our list with the top 10 facts about cheetahs!
1. Cheetahs are some of the biggest cats on the planet
The Cheetah is ranked number 7 on our list with the biggest cats in the world. They are just bigger than the Eurasian lynx and clouded leopard and just smaller than the snow leopard and leopard.
The cheetah is a rather skinny animal and has long thin legs that are optimized for running fast. They have a rather small head compared to other large cats as well. They closely resemble the leopard but have spots on their fur instead of rosettes.
The cheetah is on average about 2.1 meters (6.88 feet) long (including the tail) and stands about 1 meter (3.28 feet) tall (shoulder height). The heaviest cheetah ever recorded weighed 72 kilos (158.73 lbs), but they usually weigh anywhere between 20 and 60 kilos (44.09 – 112.27 lbs) on average.
2. They are really, really fast
Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on the planet. A lot of estimates have been made as to how fast they can really run, and the conclusion is that they can reach speeds anywhere between 80 to 128 kilometers per hour (50 to 80 mph).
So how fast are cheetahs really?
An experiment conducted in the Cincinnati Zoo gave us the answer.
An 11-year old cheetah named “Sarah” was tracked while she was doing one of her famous sprints and set a world record!
She managed to run 100 meters (330 feet) in exactly 5.95 seconds while reaching a top speed of 98 kilometers per hour (61 mph)!
Eat that, Usain Bolt!
3. There are 3 African and 1 Asian cheetah
Up until 1975, 5 subspecies of the cheetah, known by its scientific name “Acinonyx jubatus,” were generally accepted.
Closer examination in 2011 eliminated the South African cheetah, also known as the “woolly cheetah” because of his thick fur, as a valid subspecies.
Therefore, only these 4 subspecies are considered to be valid by the “Cat Classification Task Force” of the “IUCN Cat Specialist Group” today:
- Southeast African cheetah – Acinonyx jubatus jubatus – This area contains the largest population of wild cheetahs living in parts of Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, and Zambia.
- Northeast African cheetah – Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii – They live in parts of the northern Central African Republic, Chad, Ethiopia, and South Sudan.
- Northwest African cheetah – Acinonyx jubatus hecki – They live in parts of Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
- Asiatic cheetah – Acinonyx jubatus venaticus – The only extant cheetah species in Asia. It’s critically endangered with only a few dozen individuals living in Iran’s Central Plateau.
4. These are the cheetahs closest relatives
One of the most fascinating of the top 10 facts about cheetahs is that the closest relatives of these animals aren’t living in either Africa or Asia!
Their closest relatives are the Mountain Lion and the Jaguarundi, both natives of the Americas. These 3 species form the Puma Lineage which is one of the 8 lineages of the Felidae family.
It’s assumed that these 3 species in the Puma lineage had a common ancestor in the Miocene period, somewhere between 23.03 and 5.333 million years ago. They then somehow dispersed into North America, Africa, and Asia.
5. There’s a “king cheetah”
Cheetahs don’t really have a king, but some individuals are referred to as such. The “king cheetah” is an animal with a particular mutation.
King cheetahs have bigger spots on their fur and are marked with three thick black stripes on their backs which run from their necks to their tails.
When these mutated cheetahs were first discovered in 1926, they were assumed to be a new species. A study conducted in 2012 though uncovered the mystery which was caused by reinforcement of a recessive allele.
If 2 cheetahs carry this allele mate, they may produce a king cheetah!
6. What do cheetahs eat?
Cheetahs are carnivores that hunt small to medium-sized prey. Their favorite type of food are ungulates such as impala, springbok, antelope, and Thomson’s gazelles.
They stalk their prey until they get close enough to launch an attack, which is usually within 60 to 70 meters (200-230 feet). The chase is an unfair match because, well, they are the fastest animals in the world after all!
Once they catch up with the poor prey, they trip it and bite its throat to suffocate it. After the prey is dead, the cheetah takes it to safety and rests for 5 to 55 minutes. Other cheetahs in the area might come and join the festivities and start eating straight away.
7. Cheetahs aren’t too fond of lions
Cheetahs usually hunt in the daytime, and there’s a good reason for that. Unlike their Felidae family member, the mighty lion, cheetahs aren’t apex predators.
This simply means that they need to watch their backs as they face competition if they live in the same area as a pride of lions, which might steal their prey or even kill them.
That’s why cheetahs hunt in the daytime because they fear some lion might spoil their fun or even worse, pick a fight that they are bound to lose.
8. Male cheetahs are more social than females
Unlike many of the big cats, cheetahs aren’t solitary animals and usually hang out together, hunt together, and eat together. This doesn’t go as far as a lion’s pride, but they do have a social structure with males forming groups referred to as “coalitions” who protect a shared territory.
The group also has the purpose of making it much easier to attract females to mate, which tends to works in the male cheetah’s favor.
Females, on the other hand, tend to avoid other individuals and only have social contact during mating or with their cubs.
9. They possess numerous forms of communication
Cheetahs are territorial animals and mark their territory with urine. So males often scour for marks to detect the territory of other individuals or coalitions. Their territory can range from 777 square kilometers (300 sq mi) in the Serengeti to 1,464 square kilometers (565 sq mi) in central Namibia.
Apart from using scent as a form of communication, they also possess a variety of vocal sounds which they use to communicate. These include chirping, churring, purring, growling, hissing, meowing, moaning, and making gurgling noises.
Yes, several of the noises cheetahs make are also made by your average domesticated cat!
10. Can cheetahs be pets?
Cheetahs are wild animals but are easily tamed. This means that they can be tamed to the point of being kept as pets since they naturally show little aggression towards humans as well.
This has been done throughout history and some of the earliest drawings made by humans, dating back to 32,000–26,000 BC in the Chauvet Cave in France, depict humans walking around with their pet cheetahs.
Ancient Egyptians were also fond of cheetahs and they were even kept as pets by royals. Apart from that, they were also represented as some deities and Ancient Egyptians believed spirits of deceased pharaohs were taken away by cheetahs.
Throughout history, cheetahs have been kept as pets or for hunting purposes. Today, these big cats are kept in zoos all around the world, even though they don’t breed well in captivity.
This made it all the more fascinating when a female cheetah named “Bingwa” gave birth to 8 cubs in the St. Louis Zoo on November 26, 2017, an absolute record!