Category: 

What is a Cheetah?

Cheetahs can be recognized by their distinctive orange and black coats.
Native to Africa, Cheetahs are the world's fastest land animal.
Cheetahs can go from a standstill to 70 mph faster than many sports cars.
Article Details
  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
External Resources
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
A red blood cell can pass through a person's entire body in 20 seconds.  more...

December 19 ,  1998 :  President Bill Clinton was formally impeached by the House of Representatives.  more...

Cheetahs are unusual felines that live in Africa. At one point, their range extended across India and the Middle East. The cheetah is a streamlined cat that weighs between 40 and 65 kg (88 to 140 lb) and is about 1 m (3.2 ft) in length, excluding its tail. Cheetahs are covered in a beautiful black-and-orange spotted pattern, and their name (derived from Sanskrit) means "variegated body."

Cheetahs are most famous as the world's fastest land animal. Cheetahs can run as fast as 120 km/h (75 mph) for short bursts of up to 460 m (1500 ft). They hunt fast animals such as gazelles and the impala, occasionally taking the young of larger animals such as wildebeests and zebras. During a chase, a cheetah's respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. Its body is adapted for sprints, featuring an enlarged heart and lungs. Cheetahs can go from a standstill to 70 mph in three seconds, better than most high-end sports cars.

Cheetahs are sufficiently different from other felines that they are given their own genus, Acinonyx. Unlike most other cats, cheetahs lack climbing ability, and rely entirely on speed for hunting prey. Prey that is able to get into a tree can therefore escape, but the gazelles that cheetahs hunt lack climbing ability as well.

Ad

Like lions, whose range they overlap, cheetahs are highly social and hierarchical. Males maintain territories between 37 and 160 square kilometers in extent, depending on the availability of food in the local area. Rather than going at it alone, males make friends with a few others and cooperate in a unit called a coalition. Studies have shown that coalitions are about six times more likely to maintain territories than lone males.

Unlike the male cheetah, the female cheetah does not maintain territories, and instead has a home range which may be significantly larger than a typical male territory. Males try to pick territories where several female home ranges overlap, so as to maximize its chances of reproduction.

The cheetah is sometimes considered a "big cat," sometimes not. Technically, a big cat should be able to roar, like tigers, lions, leopards, and jaguars, but a cheetah cannot. A cheetah is also significantly smaller and weaker than those big cats, though it is far larger than a house cat. Instead of roaring, cheetahs use other vocalizations to communicate, such as chirping, churring, growling, yowling, and purring. Because their natural range has been so sharply restricted due to human encroachment over the last few hundred years, the cheetah is currently considered a vulnerable species. There are about 12,400 cheetahs in the wild.

Ad

More from Wisegeek

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

WaterHopper
Post 2

@calabama71: Cheetahs care for their young as well as most. Sometimes the male will accompany the female for a short time after they mate but, more often than not, the female is alone or with her cubs. She usually gives birth from 2 to 4 cubs at a time and they are born in a secluded area.

The cubs' eyes do not open for a couple of weeks and they are totally helpless at first, just like kittens. When the mother goes out to hunt, she will hide the cubs. By about 6 weeks of age, they can follow her while she hunts. They nurse for about 3 months but they start eating meat from around 3 weeks of age.

Sadly, there is a lot of disease among the cheetahs and, in some areas, 50 to 75 percent of all cubs die before they reach 3 months of age.

calabama71
Post 1

Do cheetahs have good parenting skills?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email