The African Cheetah is one of the beautiful spotted big cats of Africa and known for being the fastest land mammal.

This information also includes facts about the other Cheetah subspecies for completeness.

Cheetah Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus

Cheetah Status

Cheetah Conservation Status

Globally Cheetahs are classed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and two subspecies are Critically Endangered.

Global - Vulnerable (VU)

Reference: IUCN Red List 2021.1

Cheetah Lower Classifications

Numerous subspecies of Cheetahs have been described in the past, however the current Felidae taxonomy indicates there are four valid subspecies, three in Africa and one in Asia:

  • Acinonyx jubatus jubatus - Southern and Eastern Africa
  • Acinonyx jubatus soemmerringi - North East Africa
  • Acinonyx jubatus hecki - West and North Africa (Saharan Cheetah - Critically Endangered)
  • Acinonyx jubatus venaticus - South West Asia and India (Asiatic Cheetah - Critically Endangered)

International Cheetah Day is 4th December

Find out more about Cheetah Conservation in Africa

Cheetah Facts and Information

Cheetah Size

These dimensions are averages across all the Cheetah subspecies:

Weight

Males: 29 to 64 kg

Females: 21 to 51 kg

Head+Body Length

Males: 108 to 152 cm

Females: 105 to 140 cm

Tail length: 60 to 89 cm

Cheetahs are taller and slimmer than Leopards and have special adaptations to hunt prey at high speeds. They have larger lungs in a deep chest, a lightweight build, a long tail for balance and semi-retractable claws that help grip the ground at high speed.

Their coats have simple solid spots compared to the rosettes of Leopards and no stripes as seen in Servals. Their distinctive facial tear marks are said to help reduce glare from the sun, as they primarily hunt during the day to avoid the other larger carnivores active at night.

Cheetah Range and Habitat

Distribution: Africa and Asia (Iran)

Altitude:  Sea level to 2000 m (some records to 3500 m)

Habitat:  Most habitats except true desert and rainforest

Cheetahs occur across most of Africa with larger populations in the south and east, and becoming rarer towards the north. In Africa numbers have dwindled to 10% of their historic range and there is only one population remaining in Asia - less than 100 Cheetahs in Iran.

The most common type of habitats occupied by Cheetahs are open savanna woodland, scrublands and grasslands. They can also survive in the semi-arid regions of Africa (Kalahari, Namib and Sahara deserts) and in Iran. They are less common in denser forests and do not occur in rainforests.

Cheetah Behaviour

Prey:  Mostly antelope

Social Structure: Females solitary, Males solitary or coalitions

Range Size: Females 833 to 2160 km², Males 33 to 1464 km² (averages)

Density: 0.3 to 3 per 100 km²

Individual Cheetahs prey predominantly on small to medium size antelope, but can take down larger prey if they are more abundant or smaller prey is not available. Male Cheetah coalitions may also hunt larger, dangerous prey that single Cheetahs tend to avoid. Large rodents and hares are important for sub-adults that have recently dispersed from their natal range.

Cheetahs are well known for their incredible speed and a top speed of 105 km per hour has been recorded in a controlled setting. They can accelerate and decelerate faster than any other terrestrial mammal due to special physical and physiological adaptations. Although Cheetahs are known to mostly hunt during the daytime, they will also hunt at night such as in hot and open arid regions with little cover.

Females are typically semi-nomadic and non territorial, whereas males are usually territorial, overlapping any predictable and smaller female ranges. Cheetah ranges in the arid regions are the largest recorded for any cat species. Range size varies considerably depending on the density of prey - smaller in productive, prey abundant habitats and larger in low density, prey scarce habitats.

Cheetah Life Cycle

Gestation: 90 - 98 days

Litter Size: 3 - 6 cubs (max 8)

Sub-Adult: 12 - 20 months

Maturity: 

Males 12 months

Females 21 - 24 months

Lifespan Maximum:  11 yrs for males and 14 yrs for females in the wild

Cheetahs can breed throughout the year and produce litters of three to six cubs. Cubs become independent from a year old and females will disperse near their natal range but males will disperse much further so as not to breed with related females. Females usually start breeding at around two years of age and can reproduce for most of their lives. Although males can breed from a year old they generally only start once they are three years old.

Although very high rates of cub mortality have been recorded in regions of high Lion density, typical cub survival is more than 50%. Mortality of cubs and adults is mostly due to predation by other large carnivores and territory fights in the case of males.

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