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Cheetah Feb09 02.jpg
Scienteefic clessification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Acinonyx
Species: A. jubatus
Binomial name
Acinonyx jubatus
(Schreber, 1775)
Teep species
Acinonyx venator
Brookes, 1828 (= Felis jubata, Schreber, 1775) by monotypy

See text.

Cheetah range - 2.png
The range o the cheetah

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), is a big cat that occurs mainly in eastren an soothren Africae an a few pairts o Iran. The anly extant member o the genus Acinonyx, the cheetah wis first describit bi Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in 1775. The cheetah is chairacterised bi a slender bouk, deep chest, spottit coat, a smaw roonded heid, black tear-lik streaks on the face, lang thin legs an a lang spottit tail. Its lichtly biggit, slender form is in sharp contrast wi the robust big o the ither big cats. The cheetah reaches nearly 70 tae 90 cm (28 tae 35 in) at the shouder, an wechs 21–72 kg (46–159 lb). Tho tawer nor the leopard, it is notably smawer nor the lion. Basically yellaeish tan or rufous tae greyish white, the coat is uniformly covered wi nearly 2,000 solit black spots.

Cheetah are active mainly during the day, wi huntin its major activity. Adult males are sociable despite thair territoriality, formin groups cried "coaleetions". Females are nae territorial; thay mey be solitary or live wi thair affspring in hame ranges. Carnivores, cheetah mainly prey upon antelopes an gazelles. Thay will stalk thair prey tae within 100–300 metres (330–980 ft), chairge taewart it an kill it bi trippin it during the chase an bitin its throat tae suffocate it tae daith. The cheetah's bouk is specialised for speed; it is the fastest laund ainimal. The speed o a huntin cheetah averages 64 km/h (40 mph) during a sprint; the chase is interspersed wi a few short bursts o speed, when the ainimal can clock 112 km/h (70 mph). Cheetahs are induced ovulators, breedin throughout the year. Gestation is nearly three months lang, resultin in a litter o teepically three tae five cubs (the nummer can vary frae ane tae aicht). Weanin occurs at sax months; siblings tend tae stay thegither for some time. Cheetah cubs face heicher mortality nor maist ither mammals, especially in the Serengeti region. Cheetahs indwall a variety o habitats – dry forests, scrub forests an savannahs.

Clessifee'd as vulnerable bi the IUCN, the cheetah haes suffered a substantial decline in its historic range due taeo rampant huntin in the 20t century. Several African kintras hae taken steps tae improve the staundarts o cheetah conservation. Thanks tae its prowess at huntin, the cheetah wis tamed an uised tae kill gemme at hunts in the past. The ainimal haes been widely depictit in airt, leeteratur, advertisin an ainimation.

Table o contents


The vernacular name "cheetah" (pronounced /ˈchē-tə/) is derived frae the Hindi wird चीता (cītā), which in turn comes frae the Sanskrit wird चित्रकायः (citrakāyaḥ) meanin "bricht" or "variegatit". The first recordit uise o this wird wis in 1610.[3][4] An alternative name for the cheetah is "huntin leopard".[5] The scienteefic name o the cheetah is Acinonyx jubatus.[6] The generic name Acinonyx coud hae oreeginatit frae the combination o twa Greek wirds: akinetos means motionless, an onyx means claw.[7][8] A rough translation o the wird wad be "non-muivin claws", a reference tae the leemitit retractability (capability o bein drawn inside the paw) o the claws o the cheetah relative tae ither cats'. The speceefic name jubatus means "maned" in Laitin, referrin tae the dorsal crest o this ainimal.[9]



Lynx rufus (Bobcat)

L. canadensis (Canadian lynx)

L. pardinus (Iberian lynx)

L. lynx (Eurasian lynx)


Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah)

Puma concolor (Cougar)

P. yagouaroundi (Jaguarundi)


Felis chaus (Jungle cat)

F. nigripes (Black-footed cat)

F. silvestris silvestris (European wildcat)

F. margarita (Sand cat)

F. silvestris lybica (African wildcat)

F. catus (Domestic cat)

The Puma lineage, depictit alang wi the Lynx an Felis lineages o the faimily Felidae[10][11]

The cheetah is the anly extant species o the genus Acinonyx. It is clessifee'd unner the subfaimily Felinae an faimily Felidae, the faimily that an aa includes lairge cats such as the lion, teeger an leopard. The species wis first describit bi German naituralist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in his 1775 publication Die Säugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen.[6]

The cheetah's closest relatives are the cougar (Puma concolor) an the jaguarundi (P. yagouaroundi). These three species thegither form the Puma lineage, ane o the aicht lineages o Felidae.[10][12][13] The sister group o the Puma lineage is a clade o smawer Auld Warld cats that includes the genera Felis, Otocolobus an Prionailurus.[11][14]


Subspecies' range

The five recognised subspecies o the cheetah are:[15]

  • Asiatic cheetah (A. j. venaticus) (Griffith, 1821): An aa cried the Iranian or Indian cheetah. Umwhile occurred across soothwastren Asie an Indie.[16] Accordin tae the Internaitional Union for Conservation o Naitur an Naitural Resoorces (IUCN), it is confined tae Iran, an is thus the anly survivin cheetah subspecies indigenous tae Asie. It haes been clessifee'd as Creetically Endangered.[17] A 2004 study estimatit the tot population at 50 tae 60.[18] Later, a 2007 study gae the tot population in Iran as 60 tae 100; the majority o individuals war likely tae be juveniles. The population haes declined sharply syne the mid-1970s.[19] As o 2012, anly twa captive individuals are kent.[20]
  • Northwast African cheetah (A. j. hecki) Hilzheimer, 1913: An aa cried the Saharan cheetah. Foond in northwastren Africae; the IUCN confirms its presence in anly fower countries: Algerie, Benin, Burkina Faso an Niger. Smaw populations are kent tae exist in the Ahaggar an Tassili N'Ajjer Naitional Pairks (Algerie);[21] a 2003 study estimatit a population o 20 tae 40 individuals in Ahaggar Naitional Pairk.[22] In Niger, cheetahs hae been reportit frae the Aïr Mountains, Ténéré, Termit Massif, Talak an Azaouak valley. A 1993 study reportit a population o 50 frae Ténéré. In Benin, the cheetah still survives in Pendjari Naitional Pairk an W Naitional Pairk. The status is obscure in Burkina Faso, whaur individuals mey be confined tae the sootheastren region. Wi the tot warld population estimatit at less nor 250 matur individuals, it is leetit as Creetically Endangered.[23]
  • Sooth African cheetah (A. j. jubatus) (Schreber, 1775): An aa cried the Namibian cheetah. Occurs in soothren African kintras such as Namibie, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Sooth Africae an Zambia. Diverged frae the Asiatic cheetah nearly 0.32–0.67 million years ago.[24] In 2007 the population wis roughly estimatit at less nor 5,000 tae maximum 6,500 adult individuals.[25][26] Nae leetit bi the IUCN.[2]
  • Sudan cheetah (A. j. soemmeringii) (Fitzinger, 1855): An aa cried the central or northeast African cheetah. Foond in the central an northeastren regions o the continent an the Horn o Africae. This subspecies wis considered identical tae the Sooth African cheetah till a 2011 genetic analysis demonstratit signeeficant differences atween the twa.[24][27]
  • Tanzanie cheetah (A. j. raineyi syn. A. j. fearsoni) Heller, 1913: An aa cried the east African cheetah. Foond in Kenyae, Somalie, Tanzanie, an Uganda. The tot population in 2007 wis estimatit at 2,572 adults an independent adolescents. Signeeficant populations occur in the Maasai Mara an the Serengeti ecoregions.[2]
Subspecies o the cheetah
Asie cheetah 
Sooth African cheetah 
Sudan cheetah 
Tanzanian cheetah 


The cheetah is a big cat wi several distinctive features – a slender bouk, deep chest, spottit pelage, a smaw roondit heid, black tear-lik streaks on the face, lang thin legs an a lang spottit tail.[28] Its lichtly biggit, slender form is in sharp contrast wi the robust big o the ither big cats.[13] The heid-an-bouk lenth ranges frae 112–150 centimetres (44–59 in).[28] The cheetah reaches 70–90 centimetres (28–35 in) at the shouder, an weichs 21–72 kilograms (46–159 lb).[28][29] Thus, it is clearly tawer nor the leopard, which staunds nearly 55–70 centimetres (22–28 in) at the shouder. The wecht range o the cheetah owerlaps extensively wi that o the leopard, which weichs 28–65 kilograms (62–143 lb).[28] On the ither haund, the cheetah is signeeficantly shorter nor the lion, whase average hicht is nearly 120 centimetres (47 in). Mairower, it is much lichter nor the lion, amang which females weich 126 kilograms (278 lb) an the muckle hivier males weich 186 kilograms (410 lb).[28] Based on meisurments, the smawest cheetahs hae been reportit frae the Sahara, northeastren Africae an Iran.[30] A sexually dimorphic species, males are generally lairger nor females.[31]

Ecology an behaviourEedit

Cheetahs rest in shade.

Cheetahs are diurnal (active mainly during the day),[28] whauras the leopards, teegers, an lions are nocturnal (active mainly at nicht);[32][33][34] diurnality allaes better observation an monitorin o the ainimal.[35] Huntin is the major activity throuoot the day; peaks are observed during dawn an dusk indicatin crepuscular tendencies.[30] Groups rest in grassy clearings efter dusk, tho males an juveniles eften roam aroond at nicht. The cheetah is an alert ainimal; individuals eften inspect thair vicinity at observation pynts such as elevations. Even while restin, thay tak turns at keepin a leukoot.[13]

Organisation an territoryEedit

Apairt frae the lion, the cheetah is the anly cat that is gregarious; houever, female cheetahs tend tae remain solitary.[36] Adult males are teepically gregarious despite thair territoriality, an mey group thegither for life an form "coalitions". Thir groups collectively defend thair territories. In maist cases, a coaleetion will comprise brithers born in the same litter wha stayed thegither efter weanin.[37] Houever, if a cub is the anly male in the litter, then twa or three lone males mey form a smaw group, or a lone male mey jyn an exeestin group.


The cheetah is a prominently vocal felid. Thay canna roar but instead purr.[38] A wide variety o cheetah vocalisations hae been identified bi several terms, but maist o thir lack a detailed acoustic description, which maks it difficult tae assess reliably which term denotes which soond. In 2010 Robert Eklund (o the Varsity o Göteborg, Swaden) an colleagues published a detailed report on the purrin o the cheetah an compared it wi that observed in ither felids.[39] The cheetah purrs when content, or tae greet kent individuals. A chairacteristic o purrin is that it is realised on baith egressive an ingressive airstreams.[40][41][42][43][44] Ither vocalisations Eklund identified include:[45]

  • Growlin: Eften accompanied bi hissin an spittin, the cheetah growls tae shaw its annoyance, or when faced wi danger. A study shawed that growls conseest o numerous short pulses wi a combined duration o up tae five seiconts.[46]
  • Moanin or yowlin: This is an escalatit version o growlin an is eften combined wi it. It is teepically displayed when the danger increases. A study foond that yowls coud last as lang as twa seconds.[46]
  • Agonistic vocalisations: Eklund uised this term as a reference tae a combination o growls, moans, an hisses that is follaeed bi spittin, a featur mair conspicuous in cheetah nor in ither cats. In addeetion tae spittin, the cheetah will hit the grund wi its front paws.

Huntin an competitorsEedit

The cheetah is a carnivore that prefers medium-sized prey wi a bouk mass rangin frae 23 tae 56 kg (51 tae 123 lb). Blesbok, duiker, Grant's gazelle, impala, reedbuck, springbok, an Thomson's gazelle are some o the common tairgets o the cheetah. Ither prey ainimals include the baukie-eared fox, bushbuck, kudu, hartebeest, nyala, oribi, roan antelope, steenbok, sable antelope, an watterbuck; thay prey less frequently on African buffalo, gemsbok, giraffe, ostrich, warthog, wildebeest, an zebra.[13][30][47][48] A study shawed that a major proportion o the diet o Asiatic cheetahs conseests o livestock; local species such as chinkara, desert hare, goitered gazelle, ibex, rodents, an wild sheep are an aa huntit.[49] Generally, anly groups o cheetahs will attempt tae kill lairge ainimals such as hartebeest,[28][30] awtho mithers wi young cubs will attempt tae secure a lairge prey aw bi themsels.[35] Thare are na records o cheetah killin human beins.[30][50] The diet o a cheetah depends on the aurie in which it lives. For example, on the East African plains, its preferred prey is the Thomson's gazelle, somewhit smawer than the cheetah. In contrast, in Kwa-Zulu Natal the preferred prey is the signeeficantly lairger nyala, males o which can weich up tae 130 kg (290 lb).[50] Thay dae, houever, opt for young an adolescent tairgets, which mak up aboot 50% o the cheetah diet despite constitutin anly a smaw portion o the prey population.[13]

Speed an accelerationEedit

The cheetah's bouk is specialised for speed,[51][52] an it is the fastest laund ainimal.[53][54][55][56]

In general, the speed o a huntin cheetah averages 64 km/h (40 mph) during a chase,[28] interspersed wi a few short bursts when the speed mey vary atween 104 an 120 km/h (65 an 75 mph); the maist reliable meisurment o the teepical speed during a short chase is 112 km/h (70 mph).[13][34][57][58] The value o the maximum speed is, houever, disputit.[13] The speeds attained bi the cheetah are anly slichtly greater nor thir achieved bi the pronghorn 88.5 km/h (55.0 mph)[59] an the springbok 88 km/h (55 mph).[60] Yet the cheetah haes a greater probability o succeedin in the chase due tae its exceptional acceleration – it can attain a speed o 75 km/h (47 mph) in juist twa seiconts.[13] Ane stride or jump o a gallopin cheetah averages 6.7 metres (22 ft).[61] Seemilarly, the ability tae rapidly chynge direction is pivotal in ensurin huntin success.[62][63][64] Cheetahs teepically walk at 3–4 kilometres per hour (1.9–2.5 mph).[34]


A cheetah cub. Note the lang, bluish grey hair on the nape, shouders an back.

Cheetahs breed throuoot the year; thay are induced ovulators. Females acome sexually matur at 21 tae 22 months o age.[65] Females are polyoestrus – thay hae an oestrus ("heat") cycle every 12 days (this can vary frae 10 tae 20 days),[66] each oestrus lastin ane tae three days. A female can gie birth again efter 17 tae 20 months; houever, on the loss o a whole litter mithers can mate again.[31]

Gestation is nearly three months lang. The nummer o cubs born can vary frae ane tae aicht, tho the common nummer is three tae five. Birth taks place in a sheltered place such as thick vegetation. Each cub weichs nearly 150–400 g (5.3–14.1 oz) at birth; the een, shut at birth, open in 4 tae 11 days. Newborn cubs can crawl an spit; thay can stairt walkin bi twa weeks. Thair nape, shouders an back are thickly covered wi lang bluish grey hair. This douny unnerlyin fur, cried a "mantle", gies them a Mohawk-teep appearance; this fur is shed as the cheetah grows aulder.[35] A study notit that this mane gies a cheetah cub the appearance o the honey badger; this coud act as a camouflage in baith ainimals.[67] Cheetah cubs are heichly vulnerable during the first few weeks o thair life; mithers keep thair cubs hidden in dense vegetation for the first month.[28]

The affspring mey stay wi the mither for 13 tae 20 months, associatin wi ane anither an feedin on kills thegither. Efter weanin, juveniles mey form mixed-sex herds; young females mey stay back wi thair mither, but thare is haurdly ony interaction atween the mither an dauchters. The females in the mixed-sex herd gradually muive oot as thay near sexual maturity.[28] In the Serengeti, average age o unthirldom o 70 observed litters wis 17.1 months. Young females haed thair first litters at the age o aboot 2.4 years an subsequent litters aboot 20 months later.[68] The lifespan o wild cheetahs is 14 tae 15 years for females; thair reproductive cycle teepically ends bi 12 years o age. Males generally live as lang as 10 years.[2]

Distribution an habitatEedit

Cheetahs indwall savannahs.

The cheetah indalls a variety o habitats; in Africae it haes been observed in dry forests, scrub forests, an savannahs.[35] Houever, the distribution o prey mey influence habitat preferences; in a study in the Kruger Naitional Pairk, female cheetahs war foond tae spend a signeeficant amoont o time in widlands, whaur impala occurred. It wis suggestit that tho the forestit aurie wis unsuitable for huntin, the females preferred widlands tae encoonter mair impala. Male coaleetions, on the ither haund, shunned dense habitats an spent maist o the time in open savannahs. An explanation gien for this wis that the coalitions prefer lairger prey than impala.[69] Tho thay dinna prefer montane regions, cheetahs can occur at elevations as heich as 4,000 m (13,000 ft). An open aurie wi some cover, such as diffused bushes, is probably ideal for the cheetah acause it needs tae stalk an pursue its prey ower a distance, exploitin its speed. This an aa minimises the risk o encoonterin lairger carnivores. Complete lack o cover, houever, can be a cause o prey loss an mortality.[35][70]

In prehistoric times, the cheetah wis distributit throuoot Asie, Africae, Europe, an North Americae. Gradually, it vanished frae Europe an North Americae. Nearly 500 years ago, the cheetah wis still common throuoot Africae, tho it avoidit deserts an tropical forests. Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Sirie, an the Ganga an Indus river valleys sheltered lairge nummers o cheetahs.[13] Houever, the day the cheetah haes been exterminatit frae the majority o its earlier range. The IUCN estimates that the tot expanse o the range o the cheetah in earlier times wis approximately 25,344,648 km2 (9,785,623 sq mi); the range (as o 2015) haes syne then reduced tae 2,709,054 km2 (1,045,972 sq mi), a substantial decline o 89%.[2]

In Africae, the cheetah occurs mainly in eastren an soothren Africae; the range across the continent haes declined tae a mere 10% o the historic expanse. The range in eastren Africae haes reduced tae 6% o its oreeginal range, sae that presently it is distributit in an aurie o 310,586 km2 (119,918 sq mi).[2] In the Horn o Africae, the cheetah occurs in Ethiopie, Kenyae, Sooth Sudan, Tanzanie, an Uganda.[71] The range haes nae reduced as much in the soothren pairt o the continent, whaur it occurs in an aurie o 1,223,388 km2 (472,353 sq mi), 22% o its oreeginal range. Tho cheetahs na langer occur in Malawi, signeeficant populations thrive in sooth-wastren Angolae, Botswana, sooth-wastren Mozambique, Namibie, northren Sooth Africae, soothren Zambie, an Zimbabwe. Very few isolated populations occur in the Sahara; the population density in this region is as law as twa tae three individuals per 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi). Thay occur in very law nummers in northren an wastren Africae. In the past, the cheetah ranged across vast stretches o Asie: frae the Mediterranean an the Arabian Peninsula in the wast tae the Indian subcontinent in the east, an as far north as the Caspian an Aral Seas.[2] Houever, the cheetah haes disappeared frae the majority o its historic range, save for Iran an possibly a few auries in Afghanistan, the Indian subcontinent, an Turkmenistan.[18]

Status and threatsEedit

The cheetah haes been clessifee'd as Vulnerable bi the IUCN; it is leetit unner Appendix I o the Convention on the Conservation o Migratory Species o Wild Ainimals (CMS) an Appendix I o CITES (Convention on Internaitional Trade in Endangered Species).

The cheetah is threatened bi habitat loss throu agricultural an industrial expansion; mairower, the ainimal apparently requires a lairge aurie tae live in as indicatit bi its law population densities.[2] The cheetah appears tae be less capable nor the leopard o coexeestin wi humans.[72] As such, human interference can disturb the activities, such as huntin an feedin, o cheetah.[31] Wi 76% o thair range conseestin o unpertectit land, the cheetah are eften taitgetit bi farmers an pastoralists wha attempt tae pertect thair livestock. Houever, cheetahs teepically dae nae prefer livestock for prey.[73] Gemme hunters mey an aa try tae hairm cheetah as these carnivores can deprive them o valuable gemme. Roadkill can be anither threat, especially in auries whaur roads hae been constructit near the naitural habitat or pertectit auries. Cases o roadkill involvin cheetahs hae been reportit frae Kalmand, Tūrān, an Bafq. The threat is posed bi infectious diseases is minor, gien the law population densities an hence the minimal chance o infection.[2]


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