Cheetah

Catch up with the world's speediest land mammal. Learn what life's like for a medium-size big cat in a land of lion and hyenas.

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WATCH: Cheetahs 101
A cheetah photographed at Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Ohio
Common Name: Cheetah
Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus
Type: Mammals
Diet: Carnivore
Average life span in Captivity:  10 to 12 years.
Size: 3.5 to 4.5 feet; tail: 25.5 to 31.5 inches
Weight: 77 to 143 pounds

Size relative to a 6-ft man

IUCN Red List Status: 
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The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

lc

Least Concern

At relatively low risk of extinction

nt

Near Threatened

Likely to become vulnerable in the near future

vu

Vulnerable

At high risk of extinction in the wild

en

Endangered

At very high risk of extinction in the wild

cr

Critically Endangered

At extremely high risk of extinction in the wild

ew

Extinct in the Wild

Survives only in captivity

ex

Extinct

No surviving individuals in the wild or in captivity

Data Deficient

Not enough information available to make an assessment

Not Evaluated

No assessment has been made

?
Vulnerable
lc
nt
vu
en
cr
ew
ex
least concernextinct
Current Population Trend: 

Decreasingarrow-down


The cheetah is the world's fastest land mammal. With acceleration that would leave most automobiles in the dust, a cheetah can go from 0 to 60 miles an hour in only three seconds. These big cats are quite nimble at high speed and can make quick and sudden turns in pursuit of prey.

Speed and Hunting

Before unleashing their speed, cheetahs use exceptionally keen eyesight to scan their grassland environment for signs of prey—especially antelope and hares. This big cat is a daylight hunter that benefits from stealthy movement and a distinctive spotted coat that allows it to blend easily into high, dry grasses.

When the moment is right a cheetah will sprint after its quarry and attempt to knock it down. Such chases cost the hunter a tremendous amount of energy and are usually over in less than a minute. If successful, the cheetah will often drag its kill to a shady hiding place to protect it from opportunistic animals that sometimes steal a kill before the cheetah can eat. Cheetahs need only drink once every three to four days.

Breeding and Population

Female cheetahs typically have a litter of three cubs and live with them for one and a half to two years. Young cubs spend their first year learning from their mother and practicing hunting techniques with playful games. Male cheetahs live alone or in small groups, often with their littermates.

Most wild cheetahs are found in eastern and southwestern Africa. These populations are under pressure as the wide-open grasslands they favor are disappearing at the hands of human settlers.

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