Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Back to Fauna & Flora Index

Scientific Name: Acinonyx jubatus
Common Name: Cheetah, Gepard, le Guepard, Ghepardo, jagluiperd, Guepardo, Etotongwe/Shitona, Shinga, Linau, !Arub, Ingau
Distribution: Currently, the cheetah is found in sub-Saharan Africa 
Description: The base colour of the upper parts of an adult is tawny to bale bluff or greyish white, and the under parts are paler, often white. The coat is marked by round or oval black spots measuring 20 to 40 mm in diameter. The only exception to this is when recessive genes are inherited from both parents resulting in a more "blotchy" coat pattern. Cheetahs exhibiting this rare mutation were once thought to be a separate subspecies, but it is now known that they can appear in a litter of normal cheetahs. Only the white of the throat and the abdomen are unmarked with spots. The coat is coarse with the hair slightly longer at the nape than elsewhere. The last third of the tail is marked by four to six black rings and a bushy white tuft at the very end. The tail rings are distinctive on each cheetah and enable individual identification. The cheetah has a small head with short ears, high set eyes and a black line which looks like a tear drop running from the inner aspect of each eye down to the mouth. The teeth are small and the nasal passages are large. The body resembles that of a greyhound and is slim with very long legs.
Difference in Sex: Males are slightly larger
Average Weight of Adult male: 56kg
Habitat: Cheetah are most often found in open woodland, savannah and semi-desert. 
Main feeding time: Diurnal
Size: Shoulder height 100cm; mass  40 to 60 kg
Gestation: 3 months
Number of young at birth: 1-6 all year round
Communication: The cheetah call is a birdlike chirp, which is used for calling members of the coalition or cubs. The catlike purr is reserved for families and coalition members.
Age: 16
Diet: The cheetah is carnivorous. The diet consists primarily of gazelles, but also includes impalas, game birds, rabbits, and the young of warthogs, kudu, hartebeest, oryx, roan, and sable. Cheetah hunt in early morning and late afternoon (diurnal). They scan the country side from a tree limb, on top of a termite mound, or even the roofs of cars of observers in order to locate prey. Once they have located an animal that has strayed some distance from the group, the cheetah tries to get within fifty yards of the intended victim before accelerating. Full sprints last roughly twenty seconds and rarely exceed one minute. Most hunts fail. If the hunt is successful, the prey is usually knocked down by the force of the cheetah's charge and then seized by its throat and strangled. Smaller prey such as rabbits are usually killed by biting through the skull. A female with cubs may make a kill every day, whereas lone adults hunt every two to five days. Cheetah eat fast because if challenged for their food, they most often lose. 
Enemies: Hyena, lion and leopard
Interesting facts: The lean and agile cheetah with its slender body is built for speed and has the honour of being the fastest mammal on earth. Reaching astonishing speeds of up to 80 - 100 km/h it can outrun most of its prey but it usually cannot maintain the chase for more than 275m.