Do you know how fast we cheetahs can run? We can go from zero to 60 miles per hour (96 kmh) in just three seconds. In the wild, we can go as fast as 70 miles per hour (112 kmh). This means we are faster than a Ferrari or a Lamborghini! But we can only run at this speed for 30 seconds at a time.
Our slender legs, strong spine, hard foot pad and semi-retractable claws help us to go this fast. And our muscular tail helps us control movement while chasing prey. We can take in more oxygen because of our big nasal cavity and the shape of our inner ears aids us to maintain balance.
We cheetahs have great eyesight and unlike other big cats, we like to hunt during the day. The dark tear line below our eyes prevents sunlight from reflecting. Our favorite prey are antelopes and warthogs. We also hunt hares and birds.
We hunt in the day to avoid being attacked by bigger cats like lions and leopards. But we are active during nights in areas where we are the major predators. We also hunt during full-moon nights.
Cheetahs can give birth to eight cubs at a time. The newborn cubs start walking in two weeks. They will have thick bluish-grey hair on their nape, shoulders and back. This hair will be shed as they grow older. Unlike other ‘big cat‛ babies, cheetah cubs are in danger from predators in the first few weeks of their birth.
We cheetahs communicate using a variety of sounds. As mentioned earlier we purr and chirp. We also make a sound, which is called churring. Apart from these, we are also known to bleat, howl, hiss, meow, cough and growl when in trouble or discomfort. Cheetahs also make a gurgling sound when we are friendly.
We are counted among the ‘big cats‛, but some scientists oppose this claim. That‛s because we cannot roar like lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars. We purr, like housecats and also produce a chirping sound that can heard from a mile away.
Our most attractive feature is the yellowish-brown coat with dark spots. The spots may look alike, but every cheetah has unique patterns. We have small and rounded heads and short snouts. Our tails are bushy and have black rings at their ends.
Our appearance changes a little, based on our habitat. Cheetahs living in the desert areas are smaller and their skin color is paler compared to those living in grasslands. Due to genetic mutation, some of our cousins in southern Africa are found to have larger spots. There have also been sightings of spotless cheetahs in Kenya.
There is a rare variety among us known as King Cheetah. These guys have cream-colored coats and large, blotted spots. But the most interesting feature is the triple stripes on their backs. They were initially found in Zimbabwe in 1926.
Female cheetahs mostly lead a solitary life. Mothers, children and siblings sometimes rest together. Female cheetahs also tend to stay closer to their mothers. Cheetah moms look after their cubs for 18 months and leave them after that period. The litter stays together for another 6 months and the females then go their separate ways.
We cheetahs have an interesting social life. Both male and female cheetahs prefer to live alone. Males sometimes form groups with other male cheetahs to establish territories and find mates. Cheetahs in groups care for each other.
Cheetahs reside in a variety of habitats ranging from eastern and southern Africa to Asia. Currently, there are four subspecies of cheetahs. They are the Southeast African, Northwest African, Northeast African and the Asiatic Cheetah. The latter one is severely endangered and is now only found in Iran.
We rely on sight rather than smell to hunt. So, we prefer to live in open spaces rather than in forests. Cheetahs in eastern and southern Africa inhabit grasslands on Serengeti and Kalahari. Those in central, northern and western Africa prefer mountains and valleys. In the Sahara region, cheetahs live in the mountains. Cheetahs in Iran also live in the mountains of its desert regions.
Thousands of years ago, cheetahs used to exist in Europe too apart from Asia and Africa. European cheetahs went extinct due to competition with lions. India and Iraq used to have large populations of cheetahs, but they went extinct in the 20th century. Asian cheetahs are now only found in Iran
Our population is impacted heavily by increased human activity in grasslands. Hunting and illegal animal trade, plus predation of our cubs by lions and hyenas are also affecting us. Scientists say that we have very low genetic variation which puts us in extinction risk. So, friends, please support efforts for our conservation.
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