The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Acinonyx jubatus
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable
  • Location: Sub-Saharan Africa



The Scoop

World’s Fastest Land Animal

Cheetahs are the fastest among land animals. They are found in the open and partially open savannahs of Africa. The cheetah belongs to the cat family but it looks more like a greyhound. It is built for speed with long, slim, muscular legs, a small, rounded head set on a long neck, a flexible spine, a deep chest, special pads on its feet for traction and a long tail for balance

Cheetahs are smaller and slimmer than the other big cats. They are between three and a half and four and a half feet long and weigh only as much as a twelve or thirteen year old human - between 75 and 145 pounds. Cheetahs usually hunt in the middle of the day. They stalk their prey, before dashing out from cover and sprinting at the targeted animals. Cheetahs eat primarily hoofed mammals weighing less than 90 pounds, including gazelles and young wildebeest. They will also eat smaller game such as hares, warthogs, and birds.

Once widespread across Sub-Sahara Africa, the Middle East and east of India, the cheetah population has declined over the last century. This is because cheetahs are being hunted and the open areas that are their hunting grounds are quickly disappearing. In many areas, the cheetah's prey has been overhunted by humans and so its food sources are quickly depleting. A dedicated fund has been established at the Columbus Zoo to support cheetah conservation programs to which you can send a donation, if you want to help this spotted beauty.


Did You Know? 

  • A sprinting cheetah can run as fast as a car. It can reach 45 miles per hour within 2.5 seconds. Its top speed —up to 64 miles per hour—can only be only in brief bursts.
  • In the 16th century, emperors and other royalty hunted gazelles with trained cheetahs.
  • The cheetah is the only cat that cannot retract its claws. This helps it get a better grip while running- like a football player’s cleats.
  • The cheetah has black "tear tracks" running from the inside corner of each eye to the mouth. These marks may serve as an antiglare mechanism for daytime hunting.


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