Cheetahs are the slenderest felines, with a relatively small head, very long paws and a wide rib cage. Unlike the rest of the felids, it does not have retractile claws.
It preys on antelopes, gazelles, hares and running birds, which it captures in broad daylight, using a very polished hunt technique that combines great speed, reaching up to 112 km/h for a short period, and the ability to stealthy get close to the prey.
Africa and Iran.
- Distribution / Resident
- Extint in the wild
- Critically endangered
- In Danger
- Near threatened
- Minor concern
- Insufficient data
- Not evaluated
Discover how they are
The cheetah is the slenderest of the felines. Compared to the animals of the rest of the family, it has a relatively small head, short ears, very long paws and a higher rib cage. It has a characteristic black stripe that goes from the inner part of each eye to the mouth. Unlike its cousins, cheetahs’ claws are not retractile, which is used to increase traction while running.
Its coat is tawny, covered by small round or oval black spots, ranging from a 0.75 to 1.5 centimetres. The last third of the long tail has between four and six black rings, and ends with a white thick tuft.
It is a characteristic inhabitant of the savannas and open areas with few trees, of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
It preys on small antelopes, gazelles, hares and other running preys, using a hunt technique that combines a stealth approach and pure velocity: the cheetah is the fastest land animal, as for some time it can reach 115 km/h during sprint.
It is a polygamous species, whose females can mate with different males during the reproductive season. Cubs are taken care for more than a year by the mother, with no help whatsoever from the male. The nape of the cubs has a characteristic greyish mane that helps them camouflage, for the mother has to leave them alone in order to hunt and, during these moments, cubs are often victims of other predators of the savanna, such as lions and hyenas. Actually, infant mortality rate of cheetahs can reach 90%, each breeding season.
Females are solitary, except for when they have a litter. Young females leave the native group, but generally inhabit the same territory as the mother, while males often leave the group together and form coalitions, but very far from the mother. These coalitions of males help themselves in the hunt and defence of the territory, thus securing the access of receptive females.
Despite high temperatures, cheetahs tend to hunt during central hours of the day, to prevent other carnivorous animals such as hyenas or lions from stealing their preys, and their hunting rate of success is very high compared to other hunters like the lion, for it can reach almost 60% of effectiveness.
It is an endangered species, as it is hunted directly by human beings, which consider it a threat to domestic animals, and due to its habitat degradation, with the subsequent decrease of preys, and to population fragmentation.
Nowadays, the Asian subspecies is almost extinct and the African populations are almost entirely restricted to large national parks and other reserves.
The Zoo of Barcelona takes part in the EEP of this species.