The cheetah /ˈtʃiːtə/ (
Acinonyx jubatus) is a large cat of the
Felinae that occurs in Southern, North and East Africa, and
a few localities in Iran. The species is
IUCN Red Listed as
vulnerable, as it suffered a substantial decline in its historic range
in the 20th century due to habitat loss, poaching, illegal pet trade,
and conflict with humans. By 2016, the global cheetah population has
been estimated at approximately 7,100 individuals in the wild. Several
African countries have taken steps to improve cheetah conservation
It is the fastest land animal. The only extant member of the genus
Acinonyx, the cheetah was formally described by Johann Christian
Daniel von Schreber in 1775. The cheetah is characterised by a slender
body, deep chest, spotted coat, small rounded head, black tear-like
streaks on the face, long thin legs and long spotted tail. Its lightly
built, slender form is in sharp contrast with the robust build of the
big cats, making it more similar to the cougar. The cheetah reaches
nearly 70 to 90 cm (28 to 35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs
21–72 kg (46–159 lb). Though taller than the leopard, it
is notably smaller than the lion. Typically yellowish tan or rufous to
greyish white, the coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid
Cheetahs are active mainly during the day, with hunting their major
activity. Adult males are sociable despite their territoriality,
forming groups called coalitions. Females are not territorial; they
may be solitary or live with their offspring in home ranges.
Carnivores, cheetah mainly prey upon antelopes and gazelles. They will
stalk their prey to within 100–300 m (330–980 ft),
charge towards it and kill it by tripping it during the chase and
biting its throat to suffocate it to death. Cheetahs can reach speeds
of 112 km/h (70 mph) in short bursts, but this is disputed
by more recent measurements. The average speed of cheetahs is about
64 km/h (40 mph). Cheetahs are induced ovulators, breeding
throughout the year.
Gestation is nearly three months long, resulting
in a litter of typically three to five cubs (the number can vary from
one to eight). Weaning occurs at six months; siblings tend to stay
together for some time.
Cheetah cubs face higher mortality than most
other mammals, especially in the
Serengeti region. Cheetahs inhabit a
variety of habitats – dry forests, scrub forests and
Because of its prowess at hunting, the cheetah was tamed and used to
kill game at hunts in the past. The animal has been widely depicted in
art, literature, advertising and animation.
3.1 King cheetah
5 Ecology and behaviour
5.1 Social organisation
5.2 Home ranges and territories
5.2.2 Other methods
5.2.3 Display behaviour
5.3 Hunting and competitors
5.4 Speed and acceleration
5.4.2 Recorded values
6 Distribution and habitat
7 Status and threats
8 Conservation measures
8.1 In Africa
8.2 In Asia
9 Interaction with human beings
9.2 In captivity
9.3 In culture
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
The vernacular name "cheetah" is derived from cītā (Hindi:
चीता), which in turn comes from the
citrakāyaḥ (चित्रकायः) meaning "bright" or
"variegated". The first recorded use of this word has been dated back
to 1610. An alternative name for the cheetah is "hunting
leopard". The scientific name of the cheetah is Acinonyx
jubatus. The generic name
Acinonyx originated from the combination
of two Greek words: akinetos means motionless, and onyx means
claw. A rough translation of the word would be "non-moving
claws", a reference to the limited retractability (capability of being
drawn inside the paw) of the claws of the cheetah relative to other
cats'. The specific name jubatus means "maned" in Latin, referring to
the dorsal crest of this animal.
Lynx rufus (Bobcat)
L. canadensis (Canadian lynx)
L. pardinus (Iberian lynx)
L. lynx (Eurasian lynx)
Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah)
Puma concolor (Cougar)
Herpailurus yagouaroundi (Jaguarundi)
Felis chaus (Jungle cat)
F. nigripes (Black-footed cat)
F. silvestris silvestris (European wildcat)
F. margarita (Sand cat)
F. silvestris lybica (African wildcat)
F. catus (Domestic cat)
One version of the Puma lineage, depicted along with the
Felis lineages of the family Felidae
The cheetah is the only extant species of the genus Acinonyx. It
belongs to Felinae, the subfamily of
Felidae that also includes
lynxes, wildcats, and the puma. The species was first described by
Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber
Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in his 1775
publication Die Säugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit
The cheetah's closest relatives are the cougar (Puma concolor) and the
Herpailurus yagouaroundi). These three species
together form the Puma lineage, one of the eight lineages of
Felidae. The sister group of the Puma lineage is a clade of
Old World cats that includes the genera Felis,
Although the cheetah is an
Old World cat, molecular evidence indicates
that the three species of the Puma lineage evolved in North America
two to three million years ago, where they possibly had a common
ancestor during the Miocene. They possibly diverged from this
ancestor 8.25 million years ago. The cheetah diverged from the
puma and the jaguarundi around 6.7 million years ago. A genome
study suggests that cheetahs experienced two genetic bottlenecks in
their history, the first about 100,000 years ago and the second about
12,000 years ago, greatly lowering their genetic variability. These
bottlenecks may have been associated with migrations across Asia and
into Africa (with the current African population founded about 12,000
years ago), and/or with a depletion of prey species at the end of the
Cheetah fossils found in the lower beds of the
Olduvai Gorge site in
Tanzania date back to the Pleistocene. The extinct
Acinonyx are older than the cheetah, with the oldest known
from the late Pliocene; these fossils are about three million years
old. These species include
Acinonyx pardinensis (
notably larger than the modern cheetah, and A. intermedius
Pleistocene period). While the range of A. intermedius
stretched from Europe to China, A pardinensis spanned over
Eurasia as well as eastern and southern Africa. A variety of
larger cheetah believed to have existed in Europe fell to extinction
around half a million years ago.
Extinct North American cats resembling the cheetah had historically
been assigned to Felis, Puma or Acinonyx. However, a phylogenetic
analysis in 1990 placed these species under the genus Miracinonyx.
Miracinonyx exhibited a high degree of similarity with the cheetah.
However, in 1998, a
DNA analysis showed that Miracinonyx inexpectatus,
M. studeri, and M. trumani (early to late Pleistocene
epoch), found in North America, are more closely related to the
cougar than modern cheetahs.
In 1775, Schreber described a stuffed cheetah skin from the Cape of
Good Hope. In the 19th and 20th centuries, several cheetah
specimen were described and proposed as subspecies. The following
table is based on the classification of the species provided in Mammal
Species of the World. It also reflects the classification used by
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List assessors and the revision by the
Southern African cheetah
Southern African cheetah (A. j. jubatus) (Schreber, 1775), syn. A. j.
raineyi Heller, 1913
This is the nominate cheetah subspecies.
It occurs in Southern and East African countries including Namibia,
Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania
and Uganda. It is regionally extinct in Democratic Republic of the
Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. In 2007, the Southern African population
was roughly estimated at less than 5,000 to maximum 6,500 adult
individuals. In 2010, it was reported to persist in Iona
National Park in southwestern Angola. It was introduced in the
Hlane Royal National Park
Hlane Royal National Park of
Swaziland and reintroduced in Malawi's
Liwonde National Park. Since 1999, the population suffered a
massive decline in Zimbabwe. as well as in Mozambique
following the civil wars during 1980s and 1990s.
It is thought to have been separated from the
Asiatic cheetah nearly
0.32–0.67 million years ago.
Asiatic cheetah (A. j. venaticus) Griffith, 1821
This subspecies is confined to Iran, and is thus the only surviving
cheetah population in Asia. It has been classified as Critically
Endangered. In 2007, the total population was estimated at 60 to
100 individuals including juveniles. In 2017, fewer than 50
individuals were thought to be remaining in three subpopulations that
are scattered over 140,000 km2 (54,000 sq mi) in
Iran’s central plateau.
It used to occur from the
Arabian Peninsula and to Turkey, Central
Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan to India.
Northeast African cheetah
Northeast African cheetah (A. j. soemmeringii) Fitzinger, 1855
This subspecies occurs in South Sudan,
Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is
closely related to A. j. jubatus. Results of a phylogeographic
analysis indicate that the two subspecies diverged between 16,000 and
72,000 years ago.
Northwest African cheetah
Northwest African cheetah (A. j. hecki) Hilzheimer, 1913
This subspecies occurs in Northwestern Africa including Algeria,
Burkina Faso and Niger. Small populations are known to exist in
the Ahaggar and Tassili N'Ajjer National Parks. In 2003, a
population of 20 to 40 individuals was estimated to survive in Ahaggar
National Park. In Niger, cheetahs have been recorded in the Aïr
Mountains, Ténéré, Termit Massif, Talak and Azaouak valley. In
1993, a population of 50 individuals were estimated in Ténéré. In
Benin, the cheetah occurs in
Pendjari National Park
Pendjari National Park and W National
Park. Its status is obscure in Burkina Faso, where individuals may be
confined to the southeastern region. With the total population
estimated at less than 250 mature individuals, it is listed as
The diploid number of chromosomes in the cheetah is 38, the same as in
most other felids (though for the ocelot and the margay the number is
36). A remarkable feature of the cheetah is its unusually low
genetic variability in comparison to other felids. Consequently,
individuals show considerable genetic similarity to one
another, as illustrated by skin grafts, electrophoretic
evidence and reproductive surveys. A prolonged period of
inbreeding, following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age, is
believed to be the reason behind this anomaly. The consequences of
such genetic uniformity might include a low sperm count, decreased
sperm motility, deformed flagella, difficulty in captive breeding and
susceptibility to disease.
King cheetah. Note the distinctive coat pattern.
The king cheetah is a variety of cheetah with a rare mutation for
cream-coloured fur marked with large, blotchy spots and three dark,
wide stripes extending from their neck to the tail. In 1926 Major
A. Cooper wrote about an animal he had shot near modern-day
Harare. Describing the animal, he noted its remarkable similarity to
the cheetah, but the body of this individual was covered with fur as
thick as that of a snow leopard and the spots merged to form stripes.
He suggested that it could be a cross between a leopard and a cheetah.
After further similar animals were discovered, it was established they
were similar to the cheetah in having non-retractable
claws – a characteristic feature of the cheetah.
Reginald Innes Pocock
Reginald Innes Pocock described it as a new species
by the name of
Acinonyx rex ("rex" being
Latin for "king", the name
translated to "king cheetah"); However, he changed his position on
its species status in 1939. English hunter-naturalist Abel Chapman
considered it to be a colour morph of the spotted cheetah.
Since 1927 the king cheetah has been reported five more times in the
wild; an individual was photographed in 1975.
In May 1981 two spotted sisters gave birth at the De Wildt
Wildlife Centre (South Africa), and each litter contained one king
cheetah. Each sister had mated with a wild male from the Transvaal
region (where king cheetahs had been recorded). Further king cheetahs
were later born at the Centre. They have been known to exist in
Botswana and northern Transvaal. In 2012 the cause of this
alternative coat pattern was found to be a mutation in the gene for
transmembrane aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep), the same gene
responsible for the striped "mackerel" versus blotchy "classic"
patterning seen in tabby cats. Hence, genetically the king cheetah
is simply a variety of the common cheetah and not a separate species.
This case is similar to that of the black panthers. The appearance
is caused by a mutation in a recessive gene. As a result, if two
mating cheetahs have the same gene, then a quarter of their offspring
can be expected to be king cheetahs.
Cheetah portrait showing the black "tear mark" running from the corner
of the eye down the side of the nose
The cheetah is a felid with several distinctive
features – a slender body, deep chest, spotted pelage, a
small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin
legs and a long spotted tail. Its lightly built, slender form is
in sharp contrast with the robust build of the big cats. The
head-and-body length ranges from 112–150 centimetres
(44–59 in). Adult cheetahs average 70–90 cm
(28–35 in) at the shoulder, and weigh 21–72 kilograms
(46–159 lb). It is taller than the leopard, which
stands nearly 55–70 centimetres (22–28 in) at the shoulder.
The weight range of the cheetah overlaps with that of the leopard,
which weighs 28–65 kilograms (62–143 lb). On the other
hand, the cheetah is significantly shorter than the lion, whose
average height is nearly 120 centimetres (47 in). Moreover, it is
much lighter than the lion, among which females weigh 126 kilograms
(278 lb) and the much heavier males weigh 186 kilograms
(410 lb). Based on measurements, the smallest cheetahs have
been reported from the Sahara, northeastern Africa and Iran. A
sexually dimorphic species, males are generally larger than
The head is small and rounded. Saharan cheetah have narrow canine
faces. Small, short, and rounded, the ears are marked by black
patches on the back; the edges and base of the ears are tawny. The
high-set eyes have round pupils. The whiskers, shorter and
fewer in number than those of other felids, are fine and
inconspicuous. The pronounced tear streaks are unique to the
cheetah. These streaks originate from the corner of the eyes and run
down the nose to the mouth. Their role is obscure – they
may be serving as a shield for the eyes against the sun's glare, a
helpful feature as the cheetah hunts mainly during the day; another
purpose could be to define facial expressions.
Close view of a
Southern African cheetah
Southern African cheetah at Kruger National Park. Note
the light build, slender body, spotted coat and long tail.
Basically yellowish tan or rufous to greyish white, the coat of the
cheetah is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots. The
upper parts are in stark contrast to the underbelly, which is
completely white. Each spot measures nearly 3.2–5.1 centimetres
(1.3–2.0 in) across. Every cheetah has a unique pattern of
spots on its coat; hence, this serves as a distinct identity for each
Cheetah fur is short and often coarse. Fluffy
fur covers the chest and the ventral side. Several colour morphs
of the cheetah have been identified, including melanistic and albino
forms. Black cheetah have been observed in
Kenya and Zambia. In
1877–1878, English zoologist
Philip Sclater described two partially
albino specimens from South Africa. A ticked (tabby) cheetah was
Kenya in 2012. Juveniles are typically dark with
long, loose, blue to grey hair. A short mane, about 8 centimetres
(3.1 in) long, on the neck and the shoulders, is all that remains
of the cape in adults. The exceptionally long and muscular tail
measures 60–80 centimetres (24–31 in), and ends in a bushy
white tuft. While the first two-thirds of the tail are covered in
spots, the final part is marked with four to six dark rings or
stripes. The arrangement of the terminal stripes of the tail
differs among individuals, but the stripe patterns of siblings are
very similar. In fact, the tail of an individual will typically
resemble its siblings' to a greater extent than it resembles its
mother's or any other individual's.
The cheetah is sometimes confused with the leopard, and can be
distinguished by its small round spots in contrast to the leopard's
rosettes in addition, the leopard lacks the tear streaks of the
cheetah. The cougar possesses neither the tear streaks nor the
spotted coat pattern of the cheetah. The serval has a form very
similar to that of the cheetah but is significantly smaller. Moreover,
it has a shorter tail and spots that fuse to form stripes on the
The skull of the cheetah is relatively short, and the sagittal crest
is poorly developed.
Being in the genus Acinonyx, the morphology of the cheetah differs
notably from the big cats (genus Panthera). The face and the jaw
are unusually shortened and the sagittal crest is poorly developed,
possibly to reduce weight and enhance speed. In fact, the skull
resembles that of the smaller cats. Another point of similarity to the
small cats is the long and flexible spine, in contrast to the stiff
and short one of other large felids. A 2001 study of felid
morphology stated that the truncation of the development of the middle
phalanx bone in the cheetah at a relatively younger age than other
felids could be a major reason for the peculiar morphology of the
cheetah. Interestingly, the cheetah appears to show convergent
evolution with canids in morphology as well as behaviour. For example,
the cheetah has a relatively long snout, long legs and deep chest,
tough foot pads and blunt, semi-retractable claws; moreover, its
hunting behaviour resembles that of canids. In the 2001 study, it
was observed that the claws of cheetah have features intermediate
between those of felids and the wolf. In the Puma lineage, the
cheetah's skull morphology is similar to that of the
puma – both have short, wide skulls – while
that of the jaguarundi is different.
The cheetah has a total of 30 teeth; the dental formula is
220.127.116.11.1.2.1. The deciduous dentition is 18.104.22.168.2. The sharp,
narrow cheek teeth help in tearing flesh, whereas the small and flat
canine teeth bite the throat of the prey to suffocate it. Males have
slightly bigger heads with wider incisors and longer mandibles than
females. The muscles between the skull and jaw are short, and thus
do not allow the cheetah to open its mouth as much as other cats.
Digitigrade animals, the cheetah have tough foot pads that make it
convenient to run on firm ground. The hind legs are longer than the
forelegs. The relatively longer metacarpals, metatarsals (of the lower
leg), radius, ulna, tibia, and fibula increase the length of each
jump. The straightening of the flexible vertebral column also adds to
Cheetahs have a high concentration of nerve cells, arranged in a band
in the centre of the eyes. This arrangement, called a "visual streak",
significantly enhances the sharpness of the vision. Among the felids,
the visual streak is most concentrated and efficient in the
cheetah. The nasal passages are short and large; the smallness of
the canines helps to accommodate the large nostrils. The cheetah
is unable to roar due to the presence of a sharp-edged vocal fold
within the larynx.
The paws of the cheetah are narrower than those of other felids.
The slightly curved claws lack a protective sheath and are weakly
retractable (semi-retractable). This is a major point of
difference between the cheetah and the big cats, which have fully
retractable claws, and a similarity to canids. Additionally, the
claws of the cheetah are shorter as well as straighter than those of
other cats. Absence of protection makes the claws blunt;
however, the large and strongly curved dewclaw is remarkably
Ecology and behaviour
Southern African cheetahs rest in shade in the Okavango Delta,
A group of cheetahs at Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Cheetahs are diurnal (active mainly during the day), whereas
leopards, tigers, and lions are nocturnal (active mainly at
night); diurnality allows better observation and
monitoring of the animal. Hunting is the major activity throughout
the day; peaks are observed during dawn and dusk indicating
crepuscular tendencies. Groups rest in grassy clearings after
dusk, though males and juveniles often roam around at night. The
cheetah is an alert animal; individuals often inspect their vicinity
at observation points such as elevations. Even while resting, they
take turns at keeping a lookout.
Apart from the lion, the cheetah is the only cat that is gregarious;
however, female cheetahs tend to remain solitary. Tim Caro, of the
University of California, Davis, identified the various social classes
and their longevity. Pregnant and nursing females, a few adolescents,
and males who have not joined any groups are typically solitary.
Non-lactating females, their cubs, adolescent siblings, and several
males will form their own groups. A loose association between
individuals of the opposite sex can be observed during the breeding
season. These social groups typically keep away from one
Adult males are typically gregarious despite their territoriality, and
may group together for life and form "coalitions". These groups
collectively defend their territories. In most cases, a coalition will
comprise brothers born in the same litter who stayed together after
weaning. However, if a cub is the only male in the litter, then
two or three lone males may form a small group, or a lone male may
join an existing group. Males in coalitions establish territories that
ensure maximum access to females. Solitary males may or may not be
territorial. Some males alternate between solitude and coalitions,
whichever ensures encounters with a greater number of females.
Although a coalition, due to its larger membership, demands a greater
amount of resources than do the solitary males or their groups, the
coalition has a greater chance of encountering and acquiring females
Females are not territorial, and live alone or with their offspring.
Juveniles form mixed-sex groups after weaning, but most of the young
females stay back with their mother, with whom they do not show any
significant interaction. Males eventually mature and try to acquire
Home ranges and territories
Southern African male marking his territory in southern Namibia
East African cheetah with her cubs in Ngorongoro Crater,
Males in coalitions establish territories in locations that ensure
maximum access to females. Males exhibit marking
behaviour – territories, termite mounds, trees, common
tracks and junctions, and trees are marked by urine, faeces, and claw
scratches. The sizes can be location specific. For example,
territories range from 33 to 42 km2 (13 to 16 sq mi) in
the Serengeti, while in the Phinda Private Game Reserve, the size can
be 57 to 161 km2 (22 to 62 sq mi). Territorial solitary
males establish considerably larger territories, as large as
777 km2 (300 sq mi) in the
Serengeti or 1,390 km2
(540 sq mi) in central Namibia. A 1987 study of the social
organisation in males showed that territoriality depends on the size
and age of the males and the membership of the coalition. It concluded
that solitary as well as grouped males have a nearly equal chance of
coming across females, but the males in coalitions are notably
healthier and have better chances of survival than their solitary
counterparts. In the Serengeti, only 4% of the solitary males hold
territories, while those who joined coalitions were far more
successful. The average period for which territories are held is four
months for singletons, seven-and-a-half months for pairs, and 22
months for trios.
Males exhibit pronounced marking behaviour – territories,
termite mounds, trees, common tracks, and junctions are marked by
urine, faeces, and claw scratches. Males marking their territory
by urination stand less than a metre away from a tree or rock surface
with the tail raised, pointing the penis either horizontally backward
or 60° upward. Territorial clashes can take place between two
coalitions, or coalitions and solitary males; fights, however, are
rarely gruesome. Another major reason for fights is to acquire
dominance in the breeding season. These can even involve
Unlike male and other felines, female cheetahs do not establish
territories. Instead, they live in unguarded areas, known as "home
ranges". Though home ranges often overlap, there is hardly any
interaction between the females. Females are regular visitors to male
territories. The size of a home range depends mainly on the
availability of prey. The greater the density of prey animals in an
area, the smaller the home range of a female cheetah there. In areas
with nomadic prey animals (such as the
Thomson's gazelle in the
Serengeti and the springbok in the Kalahari Desert), the home ranges
cover hundreds of square kilometres. In contrast, home ranges are
merely 100–200 square kilometres (39–77 sq mi) large
where sedentary prey, such as the impala in the Kruger National Park,
Calls of adult cheetahs. Purr, hiss, growl, chirr, meow, chirp, howl.
The cheetah is a vocal felid. A wide variety of cheetah
vocalisations have been identified by several terms, but most of these
lack a detailed acoustic description, which makes it difficult to
assess reliably which term denotes which sound. In 2010 Robert Eklund
(of the University of Göteborg, Sweden) and colleagues published a
detailed report on the purring of the cheetah and compared it with
that observed in other felids. The cheetah purrs when content, or
to greet known individuals. A characteristic of purring is that it is
realised on both egressive and ingressive
airstreams. Other vocalisations Eklund identified
Growling: Often accompanied by hissing and spitting, the cheetah
growls to show its annoyance, or when faced with danger. A study
showed that growls consist of numerous short pulses with a combined
duration of up to five seconds.
Moaning or yowling: This is an escalated version of growling and is
often combined with it. It is typically displayed when the danger
increases. A study found that yowls could last as long as two
Agonistic vocalisations: Eklund used this term as a reference to a
combination of growls, moans, and hisses that is followed by spitting,
a feature more conspicuous in cheetah than in other cats. In addition
to spitting, the cheetah will hit the ground with its front paws.
R. D. Estes has listed, in addition to the aforementioned
vocalisations, some other sounds made by the cheetah:
Bleating: Similar to the meow of the domestic cat, the cheetah can
bleat, and sometimes moan, when a larger predator deprives it of its
Chirping or stutter-barking: A cheetah chirps when excited (for
instance, when gathered around a kill). This vocalisation can also be
used at social meetings, during courtship, or in attempting to find
another; the chirp of a mother searching for her cubs, which sounds
more like the yelp of a dog than the chirp of a bird, can be heard up
to 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) away. A study estimated the chirp's
total duration as 0.09 to 0.5 seconds.
Churring: The purpose of this sound is similar to that of the chirp.
It may resemble a growl. Zoologist
Jonathan Kingdon considered the
chirp of the cheetah as similar to the soft roar of the lion, and its
churr as the latter's loud roar. The churr, is staccato and has a
shorter range than the chirp. A study showed that churrs comprise
3 to 15 separate pulses and last 0.1 to 1.3 seconds.
Mother-cub vocalisations: Apart from chirping, mothers use some other
sounds to interact with their cubs. A repeated ihn ihn is used to
gather the cubs, while a prr prr is used to guide them on a journey. A
low-pitched alarm call is used to warn the cubs to stand still in the
presence of danger.
Whirring: This sound is produced by cubs bickering over a kill; the
pitch rises with the intensity of the quarrel, and ends on a harsh
Cheetahs grooming each other
Scent plays a significant role in olfactory communication. Cheetahs
often investigate urine-marked places (territories or common
landmarks) for a long time by crouching on their forelegs and
carefully smelling the place. Then the male will itself urinate there
and sniff at its own scent before leaving. Other observing individuals
will repeat the ritual. Females may also show marking behaviour but
less prominently than the males. Females in oestrus will show maximum
urine-marking, and her excrement can attract males from far
Social meetings are marked by mutual sniffing in oral and genital
areas, grooming one another, rubbing the cheeks, and face-licking.
Further physical contact has not been observed.
The tear streaks are a means of visual communication. The tear streaks
combined with the black lips and the contrasting white fur give the
face a striking appearance and form clear expressions when viewed from
a close range. The ears and the face are obscure from a distance, and
so are the expressions. On the other hand, the tail is quite
conspicuous and is probably used by mothers to direct juveniles to
Cheetahs engage in several displays during fights, hunting, or
self-defence. Prior to a sprint, the cheetah will hold its head down,
with aggression on its face, and approach the target in a stiff gait.
The aggressive expression is maintained during the run. To defend
itself or its prey, a cheetah will hold its body low to the ground,
and produce a snarl with its mouth wide open, the eyes staring
threateningly ahead and the ears folded backward. This may be
accompanied by moans, hisses, and growls. In more severe cases, the
ground is hit with the paws. Fights are characterised by biting,
tearing out the fur and attempts at strangling on both sides.
Hunting and competitors
The cheetah is a carnivore that prefers medium-sized prey with a body
mass ranging from 23 to 56 kg (51 to 123 lb). Blesbok,
duiker, Grant's gazelle, impala, reedbuck, springbok, and Thomson's
gazelle are some of the common targets of the cheetah. Other prey
animals include the bat-eared fox, bushbuck, kudu, hartebeest, nyala,
oribi, roan antelope, steenbok, sable antelope, and waterbuck; they
prey less frequently on the African buffalo, gemsbok, giraffe,
ostrich, warthog, wildebeest, and zebra. A study
showed that a major proportion of the diet of Asiatic cheetahs
consists of livestock; local species such as chinkara, desert hare,
goitered gazelle, ibex, rodents, and wild sheep are also hunted.
Generally, only groups of cheetahs will attempt to kill large animals
such as hartebeest, although mothers with young cubs will
attempt to secure a large prey all by themselves. There are no
records of cheetah killing human beings. The diet of a cheetah
depends on the area in which it lives. For example, on the East
African plains, its preferred prey is the Thomson's gazelle, somewhat
smaller than the cheetah. In contrast, in
Kwa-Zulu Natal the preferred
prey is the significantly larger nyala, males of which can weigh up to
130 kg (290 lb). They do, however, opt for young and
adolescent targets, which make up about 50% of the cheetah diet
despite constituting only a small portion of the prey population.
A cheetah in pursuit of a
Thomson's gazelle at Ngorongoro
South Africa cheetah suffocating an impala by a throat bite at
Cheetahs defending springbok kill from a brown hyena in South Africa
Cheetahs hunt primarily throughout the day, but geographical
variations exist. For instance, cheetahs in the
Sahara and the Masai
Mara hunt after sunset to escape the high temperatures of the day. In
Serengeti they hunt when the lions and hyenas are inactive. A
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi National Park in
Kenya showed that the success of the
hunt depends on the species, age, sex, and habitat of the prey, and
the size of the hunting herd or the efficiency of the hunting
individual. Cheetahs hunt by vision rather than by scent. Prey is
located from observation points or while roaming. Animals toward the
edges of the herd are preferred. The cheetah will stalk their prey to
within 100–300 m (330–980 ft); it will try to approach
it as closely as possible while concealing itself in cover, sometimes
even up to 60 m (200 ft) of the prey. The cheetah will
crouch and move slowly while stalking, occasionally becoming
motionless. The chase usually lasts less than a minute; if the
cheetah fails to make a kill quickly, it will give up. Cheetahs have
an average hunting success rate of 40 to 50%.
Cheetahs kill their prey by tripping it during the chase; the cheetah
can use its strong dewclaw to knock the prey off its balance. To kill
medium- to large-sized prey, the cheetah bites the prey's throat to
suffocate it to death. A bite on the back of the neck or the snout is
enough to kill smaller prey. The prey is then taken to a shaded
place; the cheetah, highly exhausted after the chase, rests beside the
kill and pants heavily for nearly five to 55 minutes. Groups of
cheetah devour the kill peacefully, though minor growling may be
observed. Cheetahs not involved in hunting will immediately start
Cheetah can consume large quantities of food. In a study
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park (Namibia), the cheetah consumed as much as
10 kilograms (22 lb) within two hours and stayed close to the
remains for 11 hours.
Cheetah move their head from side to
side so that the sharp carnassial teeth effectively tear the flesh,
which can then be swallowed without chewing. They typically begin with
the hindquarters, and then progress toward the abdomen and the spine.
Rib bones are chewed on at the ends, and the limbs are not generally
torn apart while eating.
The cheetah, especially mothers with young cubs, are highly vigilant;
they need to remain on a lookout for large carnivores who might steal
the prey or harm the cubs, and for any potential prey. In
Africa, the cheetah will surrender its kill to sturdier carnivores
such as lions, leopards, spotted and brown hyenas, and wild dogs.
Cheetahs lose around 10 to 15% of their kills to other predators;
the percentage was found to be as high as 50% in a 1986 study.
Cheetahs have rarely been observed to feed on the kills of other
carnivores; this may be due to vultures and spotted hyena adroitly
capturing and consuming heavy carcasses within a short time.
In Eurasia, in the past, the cheetah's range overlapped not just with
those of the lion, leopard and hyena, but also other carnivores, such
as the tiger, wolf and bear.
Speed and acceleration
The lightly built, streamlined, agile body of the cheetah makes it an
The cheetah's thin and light body makes it well-suited to short,
explosive bursts of speed, rapid acceleration, and an ability to
execute extreme changes in direction while moving at high speed. These
adaptations account for much of the cheetah's ability to catch
The cheetah is the fastest land animal. It
was called the "felid version of the greyhound", as both have similar
morphology and the ability to reach tremendous speeds in a shorter
time than other mammals.
The large nasal passages ensure fast flow of sufficient air, and the
enlarged heart and lungs allow the enrichment of blood with oxygen in
a short time. This allows cheetahs to rapidly regain their stamina
after a chase. During a typical chase, their respiratory rate
increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute. While running, in
addition to having good traction due to their semi-retractable claws,
cheetahs use their tail as a rudder-like means of steering that
enables them to make sharp turns, necessary to outflank antelopes that
often change direction to escape during a chase. The
protracted claws increase grip over the ground, while foot pads make
the sprint more convenient over tough ground. The tight binding of the
tibia and the fibula restrict rotation about the lower leg, thus
stabilising the animal throughout the sprint; the downside, however,
is that this reduces climbing efficiency. The pendulum-like motion of
the scapula increases the stride length and assists in shock
absorption. The extension of the vertebral column can add as much as
76 cm (30 in) to the length of a stride. During
more than half of the time of the sprint, the animal has all four
limbs in the air; this also contributes to the stride length.
The cheetah runs no more than 500 m (1,640 ft) at the speed
of 80 to 112 km/h (50 to 70 mph); it very rarely runs at
this high speed as most chases are within 100 m
It was previously thought that cheetah sprinting was limited due to
excessive heat buildup. But this has since been proven false.
Cheetah body temperature naturally fluctuates between 37.3 and
39.5 °C (99.1 and 103.1 °F) during the course of a day.
After a run, a cheetah's body temperature is well within the normal
range at 38.4 °C (101.1 °F).
Documentary video filmed at 1200 frames per second showing the
movement of Sarah over a set run
In general, the speed of a hunting cheetah averages 64 km/h
(40 mph) during a chase, interspersed with a few short bursts
when the speed may vary between 104 and 120 km/h (65 and
75 mph); the most reliable measurement of the typical speed
during a short chase is 112 km/h (70 mph).
However, this value of the maximum speed is disputed, with more
recent measurements using solar-powered GPS collars in 367 hunts
showing a maximum speed of 93 km/h (58 mph). The
speeds attained by the cheetah may be only slightly greater than those
achieved by the pronghorn 88.5 km/h (55.0 mph) and the
springbok 88 km/h (55 mph). Yet the cheetah has a
greater probability of succeeding in the chase due to its exceptional
acceleration – it can attain a speed of 75 km/h
(47 mph) in just two seconds. One stride or jump of a
galloping cheetah averages 6.7 metres (22 ft). Similarly,
the ability to change direction rapidly is pivotal in ensuring hunting
success. Cheetahs typically walk at 3–4 kilometres per
hour (1.9–2.5 mph).
Speed and acceleration values for the hunting cheetah may be different
from those for the non-hunting because, while engaged in the chase,
the cheetah is more likely to be twisting and turning and may be
running through vegetation. In 2012 an 11-year-old cheetah
Cincinnati Zoo named Sarah made a world record by running
100 m (330 ft) in 5.95 seconds over a set run, during which
she ran a recorded maximum speed of 98 km/h
(61 mph). A study of five wild cheetahs (three females,
two males) during hunting reported a maximum speed of 93 km/h
(58 mph), with an average of 48 to 56 km/h (30 to
35 mph). Speed can be increased by almost 10 km/h
(6 mph) in a single stride. The average chase is 173 m
(568 ft) and the maximum ranges from 407 to 559 m (1,335 to
A cheetah cub at Sabi Sands. Note the long, bluish grey hair on the
nape, shoulders and back.
Cheetahs breed throughout the year; they are induced ovulators.
Females become sexually mature at 21 to 22 months of age. Females
are polyoestrus – they have an oestrus ("heat") cycle
every 12 days (this can vary from 10 to 20 days), each
oestrus lasting one to three days. A female can give birth again after
17 to 20 months; however, on the loss of a whole litter mothers can
mate again. Urine-marking in males becomes more pronounced when a
female in their vicinity comes into oestrus. Males fight among one
another to secure access to the female; even males in a coalition may
show some aggression toward one another on approaching a female.
One male eventually wins dominance over the others. Mating, observed
mainly at night, begins with the male approaching the female, who lies
down on the ground. No courtship behaviour is observed; the male
immediately secures hold of the female's nape and copulation takes
place. The pair then ignore each other and part ways. However, they
meet and copulate a few more times within the next few days.
Polyandrous, females can mate with several males. The mean number
of motile sperm in a single ejaculation is nearly
Gestation is nearly three months long. The number of cubs born can
vary from one to eight, though the common number is three to five.
Birth takes place in a sheltered place such as thick vegetation. Each
cub weighs nearly 150–400 g (5.3–14.1 oz) at birth; the
eyes, shut at birth, open in 4 to 11 days. Newborn cubs can crawl
and spit; they can start walking by two weeks. Their nape, shoulders
and back are thickly covered with long bluish grey hair. This downy
underlying fur, called a "mantle", gives them a Mohawk-type
appearance; this fur is shed as the cheetah grows older. It has
been suggested that this mane gives a cheetah cub the appearance of
the honey badger, and could act as a camouflage in both animals.
Cheetah cubs are highly vulnerable during the first few weeks of their
life; mothers keep their cubs hidden in dense vegetation for the first
Cubs start following their mothers at six weeks. The mother frequently
shifts the cubs to new locations. A study of play behaviour of
cheetah cubs showed that cubs tend to play after nursing or while they
are on the move with their mothers. Play involves plenty of agility;
attacks are seldom lethal. Playing cubs stay near their mothers. The
study further revealed that while the cubs showed improvement in
catching each other as they grew up, the ability to crouch and hide
did not develop remarkably. Thus, it was suggested that play helps
develop only certain aspects of predator defence. Weaning occurs
at three to six months of age. The mother brings kills to her cubs;
the cubs might purr as the mother licks them clean after the meal.
Cubs as young as six months try to capture small prey like hares and
juvenile gazelles. However, they may have to wait until as long as 15
months of age to make a successful kill on their own.
The offspring may stay with the mother for 13 to 20 months,
associating with one another and feeding on kills together. After
weaning, juveniles may form mixed-sex herds; young females may stay
back with their mother, but there is hardly any interaction between
the mother and daughters. The females in the mixed-sex herd gradually
move out as they near sexual maturity. In the Serengeti, average
age of independence of 70 observed litters was 17.1 months. Young
females had their first litters at the age of about 2.4 years and
subsequent litters about 20 months later. The lifespan of wild
cheetahs is 14 to 15 years for females; their reproductive cycle
typically ends by 12 years of age. Males generally live as long as 10
High mortality rates have been recorded in the Serengeti. In a 1994
study, nearly 77% of litters died before eight weeks of birth, and
nearly 83% of those alive could not make it to adolescence
(14 weeks). Lions emerged as the major predator of juveniles,
accounting for nearly 78% of the deaths. The study concluded that the
survival rate of cubs till weaning was a mere 4.8%. This was
attributed to the open terrain of the region, which does not allow
cheetahs to conceal themselves.
Cheetah cubs face higher
mortality than most other large mammals.
It has been suggested that the significant lack of genetic diversity
in cheetahs is a cause of poor quality and production of sperm, and
birth defects such as cramped teeth, kinked tails, and bent limbs.
Cheetahs do have low fertility rates, but they appear to have
flourished for thousands of years with these low levels of genetic
Cheetah expert Laurie Marker points out that the high level
of genetic uniformity would mean that if an infectious disease
surfaced in a population, all of them have (or lack) the same level of
immunity. In 1982, 60% of the cheetah population in the Wildlife
Safari (Oregon, United States) died due to a peritonitis
Distribution and habitat
The cheetah inhabits a variety of habitats. In Africa, it has been
observed in dry forests, scrub forests, and savannahs. In
prehistoric times, the cheetah was distributed throughout Asia,
Africa, and Europe. Gradually, it vanished from Europe. Nearly 500
years ago, the cheetah was still common throughout Africa, though it
avoided deserts and tropical forests. In Eurasia, Afghanistan, Iran,
Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and the Ganga and Indus river valleys in South
Asia sheltered large numbers of cheetahs. However, today the
cheetah has been exterminated from the majority of its earlier range.
IUCN estimates that the total expanse of the range of the cheetah
in earlier times was approximately 25,344,648 km2
(9,785,623 sq mi); the range (as of 2015) has since then
reduced to 2,709,054 km2 (1,045,972 sq mi), a
substantial decline of 89%.
African cheetahs inhabit savannahs, such as this one in Kenya
The cheetah occurs mainly in eastern and southern Africa; the range
across the continent has declined to a mere 10% of the historic
expanse. The range in eastern Africa has reduced to 6% of its original
range, so that presently it is distributed in an area of
310,586 km2 (119,918 sq mi). In the Horn of Africa,
the cheetah occurs in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, and
Uganda. The range has not reduced as much in the southern part of
the continent, where it occurs in an area of 1,223,388 km2
(472,353 sq mi), 22% of its original range. Significant
populations thrive in south-western Angola, Botswana, Malawi,
south-western Mozambique, Namibia, northern South Africa, southern
Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Very few isolated populations occur in the
Sahara; the population density in this region is as low as two to
three individuals per 10,000 km2 (3,900 sq mi). They
occur in very low numbers in northern and western Africa.
The distribution of prey may influence habitat preferences; in a study
in the Kruger National Park, female cheetahs were found to spend a
significant amount of time in woodlands, where impala occurred. It was
suggested that though the forested area was unsuitable for hunting,
the females preferred woodlands to encounter more impala. Male
coalitions, on the other hand, shunned dense habitats and spent most
of the time in open savannahs. An explanation given for this was that
the coalitions prefer larger prey than impala. Though they do not
prefer montane regions, cheetahs can occur at elevations as high as
4,000 m (13,000 ft). An open area with some cover, such as
diffused bushes, is probably ideal for the cheetah because it needs to
stalk and pursue its prey over a distance, exploiting its speed. This
also minimises the risk of encountering larger carnivores. Complete
lack of cover, however, can be a cause of prey loss and
In the past, the cheetah ranged across vast stretches in Asia, from
the Mediterranean and the
Arabian Peninsula in the west to the Indian
subcontinent in the east, and as far north as the Caspian and Aral
Seas. However, the cheetah has disappeared from the majority of
its historic range, except
Iran and possibly a few areas in
Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan.
Status and threats
The cheetah has been classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN; it is
listed under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of
Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and Appendix I of CITES
(Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). In 2014 the
CITES Standing Committee recognised the cheetah as a "species of
priority" in their strategies in northeastern Africa to counter
wildlife trafficking. As of 2015, the
IUCN gives the total number
of surviving individuals as nearly 6,700. Regional estimates have
been given as: 1,960 in eastern Africa (as of 2007); 4,190 in southern
Africa (as of 2007); and 440 in western, central, and northern
Africa (as of 2012). The southern half of the continent, therefore, is
home to the largest number of cheetah. 29 sub-populations have
been identified, of which most consist of no more than 500
individuals. A small population of 60 to 100 individuals was
Iran in 2007. Populations are feared to be
declining, especially those of adults.
The cheetah is threatened by habitat loss through agricultural and
industrial expansion; moreover, the species apparently requires a
large area to live in as indicated by its low population densities.
It appears to be less capable of coexisting with humans than the
leopard. Human interference disturbs hunting and feeding of
cheetah. With 76% of its range consisting of unprotected land, the
cheetah is often targeted by farmers and pastoralists who attempt to
protect their livestock. However, cheetah is not known to prey on
livestock. Game hunters may also try to harm cheetahs as they
deprive them of valuable game.
Roadkill is be another threat,
especially in areas where roads have been constructed near natural
habitat or protected areas. Cases of roadkill involving cheetahs have
been reported from Kalmand, Iran, Touran National Park, and Bafq. The
threat posed by infectious diseases may be minor, given the low
population densities and hence the reduced chance of infection.
In 2016, it was estimated that there are just 7,100 cheetahs remaining
in the wild, and simulation modelling suggested that they are at risk
of extinction. The authors suggested a re-categorisation on the IUCN
Red List for the species from vulnerable to endangered.
IUCN has recommended co-operation between countries across the
cheetah's range to minimise the conflict between cheetahs and human
beings. A 2016 study showed that ecotourism can have a
significantly positive impact on the conservation of the cheetah.
Although the requirement of space for the habitat would have to be
compromised in most cases, establishment of private reserves for
cheetahs and ensuring the absence of predators and poachers could be a
successful conservation measure. Additionally, the financial
benefits accrued and the awareness generated can further aid the cause
of the cheetah. At the same time, the animals should not be
unnecessarily handled or disturbed, as cheetahs are particularly
sensitive to human interference.
The Range Wide Conservation Program for
Cheetah and African Wild Dogs
(RWCP), the brainchild of Sarah Durant and
Rosie Woodroffe (of the
Zoological Society of London), was started in 2007 with the primary
aim of ensuring better conservation measures for the cheetah and the
wild dog – two species with very low population densities.
A joint initiative by the ZSL, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and
Cat Specialist Group, the program has among its major goals a
review of the conservation policies adopted by the South African
countries, and study and action on illegal hunting and trade of the
cheetah. In a 2007 publication, Durant emphasised the role
of land management and improvement in connectivity across the range in
cheetah conservation, in the lack of which the populations might face
Botswana (2007), Chad (2015), Ethiopia
Mozambique (2010), Namibia
South Africa (2009), South Sudan
Zambia (2009), and Zimbabwe
(2009) have formulated action plans for the conservation of the
cheetah (the years in which the workshops were held are given in
Cheetah reintroduction in India
Kushki, the male
Asiatic cheetah in northeastern Iran
In the 20th century, the populations of cheetah in India saw a drastic
fall. The last physical evidence of the cheetah in India was thought
to be three individuals, all shot by the Maharajah of
Surguja (a man
also noted for holding a record for shooting 1,360 tigers), in 1947 in
eastern Madhya Pradesh, but a female was sighted in Koriya
district, present-day Chhattisgarh, in 1951. During the early
2000s, scientists from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology
(CCMB), Hyderabad, proposed a plan to clone Asiatic cheetahs obtained
from Iran. India asked
Iran to transport one live pair to India, or,
if that was not possible, allow them to collect sperm and eggs of the
cheetah pair in
Iran itself. However,
Iran rejected both
In September 2009, the then Minister of Environment and Forests,
Jairam Ramesh, assigned the
Wildlife Trust of India and the Wildlife
Institute of India with the task of examining the potential of cheetah
reintroduction in the nation. The report, submitted in 2010, showed
Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary and
Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary
Nauradehi Wildlife Sanctuary in
Madhya Pradesh, and
Shahgarh Landscape and
Desert National Park
Desert National Park in
Rajasthan have a high potential to support reintroduced cheetah
populations. These areas were found to be spacious; of these four
Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary
Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary had the largest available area,
6,800 square kilometres (2,600 sq mi). Moreover, these were
rich in prey availability. The Sanjay National Park, though comprising
an area of 12.500 square kilometres (4.826 sq mi) and having
supported cheetah populations before the independence of India in
1947, is no longer suitable for the cheetah due to low prey density
and risks of poaching.
In 2001 the Iranian government collaborated with the Cheetah
Conservation Fund, the IUCN, Panthera, United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP), and the
Wildlife Conservation Society
Wildlife Conservation Society on the
Conservation of Asiatic
Cheetah Project (CACP) to protect the natural
habitat of the
Asiatic cheetah and its prey, to ensure that
development projects do not hamper its survival, and to highlight the
plight of the Asiatic cheetah.
Iran declared 31 August
Cheetah Day in 2006.
Interaction with human beings
A hieroglyph from
Deir el-Bahari depicting leashed cheetahs
The cheetah shows little aggression toward human beings, and can be
easily tamed, as it has been since antiquity. Reliefs in the Deir
el-Bahari temple complex tell of an expedition by Egyptians to the
Land of Punt
Land of Punt during the reign of the pharaoh Hatshepsut
(1507–1458 BC) that fetched, among other things, animals called
"panthers" for Egypt. Two types of "panthers" were depicted in these
sculptures: leashed cheetahs, referred to as "panthers of the north",
and sturdy leopards, referred to as "panthers of the south". During
New Kingdom (16th to 11th centuries BC), cheetahs were common
pet animals for the royalty, who adorned the animals with ornate
collars and leashes. The Egyptians would use their dogs to bring
the concealed prey out in the open, after which a cheetah would be set
upon it to kill it. A Sumerian seal dating back to nearly
3000 BC, featuring a leashed animal resembling a cheetah, has
fuelled speculation that the cheetah might have been first
domesticated and used for hunting in
 However, Thomas T. Allsen (of The College of New Jersey) argues
that the depicted animal might not be a cheetah given its largely
dog-like features; moreover, the background gives an impression of a
montane area, which the cheetah does not typically inhabit.
Giuliano de' Medici
Giuliano de' Medici depicted with a cheetah behind him on horseback.
Painting by Benozzo Gozzoli
Mainly two kinds of theories have been put forth to explain the
subsequent expansion of the cheetah into Asia, Europe, and the rest of
Africa. Historians who accept the Sumerian origin of the
domesticated cheetah – such as Heinz F. Friederichs and
Burchard Brentjes – hold that the animal gradually spread
out to central and northern Africa, from where it reached India. On
the other hand, historians such as Frederick E. Zeuner accept the
Egyptian origin and state that the cheetah gradually spread into
central Asia, Iran, and India. In the third century AD, Roman
Claudius Aelianus wrote of tame panthers in India and "smaller
lions" that would be used for tracking and hunting; the account cannot
be very reliable as Roman, as well as Greek, literature is not
generally clear in its references to different types of cats.
Hunting with cheetahs became more prevalent toward the seventh
century AD. The 11th-century Clephane Horn, possibly of Byzantine
origin, is believed to depict domesticated hunting cheetahs. In
the Middle East, the cheetah would accompany the nobility to hunts in
special seats behind saddles. Cheetahs continued to be associated with
royalty and elegance in western Asia till as late as the 19th century.
The first phase of taming would take several weeks, in which the
cheetah would be kept tethered and made to get accustomed to human
beings. Next, the cheetah would be tempted with food and trained to
mount horses. Finally, its hunting instincts would be aroused by
slaughtering animals before it. The whole process could take as long
as a year to complete. In eastern Asia, the records are confusing as
regional names for the leopard and the cheetah may be used
interchangeably. The earliest depiction of cheetahs from eastern Asia
dates back to the
Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries AD);
paintings depict tethered cheetahs as well as cheetahs mounted on
horses. Chinese emperors would use cheetahs, as well as caracals, as
gifts. In the 13th and the 14th centuries, the Yuan rulers bought
numerous caracals, cheetahs, and tigers from the western parts of the
empire and Muslim merchants, in return for gold, silver, cash, and
silk. According to the Ming Shilu, the subsequent
Ming dynasty (14th
to 17th centuries) continued this practice. The cheetah gradually
Eurasia toward the 14th century, though they never became as
popular as they had in the Middle East. The Mughal ruler Akbar the
Great (1556–1605) is said to have kept as many as 1000 cheetahs.
However, his son
Jahangir wrote in his memoirs, Tuzk-e-Jahangiri, that
only one of them gave birth to cubs. Mughal rulers trained cheetahs
as well as caracals in a similar way as the West Asians, and used them
to hunt game – especially blackbuck. The rampant hunting
severely affected the populations of wild animals.
Northeast African cheetah
Northeast African cheetah in Chester Zoo
Mortality under captivity is generally high; reasons include
stillbirths, birth defects, cannibalism, hypothermia, neglect of cubs
by mothers, and infectious diseases. A study comparing the health
of captive and wild cheetahs noted that despite having similar genetic
make-up, wild cheetahs are far healthier than their captive
counterparts. The study identified possible stress factors such as
restricted habitat and interaction with human beings and other
carnivores, and recommended private and spacious areas for captive
cheetahs. A study of diseases suffered by captive cheetahs in the
period 1989–92 in several North American zoos showed that hepatic
veno-occlusive disease, a disease of the liver, had affected 82% of
the deceased cheetahs, caused nine deaths, and occurred in 51% of
living females. Chronic gastritis was detected in 91% of the
population. Glomerulosclerosis, a disease of the kidneys, emerged as
another significant disease, affecting 84% of the cheetahs; another
renal disease, nephrosclerosis, affected 39% of the cheetahs. Feline
infectious peritonitis caused two deaths. Pneumonia was a major cause
for juvenile deaths. Another study concluded that excess of
vitamin A in their diets could result in veno-occlusive disease
in their livers.
Moreover, cheetahs are poor breeders in captivity, while wild
individuals are far more successful. In a 1992 study, females in
Serengeti were found to have 95% success rate in breeding. In
contrast, only 20% of the North American captive cheetahs bred
successfully in 1991. Studies have shown that in-vitro
fertilisation in cheetah poses more difficulties than are faced in the
case of other cats.
Bacchus and Ariadne
Bacchus and Ariadne by Titian, 1523
The cheetah has been widely portrayed in a variety of artistic works.
In Bacchus and Ariadne, an oil painting by the 16th-century Italian
painter Titian, the chariot of the Greek god
Dionysus (Bacchus) is
depicted as being drawn by two cheetahs. The cheetahs in the painting
were previously considered to be leopards. In 1764 English
George Stubbs commemorated the gifting of a cheetah to George
III by the English Governor of Madras, Sir George Pigot in his
Cheetah with Two Indian Attendants and a Stag. The painting
depicts a cheetah, hooded and collared by two Indian servants, along
with a stag it was supposed to prey upon. The 1896 painting
The Caress, by the 19th-century Belgian symbolist painter Fernand
Khnopff, is a representation of the myth of
Oedipus and the Sphinx. It
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misidentified as a leopard's).
Bill Thomas Cheetah
Bill Thomas Cheetah American sports/racing car, a Chevrolet-based
coupe first designed and driven in 1963, was an attempt to challenge
Carroll Shelby's Shelby Cobra in American sports car competition of
the 1960s era. Due to only two dozen or fewer chassis ever being
built, with only a dozen of these being complete cars, the
never homologated for competition beyond prototype status, with its
production ending in 1966.
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Patrick O'Brian set in the
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antelopes. The book
How It Was with Dooms tells the true story of
a family raising an orphaned cheetah cub named Dooms in Kenya.
The 2005 film Duma was loosely based on this book.
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Frito-Lay introduced the Chester Cheetah, an anthropomorphic
cheetah, as the mascot for their Cheetos. The first release
of Apple Inc.'s Mac OS X, the
Mac OS X
Mac OS X 10.0, was code-named "Cheetah";
the subsequent versions released before 2013 were all named after
cats. The animated series
ThunderCats had a character named
"Cheetara", an anthropomorphic cheetah, voiced by Lynne
Lipton. Comic book superheroine Wonder Woman's chief
adversary is Dr. Barbara Ann Minerva, alias The Cheetah.
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On the Chase With Cheetahs – slideshow by Life magazine
Fake Flies and Cheating Cheetahs: measuring the speed of a cheetah
African palm civet
African palm civet (N. binotata)
Marsh mongoose (A. paludinosus)
Bushy-tailed mongoose (B. crassicauda)
Jackson's mongoose (B. jacksoni)
Black-footed mongoose (B. nigripes)
Alexander's kusimanse (C. alexandri)
Angolan kusimanse (C. ansorgei)
Common kusimanse (C. obscurus)
Flat-headed kusimanse (C. platycephalus)
Yellow mongoose (C. penicillata)
Pousargues's mongoose (D. dybowskii)
Angolan slender mongoose
Angolan slender mongoose (G. flavescens)
Black mongoose (G. nigrata)
Somalian slender mongoose
Somalian slender mongoose (G. ochracea)
Cape gray mongoose
Cape gray mongoose (G. pulverulenta)
Slender mongoose (G. sanguinea)
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose (H. hirtula)
Common dwarf mongoose
Common dwarf mongoose (H. parvula)
Short-tailed mongoose (H. brachyurus)
Indian gray mongoose
Indian gray mongoose (H. edwardsii)
Indian brown mongoose
Indian brown mongoose (H. fuscus)
Egyptian mongoose (H. ichneumon)
Small Asian mongoose
Small Asian mongoose (H. javanicus)
Long-nosed mongoose (H. naso)
Collared mongoose (H. semitorquatus)
Ruddy mongoose (H. smithii)
Crab-eating mongoose (H. urva)
Stripe-necked mongoose (H. vitticollis)
White-tailed mongoose (I. albicauda)
Liberian mongoose (L. kuhni)
Gambian mongoose (M. gambianus)
Banded mongoose (M. mungo)
Selous' mongoose (P. selousi)
Meller's mongoose (R. melleri)
Meerkat (S. suricatta)
Spotted hyena (C. crocuta)
Brown hyena (H. brunnea)
Striped hyena (H. hyaena)
Aardwolf (P. cristatus)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Small family listed below
Cheetah (A. jubatus)
Caracal (C. caracal)
African golden cat
African golden cat (C. aurata)
Bay cat (C. badia)
Asian golden cat
Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)
European wildcat (F. silvestris)
African wildcat (F. lybica)
Jungle cat (F. chaus)
Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)
Sand cat (F. margarita)
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)
Domestic cat (F. catus)
Ocelot (L. pardalis)
Margay (L. wiedii)
Pampas cat (L. colocola)
Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)
Kodkod (L. guigna)
Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)
Oncilla (L. tigrinus)
Southern tigrina (L. guttulus)
Serval (L. serval)
Canadian lynx (L. canadensis)
Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)
Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)
Bobcat (L. rufus)
Pallas's cat (O. manul)
Marbled cat (P. marmorata)
Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)
Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)
Sundaland leopard cat (P. javanensis)
Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)
Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)
Cougar (P. concolor)
Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)
Lion (P. leo)
Jaguar (P. onca)
Leopard (P. pardus)
Tiger (P. tigris)
Snow leopard (P. uncia)
Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)
Sunda clouded leopard
Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)
Viverridae (includes Civets)
Binturong (A. binturong)
Small-toothed palm civet
Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata)
Sulawesi palm civet
Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii)
Masked palm civet
Masked palm civet (P. larvata)
Golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus)
Asian palm civet
Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
Jerdon's palm civet (P. jerdoni)
Golden palm civet
Golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni)
Otter civet (C. bennettii)
Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (D. hosei)
Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus)
Banded linsang (P. linsang)
Spotted linsang (P. pardicolor)
African civet (C. civetta)
Abyssinian genet (G. abyssinica)
Angolan genet (G. angolensis)
Bourlon's genet (G. bourloni)
Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet (G. cristata)
Common genet (G. genetta)
Johnston's genet (G. johnstoni)
Rusty-spotted genet (G. maculata)
Pardine genet (G. pardina)
Aquatic genet (G. piscivora)
King genet (G. poensis)
Servaline genet (G. servalina)
Haussa genet (G. thierryi)
Cape genet (G. tigrina)
Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet (G. victoriae)
African linsang (P. richardsonii)
Leighton's linsang (P. leightoni)
Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet (V. civettina)
Large-spotted civet (V. megaspila)
Malayan civet (V. tangalunga)
Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet (V. zibetha)
Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet (V. indica)
Fossa (C. ferox)
Eastern falanouc (E. goudotii)
Western falanouc (E. major)
Malagasy civet (F. fossana)
Ring-tailed mongoose (G. elegans)
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose (G. fasciata)
Grandidier's mongoose (G. grandidieri)
Narrow-striped mongoose (M. decemlineata)
Brown-tailed mongoose (S. concolor)
Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)
Caniformia (cont. below)
Giant panda (A. melanoleuca)
Sun bear (H. malayanus)
Sloth bear (M. ursinus)
Spectacled bear (T. ornatus)
American black bear
American black bear (U. americanus)
Brown bear (U. arctos)
Polar bear (U. maritimus)
Asian black bear
Asian black bear (U. thibetanus)
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk (C. chinga)
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk (C. humboldtii)
American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk (C. leuconotus)
Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk (C. semistriatus)
Hooded skunk (M. macroura)
Striped skunk (M. mephitis)
Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger (M. javanensis)
Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger (M. marchei)
Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk (S. angustifrons)
Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk (S. gracilis)
Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk (S. putorius)
Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk (S. pygmaea)
Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo (B. alleni)
Northern olingo (B. gabbii)
Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo (B. medius)
Olinguito (B. neblina)
Ring-tailed cat (B. astutus)
Cacomistle (B. sumichrasti)
White-nosed coati (N. narica)
South American coati
South American coati (N. nasua)
Western mountain coati (N. olivacea)
Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)
Kinkajou (P. flavus)
Crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus)
Raccoon (P. lotor)
Cozumel raccoon (P. pygmaeus)
Red panda (A. fulgens)
Caniformia (cont. above)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)
South American fur seal
South American fur seal (A. australis)
Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri)
Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal (A. galapagoensis)
Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal (A. gazella)
Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal (A. philippii)
Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal (A. pusillus)
Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal (A. townsendi)
Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis)
Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal (C. ursinus)
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion (E. jubatus)
Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion (N. cinerea)
South American sea lion
South American sea lion (O. flavescens)
New Zealand sea lion
New Zealand sea lion (P. hookeri)
California sea lion
California sea lion (Z. californianus)
Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki)
Walrus (O. rosmarus)
Hooded seal (C. cristata)
Bearded seal (E. barbatus)
Gray seal (H. grypus)
Ribbon seal (H. fasciata)
Leopard seal (H. leptonyx)
Weddell seal (L. weddellii)
Crabeater seal (L. carcinophagus)
Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris)
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal (M. leonina)
Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus)
Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal (M. schauinslandi)
Ross seal (O. rossi)
Harp seal (P. groenlandicus)
Spotted seal (P. largha)
Harbor seal (P. vitulina)
Caspian seal (P. caspica)
Ringed seal (P. hispida)
Baikal seal (P. sibirica)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Canidae (includes dogs)
Short-eared dog (A. microtis)
Side-striped jackal (C. adustus)
African golden wolf
African golden wolf (C. anthus)
Golden jackal (C. aureus)
Coyote (C. latrans)
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)
Red wolf (C. rufus)
Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis)
Crab-eating fox (C. thous)
Maned wolf (C. brachyurus)
Dhole (C. alpinus)
Culpeo (L. culpaeus)
Darwin's fox (L. fulvipes)
South American gray fox
South American gray fox (L. griseus)
Pampas fox (L. gymnocercus)
Sechuran fox (L. sechurae)
Hoary fox (L. vetulus)
African wild dog
African wild dog (L. pictus)
Raccoon dog (N. procyonoides)
Bat-eared fox (O. megalotis)
Bush dog (S. venaticus)
Gray fox (U. cinereoargenteus)
Island fox (U. littoralis)
Bengal fox (V. bengalensis)
Blanford's fox (V. cana)
Cape fox (V. chama)
Corsac fox (V. corsac)
Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata)
Arctic fox (V. lagopus)
Kit fox (V. macrotis)
Pale fox (V. pallida)
Rüppell's fox (V. rueppelli)
Swift fox (V. velox)
Red fox (V. vulpes)
Fennec fox (V. zerda)
African clawless otter
African clawless otter (A. capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter (A. cinerea)
Sea otter (E. lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (H. maculicollis)
North American river otter
North American river otter (L. canadensis)
Marine otter (L. felina)
Neotropical otter (L. longicaudis)
Southern river otter
Southern river otter (L. provocax)
Eurasian otter (L. lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (L. sumatrana)
Smooth-coated otter (L. perspicillata)
Giant otter (P. brasiliensis)
Hog badger (A. collaris)
Tayra (E. barbara)
Lesser grison (G. cuja)
Greater grison (G. vittata)
Wolverine (G. gulo)
Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat (I. libyca)
Striped polecat (I. striatus)
Patagonian weasel (L. patagonicus)
American marten (M. americana)
Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
Beech marten (M. foina)
Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
European pine marten
European pine marten (M. martes)
Japanese marten (M. melampus)
Sable (M. zibellina)
Fisher (P. pennanti)
Japanese badger (M. anakuma)
Asian badger (M. leucurus)
European badger (M. meles)
Honey badger (M. capensis)
Bornean ferret-badger (M. everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (M. moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (M. orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (M. personata)
(Weasels and Ferrets)
Amazon weasel (M. africana)
Mountain weasel (M. altaica)
Stoat (M. erminea)
Steppe polecat (M. eversmannii)
Colombian weasel (M. felipei)
Long-tailed weasel (M. frenata)
Japanese weasel (M. itatsi)
Yellow-bellied weasel (M. kathiah)
European mink (M. lutreola)
Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel (M. lutreolina)
Black-footed ferret (M. nigripes)
Least weasel (M. nivalis)
Malayan weasel (M. nudipes)
European polecat (M. putorius)
Siberian weasel (M. sibirica)
Back-striped weasel (M. strigidorsa)
Egyptian weasel (M. subpalmata)
American mink (N. vison)
African striped weasel
African striped weasel (P. albinucha)
American badger (T. taxus)
Marbled polecat (V. peregusna)
BNF: cb159931426 (d