The cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal – with acceleration that would leave most cars in the dust, a cheetah can go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds. These big cats are quite nimble at high speed and can make quick and sudden turns in pursuit of prey.
Before unleashing their speed, cheetahs use their exceptionally keen eyesight to scan their grassland environment for signs of prey—especially antelope and hares. Our cheetah is a daylight hunter that benefits from stealthy movement and a distinctive spotted coat that allows it to blend easily into high, dry grasses.
When the moment is right, cheetahs will sprint after its prey and attempt to bring it down. Such chases take a large amount of energy and are usually over in less than a minute. If successful, the cheetah will often drag its kill to a shady hiding place to protect it from opportunistic animals that sometimes steal a kill before the cheetah can eat. Cheetahs need only drink once every three to four days.
Female cheetahs typically have a litter of three cubs and live with them for one and a half to two years. Young cubs spend their first year learning from their mother and practicing hunting techniques with playful games. Male cheetahs live alone or in small groups, often with their littermates.
Most wild cheetahs are found in eastern and southwestern Africa. It thought that only 7,000 to 10,000 remain, and these are under pressure as the wide-open grasslands they favour are disappearing because of man.
- Average life span in the wild – 10 to 12 years
- Size – 3.5 to 4.5 ft
- Weight – 77 to 143 lbs
- Protection status – vulnerable