Fascinating Facts: Cheetah

An ode to the fastest mammal on earth

The fastest mammal in the world. © Adobe Stock

Cheetahs are one of the oldest and most unique big cats in Africa. Historically, they were found throughout Africa from South Africa all the way to India. Today, cheetah populations have declined by 90% and are extinct in 30 of their former home ranges. The largest population of cheetah can be found in Namibia, home to 1/3 of the total population of cheetahs left in the world! Loss of habitat and prey are the biggest threat to cheetah.
Learn more about these fascinating cats and spread the word to help save cheetahs. 

1. Female cheetahs call the shots and are one of the few species where females chose their mates.

2. Cheetahs differ from other large cats in that they are the only big cats that purr and  have poor night vision.

3. The black tear marks on the cheetah’s face help block sunlight from reflecting into its eyes when chasing prey.

4. Cheetahs can reach speeds of 110km/h, taking three strides every second. They are the fastest land mammals in the world.

One third of the world’s cheetah population can be found in Namibia. © Yvan Musy

5. Cheetahs have deep set chests to accommodate their large lungs and heart, which power their sprinting capabilities. They also have aerodynamic nostrils to maximise flow of air through their boddies while running.

6. A cheetah’s long tail helps to counterbalance the animal when it has to change direction quickly.

7. Cheetahs are accomplished stalkers, they operate in open areas and will try to get within 100 meters of their target before chasing. Cheetahs will only pursue for a short time and once a kill is made they often have to rest before feeding.

8. Cheetah do not roar but make bird-like sounds when the communicate.

Cheetah are not good climbers but use higher vantage points to search for prey when they can. © Adobe Stock

9. Cheetahs are not as social as lions but do live in family groups, females with their cubs and males in coalitions to protect territory .

10. Cheetah normally prey on smaller game rather than larger species such as buffalo and hippo. This is because they are build for speed rather than strength.

11. Adult cheetahs only live for 10 to 12 years in the wild.

Cheetah on the hunt. © Jonathan Smith

12. The genus name Acinonyx means ‘no-move-claw’ in Greek. Cheetahs have semi-retractable claws that help with traction on the ground when running.

13. Cheetahs are more than 99 percent genetically identical.

14. Cheetah ‘newspaper trees’ are spots where cheetahs leave their markings to communicate with each other.

Cheetah cubs with a mantle of grey fur to mimic other predators that will deter larger ones. © Adobe Stock

15. Cheetah cubs have longer grey fur along the tops of their backs that mimic the honey badger and other predators. This is to protect them from being attacked by larger predators.

Game Ranger in my BackPack by Megan Emmett and Sean Patrick