Size: 5 feet (1.5 m) in length, 100 to 130 lbs (45 to 59 kg).
Characteristics: Active by day.
Area: Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia.
Offspring: Up to eight cubs per litter.
· Unlike other big cats, the cheetah doesn’t roar, but it can bark, yelp and purr.
· “Cheetah” means “spotted one” in the Hindi language.
· Cheetahs have an enlarged heart, lungs and liver.
· The claws of a cheetah are only partially retractable.
· Egyptian pharaohs trained cheetahs to help them on hunting expeditions.
· Like other cats, cheetahs have regular scratching posts, such as specific trees.
Cheetahs are the fastest land mammals in the world over short distances, able to reach speeds of over sixty miles per hour in three seconds from a complete standstill. Male cheetahs live in groups of 2 to 4 cats, usually brothers from the same litter. A female often lives within the same range as her mother, but is solitary except when she has a litter of cubs. Cheetahs scan the area from a tree limb or a termite hill, then stalk a herd of gazelle, impala or antelope, outrunning one of the young, old or injured in a short burst of speed and bringing them down, first by tripping the prey and then clamping his jaws over the victim’s windpipe until it’s dead. The cheetah feeds on the prey quickly, before a hyena or lion can interrupt and take over the prey. Cheetahs never eat carrion or anything but fresh meat, so they leave behind whatever they can’t eat in one sitting.
The cheetah has been widely hunted for its fur, and became extinct in India in the mid-20th century. In the rest of its range, the cheetah is considered endangered and is fully protected, although trophy hunting is permitted in three African countries. In Africa, the country of Namibia has the largest population of cheetahs in the world, being home to nearly 2,000, or one-sixth of the world's remaining cheetahs. These numbers are greatly reduced, with farmers having killed 7,000 cheetahs in Namibia over the last decade because of their predation on domestic livestock. The reduced numbers of cheetahs leads to another serious problem—inbreeding decreases their immunity to disease.
Mating season is year round, and males and females only socialize when they’re ready to mate. Afterwards, the male leaves the female and provides no help in raising the cubs. The female is pregnant for a three-month period. The cubs are born helpless, with their eyes closed, but can walk and see within two weeks. The mother needs to leave the cubs alone when she goes to hunt, so she moves the nest on a daily basis. While the mother is away, the cubs are susceptible to attacks by hyenas and lions. Survival rate among cubs is low—predators kill 73%, and 12% die of disease or starvation. The cubs can follow their mothers on a hunt at six weeks and by the age of six months, the mother will bring them live prey to practice with. Female cubs leave the family first at about eighteen months of age, then the males leave together in a group. Wild cheetahs live an average of six to fourteen years in the wild and ten to twenty years in captivity.