The cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds of up to 120km/h (74mph).
One stride covers from 6 – 9 metres (19 – 29ft).
It can cover 28m (91ft) in one second.
The scientific name for cheetah is Acinonyx jubatus – Acinonyx meaning ‘non-moving claws’ referring to the non retractable claws and jubatus, which means maned, referring to the mantle on a young cheetahs back.
How does the cheetah keep it’s balance when turning at high speed? ________
To stop abruptly the cheetah has a pointed pad in the back of each front leg, which it slams into the ground to bring it to an abrupt stop.
Feet and Claws:
Cheetah’s foot pads are hard and less rounded than other cats; they act like tyre treads giving them better grip in fast turns.
The short blunt claws act like spikes on running shoes, they grip the ground for better traction when running for increased speed.
The dewclaws are located on the upper inside area of the foot and the cheetah uses these to hook and hold prey.
Body length: 112 – 135cm
Tail length: 66 – 84cm
Weight: 34 – 60kg
The cheetah’s long muscular tail acts like a rudder, giving it balance when it turns at high speed during a chase.
Cheetahs have been around for ages, and in the days of pharaohs, they were used for hunting. It is said that one pharaoh had a stable of 1000 cheetahs.
The king cheetah, once thought to be a separate species used to be named Acinonyx Jubatus Rex (Rex meaning king). The discovery that the King cheetah is in fact Acinonyx Jubatus, a true cheetah species, was made at De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in 1981.
Over the years, breeding cheetah in captivity had not been very successful, in 1975; Ann van Dyk of the De Wildt Cheetah Centre had a major breakthrough with 29 cubs being born that year. By 2009 the Centre has bred over 800 cubs.
Cheetah Geographical Status and Numbers
Cheetahs were once found throughout Africa.
Today they are only found in the areas marked in red.
Numbers have dwindled from 100 000 at the turn of the century to only approximately 15 000 today.
Numbers in South Africa are estimated at less than 1000 and this is calculated as follows:
Captive population - 250
Animals in protected areas - 350
(Eg., Kruger National Park and other reserves)
Free-roaming population - +/- 250 – 500
Did You Know?
Only about 60 percent of cheetah cubs born survive their first year.
The call of the cheetah is known as a chirp and sounds very much like a sparrow; however this sound can carry for up to 2kms (1.2 miles).
The king cheetah is a variant which is the result of a recessive gene carried by both parents. This variation is seen in the coat markings which have stripes down the back of the cheetah and spots which run into lozenge shaped blotches.
Cheetah cubs are born with a mantle of light smoky coloured hair which extends from between the ears to the base of the tail, and they only lose this at the age of three months.
The dew claw, which sits slightly higher up on the inside of the front foot is used as a hunting tool to hook into and hold prey.
Cheetahs have binocular vision and can see up to 5kms (3 miles) away.