Sydney Zoo | Cheetah
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Cheetah

Cheetah

Species Acinonyx jubatus
Cheetah
Cheetah Distribution MapDistribution
Cheetah
Top speed
120km/h in short bursts
Height
77 centimetres (shoulder height)
Lifespan
10-12 years
Weight
34-54kg

The cheetah is the fastest land animal in the world. They can reach a top speed of around 120km/h (or up to 75 mph) and can reach speeds of 95mk/h (or 60 mph) in three seconds. They are extremely fast however they tire quickly and can only keep up their top speed for a few minutes before they are too tired to continue. Due to their speed, the average time it takes a cheetah to catch its prey is about 20 seconds and they can sprint a distance of up 5,500 meters. They normally stalk their prey until they are about 20 feet away.

Cheetahs are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They have poor night vision and will hunt predominantly in the early morning and late afternoon when there is light but low sun.

They use their sight rather than smell and will hide behind things like trees, bushes and termite mounds to scope out their prey without being detected. Once spotted they will use the tall grass of the savannah to silently approach their prey.

Cheetahs do not have large teeth like most big cats and this allows for more room in the skull for large nasal passages, which, along with a large heart and lungs, facilitate efficient air intake during the cheetah's powerful sprints. For this reason they do not stand up against the likes of other predators such as Lions or Hyenas. They will often drag their prey into hiding when possible to protect it from scavengers, but will often lose it to larger predators.

Cheetahs have a large chest, narrow waist, long thin legs, and a slim well muscled build made for speed. Their tail counters their body weight and acts as a rudder which helps them make sharp turns. They are well known for their spots, which help camouflage and the teardrop black lines running from their eyes to their mouth helps to protect their eyes from the sun. 

Cheetahs are found across Africa, scattered across northern, eastern and South Africa. Namibia is home to the largest population of Cheetah at about 2,500 cats, but a small critically endangered population can be found in Iran.

Less than 7,000 of them remain in the wild and they are listed as vulnerable according to the IUCN.

Conservation Status

Did You Know?

One way to always recognise a cheetah is by the long, black lines which run from the inside of each eye to the mouth. These are usually called “tear lines” and scientists believe they help protect the cheetah’s eyes from the harsh sun and help them to see long distances.