Cheetahs: The Fastest Land Animals

 

Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are members of the large cat family, which includes tigers, jaguars, lions, leopards, snow leopards, and pumas. They are known as the fastest land creatures. According to the book “Cheetahs: Biology and Conservation,” their name originates from the Hindi word “chita,” which means “spotted one”.

Cheetahs are powerful predators with aerodynamic bodies, long legs, and blunt, semi-retractable claws, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. They can sprint at speeds of up to 60 to 70 mph (96 to 112 km/h).

Cheetahs are 2.5 feet (0.8 meters) tall at the shoulder and up to nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters) long from head to rump, with their tails adding another 26 to 33 inches to their height (66 to 84 centimeters). According to the Smithsonian, these huge cats often weigh between 75 and 140 pounds (34 to 64 kilograms).

These enormous felines are the fastest land creatures on the planet.

Cheetahs have black spots spread over their tan coats, similar to leopards and jaguars. While the spots on leopards and jaguars are arranged in rosette patterns, the spots on cheetahs are solid, equal in size, and uniformly dispersed over the body. When resting, hunting for ffood, or hiding from predators, cheetahs’ spotted coats help them blend in with their surroundings. These marks are unique to each cat, much like a human fingerprint.

Cheetahs’ faces also have distinctive black “tear marks” that run from the inner corner of each eye down to the mouth.

According to the San Diego Zoo, cheetahs’ long, thin bodies, powerful legs, and flexible spine allow them to fully extend their bodies when running and covering substantial territory — roughly 20 to 22 feet (6 to 6.7 m) every stride. Cheetahs have been reported to speed from 0 to 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour) in less than 2.5 seconds. According to Consumer Reports, the fastest cars in the world can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 3.5 seconds.

Cheetahs have a long tail that offsets their body weight, allowing them to turn quickly even in mid-air. Their semi-retractable claws, which resemble those of a dog rather than a cat, give excellent traction during sprints and rapid changes in direction.

Cheetahs are found throughout Africa and Asia, however the Asiatic cheetah has nearly disappeared. The giant cats are mostly found in North Africa, the Sahel (the region between the Sahara Desert and the Sudanian savanna), eastern Africa (Kenya and Tanzania), and southern Africa, according to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) (Namibia and Botswana). They also have a tiny population in Iran, where they are critically endangered.

Male cheetahs usually dwell in tiny groups called “coalitions,” which are made up of male cheetah siblings. Female cheetahs usually live alone or with their pups. Females only interact with males when they are attempting to mate, and they raise their children on their own.

Cheetahs have a three-month gestation cycle, and litter sizes range from three to five cubs, according to the San Diego Zoo. When cheetah cubs are born, they weigh between 5 and 10 ounces (140 to 280 grams) – not much more than newborn housecats, who weigh 3 to 4 ounces (90 to 110 g). All of the markings, as well as mane-like hair on the neck and shoulders, are present when the cubs are born. However, when the cubs get older, these so-called “mantles” fade away.