Cheetah | WWF
© WWF / John E. NEWBY


Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Republic Of South Africa.


Cheetah (<i>Acinonyx jubatus</i>), Republic Of South Africa. rel= © WWF / John E. NEWBY

The World's Fastest Land mammal

The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is naturally found in the open grasslands of eastern and southwestern Africa. It is a long, lanky cat with a yellow-grey fur spotted with dark dots. The word cheetah comes from the Sanskrit word 'chitraka' meaning 'the spotted one'.

Bursts of high speed give the cheetah an enormous advantage as a predator. Its slender, long-legged body is adapted to enable it to reach high speeds. The cheetah is smaller, leaner than other big cats, measuring 44 to 53 inches long with a tail length of 26 to 33 inches. Cheetahs usually weigh 50-64 kg (110-140 lb). The head is small with eyes set high and a black 'tear mark' running from the inner aspect of each eye down to the mouth.

The cheetah is the world's fastest land mammal, and the most unique and specialized member of the cat family. It can achieve a speed of 96 kph (60 mph) per hour in just 3 seconds. These nimble cats are extremely agile and can make swift, sudden turns in pursuit of prey.

Cheetahs are diurnal hunters and use their distinctive spotted coats to blend with the high grasses. The chase is usually over in less than a minute, after which the cheetah drags its prey to a shady corner to devour its meal.

Your chances of seeing it in the wild
The cheetah is endangered throughout its range due to loss of habitat, reduced prey and direct persecution. It can be seen in Serengeti National Park, Masai Mara National Reserve, Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia etc. It is listed as ‘vulnerable’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.