Get ready to meet one seriously fierce, fast and fur-ocious feline with these fascinating cheetah facts!
1) Nearly all wild cheetahs can be found in sub-Saharan Africa, where they roam open, grassy savannah plains and open forests. A small population lives in northeastern Iran, although only a few dozen remain here.
2) These big cats’ bodies grow to between 1.1m and 1.4m metres long, plus a tail measuring 65cm to 80cm. Their weight ranges from 34kg to 54kg, males being slightly heavier.
3) Cheetahs have a pale yellow coat with black dots on the upper parts, and are white on the underbelly. Their faces are distinguished by prominent, black lines that curve from the inner corner of each eye to the outer corners of the mouth.
4) The fastest land animal in the world, a cheetah can reach 112km/h in just three seconds – that’s faster than a sports car accelerates! Its body has evolved for speed, with long legs, an elongated spine, adapted claws to grip the ground and a long tail for balance.
5) Cheetahs are carnivores and live off other animals they find on Africa’s plains, including rabbits, warthogs, springboks, gazelles and birds.
6) These fierce felines hunt during the day to avoid competition from other powerful predators such as lions, hyenas and leopards. And boy, can they hunt! First, they use their exceptional eyesight to scan their surroundings before quietly stalking their chosen prey. Then, when the time is right, they sprint from cover, knock down their victim and kill it with a bite to the throat.
7) As sprinting at such mega speeds uses a lot of energy, a cheetah chase is usually limited to 200-300m, and lasts less than a minute.
8) Social animals, cheetahs are usually found in groups, consisting of either a mother and her young, siblings (who stay together for around six months after leaving the mother) or a coalition of males who live and hunt together. Adult females, however, tend to be solitary and only meet with males to mate.
9) Females usually give birth to between two to eight cubs at a time. She nurses her youngsters in a lair hidden by tall vegetation, until they are 16 to 24 months old and able look after themselves.
10) Sadly, this beautiful animal is threatened by loss of habitat and prey, as well as conflict with humans. As a result, the cheetah is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list, and, today, an estimated 9,000-12,000 remain in Africa.