Fact Sheet
Cheetah

Basic Facts About Cheetahs

The fastest land animal in the world, the cheetah is a marvel of evolution. The cheetah's slender, long-legged body is built for speed. Cheetahs are tan in color with black spots all over their bodies. They can also be distinguished from other big cats by their smaller size, spotted coats, small heads and ears and distinctive "tear stripes" that stretch from the corner of the eye to the side of the nose.
Cheetah, © Cindi Maudlin
© Cindi Maudlin

Diet

Cheetahs eat mainly gazelles, wildebeest calves, impalas and smaller hoofed animals.

Population

Did You Know?

When cheetahs are running, they use their tails to help them steer and turn in the direction they want to go, like the rudder of a boat.

In 1900, there were over 100,000 cheetahs across their historic range. Today, an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs remain in the wild in Africa. In Iran, there are around 200 cheetahs living in small isolated populations.

Range

Historically cheetahs were found throughout Africa and Asia from South Africa to India. They are now confined to parts of eastern, central and southwestern Africa and a small portion of Iran.

Behavior

Found mostly in open and partially open savannah, cheetahs rely on tall grasses for camouflage when hunting. They are diurnal (more active in the day) animals and hunt mostly during the late morning or early evening. Only half of the chases, which last from 20 - 60 seconds, are successful.

Did You Know?

Unlike other big cats, cheetahs cannot roar. However, they can purr on both inhale and exhale, like domestic cats!

Cheetahs knock their prey to the ground and kill with a suffocating bite to the neck. They must eat quickly before they lose the kills to other bigger or more aggressive carnivores.

Cheetahs are also typically solitary animals. While males sometimes live with a small group of brothers from the same litter, females generally raise cubs by themselves for about a year.

Reproduction

Mating Season: Throughout the year.
Gestation: Around 3 months.
Litter size: 2-4 cubs 

Cubs are smoky in color with long, woolly hair – called a mantle – running down their backs. This mantle is thought to camouflage cubs in grass, concealing them from predators. Mothers move cubs to new hiding places every few days. At 5 - 6 weeks, cubs follow the mother and begin eating from their kills.

More on Cheetah: Threats to Cheetahs »

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[T]hose who also care about the survival of the greatest wild cats, dogs and wolves of the world hope that The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act will pass in the Senate in 2010.