Acinonyx jubatus
Population size
Life Span
10-20 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
cm inch 
cm inch 

The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran. It is the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 80 to 128 km/h (50 to 80 mph) with the fastest reliably recorded speeds being 93 and 98 km/h (58 and 61 mph). It has several adaptations for speed, including a light build, long thin legs and a long tail. In the past, cheetahs were tamed and trained for hunting ungulates. They have been widely depicted in art, literature, advertising, and animation.


The cheetah is a large cat identified by black marks (so-called "tear marks"), running down from the inner eye along the nose to the outside of the mouth. This feline is an extremely agile animal, having powerful hind legs and a very flexible, muscular spine. The body is long and slender, covered with coarse yellowish fur with small black markings. The tail is spotted with ringed markings, having a black tip on its end. In addition, the tail is quite long, helping the cheetah to keep balance and change direction. The head is small and the eyes are set high, which help them find potential prey in the grasslands. The claws of a cheetah are non-retractable; they dig their claws into the ground, which enhances their grip at high speed.




Cheetahs are distributed over eastern and southern Africa as well as in the Middle East. They typically inhabit grasslands and savannas but may also be found in various habitats such as mountainous areas and valleys. In order to hide from predators, these animals prefer an environment with lush vegetation such as tall grass or bushes.

Cheetah habitat map

Climate zones

Cheetah habitat map
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Habits and Lifestyle

Unlike other large African predators such as lions or hyenas, cheetahs are most active during the day; this way they avoid competition for food with these animals. Cheetahs live in three main social groups: females and their cubs, male "coalitions", and solitary males. Females lead a nomadic life searching for prey in large home ranges, while males are more sedentary and instead establish much smaller territories in areas with plentiful prey and access to females. The home range of a cheetah can cover a large territory, sometimes overlapping with that of another cheetah or a lion. Hunting is the major activity of cheetahs throughout the day, with peaks during dawn and dusk. Groups rest in grassy clearings after dusk. Cheetahs often inspect their vicinity at observation points such as elevations to check for prey or larger carnivores; even while resting, they take turns keeping a lookout. When hunting cheetahs use their vision instead of their sense of smell; they keep a lookout for prey from resting sites or low branches. They will stalk their prey, trying to stay unnoticed in cover, and approach as close as possible, often within 60 to 70 m (200 to 230 ft) of the prey. They can also lie hidden in the cover and wait for the prey to come nearer. In areas of minimal cover, cheetahs will approach within 200 m (660 ft) of the prey and start the chase. These spotted felids are very vocal and have a broad repertoire of calls and sounds such as chirps (or a "stutter-barks"), churrs (or churtlings), purring, bleating, coughing, growling, hissing, meowing and moaning (or yowling). Other vocalizations include gurgling noise, "nyam nyam" sound "ihn ihn" sound to gather cubs, and a "prr prr" to guide them on a journey. A low-pitched alarm call is used to warn the cubs to stand still.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Cheetahs are carnivores. They feed mainly upon gazelles while small and medium-sized ungulates such as impalas are a good complement to their usual diet. When there is a shortage of suitable food, they can also consume small species such as hares or birds.

Mating Habits

3 months
2-5 cubs
1.5-2 years

Cheetahs have a polygynous mating system, where a male mates with multiple females. In addition, male cheetahs associate with females only for mating and do not provide parental care. These animals breed all year round. The period of gestation lasts about three months, after which 2-5 cubs are born. Newborn babies are blind, being completely vulnerable. Over the following few months, the cubs are breastfed until they start eating meat. Soon the young start to accompany their mother during the hunt in order to watch and learn hunting skills. Also, they learn hunting techniques while playing with their siblings. The cubs live with their mother until they are able to hunt independently. Then, between the age of 18 months and 2 years, they leave to find their own territory. Female cheetahs reach reproductive maturity at 21-22 months old.


Population threats

The major threats to the cheetah population include diseases, habitat loss, hunting, and direct persecution. These animals are persecuted by farmers due to being predators, and hunting livestock. The development of tourism in the areas of their habitat can become another serious threat: tourist vehicles can drive the cheetahs away from their kills and separate cubs from their mother. The cheetahs are known to have extremely low genetic variation, which makes the survival of this species even more difficult.

Population number

The global population of cheetahs is currently decreasing, and on the IUCN Red List, the species is classified as Vulnerable (VU). The cheetah population in Africa is around 6,674 mature individuals. In addition, about 60-100 cheetahs live in small isolated populations in Iran.

Ecological niche

Due to being predators, cheetahs control populations of prey species they feed upon. Otherwise, populations of these animals could become so large, that they would break down the whole food web, eating all the vegetation in the area and ruining the soil. On the other hand, cheetahs hunt on weak or sick animals, thus not allowing weaker genes to pass to the next generations and maintaining the health of prey species.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • These cats can't roar, but they can purr like domestic cats, on inhale and exhale.
  • Cheetah is an Indian word, which means "spotted one".
  • Among land animals, the cheetah is the fastest. It takes the animal only 3 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h!
  • The tail of a cheetah acts like a boat rudder, helping the animal to steer when running.
  • Cheetahs use facial expressions to show their mood.
  • This is the only big cat that is able to turn in the air when sprinting.

Coloring Pages


1. Cheetah Wikipedia article -
2. Cheetah on The IUCN Red List site -

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