CheetahA cheetah in KenyaA running cheetahThe range of the cheetah
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Cheetah

The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is an atypical member of the cat family (Felidae) that hunts by speed rather than by stealth or pack tactics. It is the fastest of all terrestrial animals and can reach speeds of up to 100 km/h (62 mph) in short bursts. more...

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Description

The cheetah's body is svelte and muscular, though it seems slender and almost fragile in build. Its chest is deep and its waist narrow. It has a small head and short muzzle, high-placed eyes, large nostrils for large oxygen intake, and small round ears. The fur of the cheetah is yellow with round black spots which help to camouflage it and black tear lines on the sides of the muzzle. The adult animal weighs from 40 to 65 kg (90 to 140 lb). Its total body length is from 112 to 135 cm (45 in to 55 in), while the tail can measure up to 84 cm (33 in).

Cheetahs also have a rare fur pattern mutation, and cheetahs with larger, blotchy, merged spots are known as 'King Cheetahs'. It was once thought to be a separate sub-species, but it is merely a mutation of the African Cheetah. A 'King Cheetah' has only been seen in the wild a handful of times, but they have been bred in captivity (see below).

Cheetahs are not true big cats, as they can purr as they inhale, but cannot roar. By contrast, lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars can roar but cannot purr, except while exhaling. However, cheetahs are still considered by many to be the smallest of the big cats. The cheetah is often mistaken for a leopard. Its distinguishing marks are the long tear-drop shaped lines on each side of the nose from the corner of its eyes to its mouth. The cheetah also has a very different body frame from the leopard, including its thin and extra long tail. The cheetah’s coat is tan, or buff colored, with black spots measuring from ¾ to 1 ¼ inches across. There are no spots on its white belly, and the tail has spots which merge to form four to six dark rings at the end. The cheetah's tail usually ends in a bushy white tuft. Male cheetahs are slightly larger than females and have a slightly bigger head, but it is difficult to tell males and females apart by appearance alone. The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Out of all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments. They have always proved difficult to breed in captivity, but recently a few zoos have been successful. Once widely shot for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from the loss of both habitat and prey. The cheetah is the most primitive of all cats, evolving approximately 18 million years ago. The cheetah has lions and hyenas as natural enemies. The cheetah's paws have only semi-retractable claws, the only of its type amongst the species of cat, and offer the cat extra grip in its high-speed pursuits.

Read more at Wikipedia.org


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