The cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is the fastest living land mammal on earth today. But it is not strongest of the big cats. Cheetahs usually take on medium sized to smaller prey animals. It is smaller than the tiger or a lion but taller than the leopard.
Cougar and jaguarundi are the closest cousins of cheetah. Cheetah had separated from its cousins around 8.7 million years ago.
Adult cheetahs measure 112–150 cm (44–59 in) in the head-body length with the shoulder height reaching at 70–90 cm (28–35 in). Cheetah weighs 21–72 kilograms (46–159 lb).
Cheetahs can run at an amazing speed of 80 to 112 km/h (50 to 70 mph) but they have short stamina. They can maintain this much speed for as long as 20 – 25 seconds. The normal speed at which the cheetah hunts is estimated at 64 km/h (40 mph). The walking speed is 3–4 km/h (1.9–2.5 mph).
They like to hunt medium size prey. Cheetah diet includes reedbuck, duiker, hartebeest, antelope, nyala, Grant’s gazelle, Thomson’s gazelle, bushbuck, steenbok, springbok, ibex, rodents, desert hare, chinkara, gemsbok, kudu, wildebeest, bat-eared fox, and ostrich.
Cheetahs have yellowish tan coat with 2,000 black spots on its body.
They make habitats in scrub forests, savannas, and dry forests. Cheetahs do not live in deserts or tropical forests.
They are nocturnal animals. Cheetahs hunt during the day because other big predators such as lions, leopards, and tigers hunt at night and cheetah avoids them all. However they can become active in the early hours of sunset.
Cheetahs are probably the only big cats that live in groups. They are highly social animals. One group however mostly avoids the other.
Unlike females, male cheetahs are highly territorial species. Cheetahs have a range of different sounds such as growling, yowling, hissing, moans, stutter-barking, chirping, churring or prr prr.
The female produces 3 – 5 cubs but she can lay as many as nine cubs at a time. Cheetah cubs weigh 150–400 g (5.3–14.1 oz) at birth.
Female cheetahs can live 14 – 15 years in the wild whereas males have a lifespan of 10 years.