The cheetah is world famous as the fastest animal. The speed of his run can reach 110 km/h, and he develops this speed faster than any car. Other animals might think that it is pointless for them to run away at the sight of a cheetah, because if he wants to, he will definitely catch up. But that’s not really true.

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Photo: Cheetah

Photo: Cheetah

Cheetah — This is a well-known predator from the cat family. It belongs to the genus of cheetahs. Previously, there was a species diversity of these animals, and even a separate subfamily stood out. The reason can be explained by the similar structure of cheetahs with both cats and dogs, which really justified the selected subfamily. But later, at the molecular genetic level, it was proved that cheetahs are very close to cougars, and therefore, together with them, they belong to the subfamily of small cats.

There are several subspecies of cheetahs. They differ in appearance, mainly in color, and also live in different territories. Four of them live in Africa, in its different parts, and one in Asia. Previously, more subspecies were identified, but with the development of science, detailed analyzes and studies turned out that the species is the same, and the differences are caused by a small mutation.

Cheetahs — small, predatory cats. The weight of an adult is from 35 to 70 kg. The most interesting thing about them — it is, of course, color. It is brighter in cheetahs than in any representatives of the spotted ones. In addition, some subspecies differ in color.

Appearance and features

Photo: Cheetah Cat

Photo: Cheetah cat

The body of cheetahs is about 120-140 cm long and very slender. The height of the animal reaches 90 cm at the withers. The body is so powerful that it is fashionable to recognize its muscles through the wool. The cheetah has practically no fat, but in its habitat it does well without reserves.

The head is small, even slightly out of proportion to the body. It is slightly flattened and elongated. Rounded small ears are located on the sides from above. They practically don’t show up. The eyes are set high, round, directed forward. The nostrils are wide, making it possible to absorb a large amount of air at once, which plays a role in the ability to instantly accelerate. The teeth, on the contrary, are small compared to their closest relatives.

The cheetah’s limbs are long and very strong, in just three seconds it can reach speeds of up to 100 km/h. The claws on the paws are half retracted, which distinguishes the cheetah from other predatory cats. The fingers are short, and the pads on them are harder and denser, which also plays a role in high-speed running.

The tail is long and thick, about 60-80 cm long. The length depends on the size of the individual itself. You can also recognize a cheetah by it, other spotted ones do not have such a massive tail. The tail is an extension of the very flexible spine and serves as a lever for manoeuvres. It allows you to make sharp turns, jumps and other body movements.

Males are slightly more massive than females and have a slightly larger head. Sometimes this can not be noticed, since the difference is minimal. Also, some males boast a small mane. The fur is short, relatively thin, solid, but does not completely cover the belly.

Video: Cheetah

The color is contrasting, sandy with black round spots. The spots are about 3 cm in diameter. They cover the entire body of the cheetah. In some places, the spots may coalesce and form stripes. On the muzzle, the spots are small, and from the eyes to the jaws there are clear black stripes, which are called «tear streaks». Experts say that they help the cheetah focus on the prey, and use them as an aiming element.

According to the excellent color, the royal cheetah is distinguished. Previously, it was considered a separate subspecies, but later scientists found out that this was just a color mutation. On the back of these cheetahs, instead of spots, there are stripes, and also on the tail there are transverse thick black rings. In order for the cub to inherit this color, it is necessary to cross a female and a male with the corresponding recessive genes. Therefore, the king cheetah is a rarity in nature.

There are other mutations in the coloration of cheetahs. Black cheetahs are known, this type of mutation is called melanism, black spots are barely visible on a black woolen background. There are albino cheetahs. As well as the famous red cheetahs, their skin is brown, reddish, fiery. Their color is simply unusual and pushes specialists to a more detailed study of such deviations.

Where does the cheetah live?

Photo: Animal Cheetah

Photo: Animal Cheetah

The cheetah lives on the African continent and only one subspecies has survived in Asia. A certain subspecies of the cheetah is distributed in different parts of Africa:

  • Northwest Africa (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger, including Sahara) inhabits the subspecies Acinonyx Jubatus hecki.
  • The eastern part of the continent (Kenya, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Ethiopia) belongs to the subspecies Acinonyx Jubatus raineyii.
  • Acinonyx Jubatus soemmeringii lives in central Africa (Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Chad, CAR).
  • The southern part of the mainland (Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa) is Acinonyx Jubatus Jubatus.

Outside of Africa, one very small subspecies survives in Iran and has also been seen in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is called the Asian subspecies of the cheetah, scientific name — Acinonyx Jubatus venaticus.

Cheetahs live exclusively in open flat spaces, there is where to scatter. It has to do with the way they hunt. These cats are completely unadapted to climbing trees, the structure of paws and claws does not provide for this. The arid climate does not scare them; on the contrary, these animals prefer savannahs and deserts. Sometimes I can take a nap under the bushes.

What does a cheetah eat?

Photo: Cheetah Red Book

Photo: Cheetah Red Book

Cheetahs are famous predators and hunters. The basis of their diet is made up of ungulates comparable in size to them, whether they are gazelles, wildebeest cubs, goitered gazelles, or impalas. Thomson’s gazelle becomes a very frequent prey for cheetahs. If there are none within sight, then cheetahs will set their eyes on someone smaller, such as hares, or warthogs.

Cheetahs hunt according to a special principle than other cats. They do not hide or disguise themselves from their potential prey. They neatly and calmly approach a short distance of up to ten meters. Then comes a series of powerful jumps with tremendous acceleration and the beast jumps on prey. Hitting her with his paws, he strangles her with his jaws. If he does not catch up with prey for any reason in the first few seconds of an intense chase, then he abruptly stops it. Such muscular work exhausts him greatly, the heart and lungs cannot supply oxygen to the blood so quickly for a long time.

It is interesting to note that he is usually not able to start eating at all immediately after the defeat of an edible animal. After sudden muscle movements during acceleration, he needs some time to restore breathing and calm down. But other predators at this time can easily approach his prey and pick it up or start eating right on the spot.

And since all the predatory cats living in the neighborhood are stronger than himself, he is not even able to stand up for his dinner. Hyenas or birds of prey can also gut the caught prey. The cheetah himself never does this. He eats only the prey that he caught himself, and completely neglects carrion.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Cheetah

Photo: Cheetah

The life span of cheetahs is approximately 12 to 20 years. Rare cases of life up to 25 years old have been registered, but, as a rule, this happens extremely rarely. The animal prefers to hunt from early morning or closer to dusk. The intense heat of the day is exhausting in itself. Both male and female cheetahs hunt. Both alone.

Although the cheetah is very famous for its speed and powerful long jumps, it can only make five of them — eight seconds. Then he fizzles out and he needs a break, and a thorough one. Often because of this, he loses his prey, crouching for half an hour.

Thus, his days are spent in short intense hunting and long passive rest. Prominent muscles on the body, powerful legs do not make him a strong predator, on the contrary, he is the weakest of his closest relatives of cats. Therefore, cheetahs have a hard time in nature, and their numbers have declined significantly over the past centuries.

Man, however, found their use in his time in hunting. In the ancient and middle ages, the princes kept whole, so-called cheetahs, at court. Going out hunting, they took out blindfolded animals on horseback near the hoofed herd. There they opened their eyes and waited for them to overwhelm them with game. Tired animals were loaded back onto the mares, and the prey was taken for themselves. Of course, they were fed at court.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Cheetah kitten

Photo: Cheetah kitten

Cheetahs are solitary animals, especially females. During the rut, males, usually related by kinship, will unite in a small group of up to 4-5 individuals. They mark out a territory for themselves, where there are females with whom they will mate and protect males from other groups from encroachments. Communication between individuals is expressed by purring and licking each other.

The seasonality of the mating season is weakly expressed, usually cubs appear all year round. Unless in the southern regions it is more confined to the period from November to March, and in the northernmost regions, on the contrary, from March to September. But that’s just statistical. The period of bearing offspring in female cheetahs takes about three months. A minimum of two, a maximum of six cubs are born, just like an ordinary domestic cat. The weight of a newborn cheetah is from 150 to 300 grams, depending on their number in the offspring. The more babies, the less they weigh. Unfortunately, half of them soon die, as their survival rate is poor.

The cubs are blind at birth and helpless. They need constant maternal care. Males do not take part in the upbringing of offspring, but immediately after mating are removed. In the second week of life, babies open their eyes and begin to learn to walk. Spots in kittens are almost indistinguishable, appear later, while they have gray fur. It is long and soft, they even have a semblance of a mane and a tassel on the tail. Later, the first fur falls off, and a spotted skin takes its place. By four months, the cubs become similar to adults, only smaller in size.

The lactation period lasts up to eight months. The younger generation begins to hunt independently only by the age of one. All this time they are near their mother, who feeds them, and learn adult life from her, parodying and playing.

Natural enemies of the cheetah

Photo: Animal Cheetah

Photo: Animal Cheetah

Cheetahs have a hard time in the wild , these predators have many enemies among other predators living side by side with them. They not only eat their prey, depriving them of regular food, but also encroach on their offspring.

Cheetah cubs are endangered everywhere. The mother brings them up alone and is not able to watch them every minute. After all, it is necessary to get food for yourself and the growing kittens. At this time, lions, hyenas, leopards can attack them.

These predators sometimes attack not only cubs, but from hunger they can attack an adult. Exceeding the cheetah in strength and size, they kill the animal.

Birds of prey are also dangerous — they can easily grab a kitten right on the fly and carry it away. The most uncompromising enemy of the cheetah — human. If he wanted to kill him and skin him, he would definitely do it. Fur is very valuable in the market, used for fashion accessories, clothing and interiors. There are still hunters killing these rare animals.

Population and species status

Photo: Cheetahs from the Red Book

Photo: Cheetahs from the Red Book

Cheetahs have become very rare. Only scientists can appreciate the seriousness of the situation of reducing the number of this species. It has shrunk from 100,000 to 10,000 and continues to decline. Cheetahs have long been listed in the Red Book under the status of a vulnerable species, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature reviewed the situation and proposed to put them in the status «on the verge of extinction».

Now the total number of individuals does not exceed 7100. Cheetahs breed very poorly in captivity. It is also very difficult to recreate for them a natural environment in which they could feel good and actively breed. They need special climatic conditions, getting into an alien environment, the animal begins to get sick. During the cold period, they often catch a cold, from which they can even die.

There are two main reasons for the decrease in the number of the species:

  • Violation of the natural habitat of animals by agriculture, construction, environmental degradation from infrastructure, tourism;
  • Poaching.

Cheetah Guard

Photo: Animal Cheetah

Photo: Animal cheetah

Recently, the natural habitat of cheetahs has been greatly reduced. To protect these animals, attempts are being made to keep certain areas untouched by man and his activities, especially if the number of cheetahs prevails in this area.

In the United Arab Emirates, it was once popular to keep this animal at home. However, in captivity they do not take root at all, they die in their youth. In an attempt to save animals from bad ecology, they were caught, transported, sold, and researched. But all this only exacerbated the situation. During transportation, animals died, and when changing territory, their lifespan was also significantly reduced.

Scientists and security services were actively puzzled by the issue and came to the conclusion that animals should be protected from any intervention, even for help. The only way to save and help the population is not to touch them and their territories, where the cheetah lives and breeds.

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