All About Cheetahs

Cheetah running

Photo: Mark Dumont (CC BY 2.0)

Anna’s school had a special guest today. Khayam, one of the ambassador cheetahs from the Wildlife Safari, visited together with his keepers. All the kids got to see a cheetah up close and learn about these amazing animals. Here’s some of what they learned …

1) The cheetah is the fastest runner on the planet.

2) It runs 70 miles per hour, and achieves the speed from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds. It runs two times faster than a race horse.

3) A cheetah can cover up to 20 feet in just one stride with its powerful legs.

4) Cheetahs are built for speed with their lean bodies, long legs, and narrow heads.

5) Cheetahs have non-retractable claws with hard pads on the bottom of their paws that give them a strong grip on the ground for running.

6) 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.

7) A cheetah’s tail is also essential during fast running because it balances the animal and allows sudden turns which happen often when the prey is trying to escape.

8) Although the cheetah runs very fast, it cannot run for very long. After 400 to 600 yards, a cheetah becomes exhausted and needs to take a rest.

Cheetah and two cubs

Photo: Julia Ozab

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

10) While the cheetah is the only large cat that cannot roar, it is still a very vocal animal that can growl, hiss, snarl, moan, bleat and purr. They also use facial expressions to show their moods.

11) A fully grown cheetah weighs between 75-145 pounds, is 4 feet in length and reaches 2-3 feet in height at the shoulder. Their tail is about 30 inches long.

12) Cheetahs live on African savannahs and grasslands.

13) Cheetahs only need to drink water once every 3 or 4 days as they absorb some water from their prey.

14) While Cheetahs cannot climb trees, they are able to jump to lower hanging branches.

Cheetah closeup

Photo: Julia Ozab

15) It’s estimated that a cheetah has 2000 to 3000 spots.

16) The cheetahs’ black spots help them blend into the savannahs. They also release body heat, helping to keep the animal cool.

17) Cheetahs have black lines known as “tears” near their eyes that run down the side of their nose that help to block the sun’s bright glare. These black markings are also believed to enhance their snarl when defending their territory.

18) Cheetahs have good daytime vision and can see up to three miles away.

19) Female cheetahs are solitary animals, while males live in the small groups composed of brothers—called coalitions.

20) Cheetahs usually mate during the dry season, resulting in pregnancy which lasts three months.

21) A female cheetah litter normally consists of three to five cubs weighing only five to ten ounces each. That’s approximately the weight of a standard softball.

Sleepy Cheetah Cub (Photo: Julia M. Ozab)

Photo: Julia Ozab

22) 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.

23) Cheetah cubs use their white mantles to mimic honey badgers and fool predators.

24) Cubs spend the first weeks of their life in the den. This time is the most critical for their survival because their mother needs to leave the cubs to hunt for food. Unfortunately, this leads to a very high cub mortality rate in the wild–up to 90%.

25) By approximately six weeks of age, the cubs begin to join their mother in the hunt, and stay with her until they reach 18 months of age.

26) Cheetahs are difficult to breed in captivity. Wildlife Safari has one of the most successful programs in the United States.

27) Where Did Cheetahs Live? Where Do They Live Now?

Reduced cheetah range

28) Wild cheetah populations are dwindling. At the current rate of decline, cheetahs may be extinct in your lifetime. Please help by teaching your family about conservation and by contributing as you can to the Wildlife Safari and its conservation programs.

Wildlife SafariMost Thursdays on Fatherhood Etc. we’ll learn something new in a series called “Thursday’s Child.” See you next week.

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