20 Interesting Cheetah Facts

cheetah

There are quite some interesting cheetah facts that are worth looking at. Cheetahs are not only the fastest land mammal on the earth meaning they can outrun any known living creature on the face of the earth, they’re the only ‘big cats’ who can’t roar or retract their claws yet they control it such that it does not affect their speed. They’re also the only ones that can purr like our little moggies! Cheetahs are beautiful animals with lovely skin and only if they are a bit smaller, they would probably be adopted as commonly as dogs and domestic cats. Cheetahs are one of the most ferocious animals and once it sets its eyes on a target on a chase, it would only take a miracle to deliver the prey from its approaching claws. Here are some 20 interesting Cheetah facts:

More Interesting Facts About Cheetahs

Cheetah Facts – General

1 – The cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, is found throughout Africa and some of the Middle East. It is the only living member of Acinonyx but has a few sub-species itself – the Asiatic cheetah (A. j. venaticus, found in Asia …), the Northwest African cheetah (A. j. hecki), the Eastern African cheetah (A. j. raineyii), the Southern African cheetah (A. j. jubatus) and the Central African cheetah (A. j. soemmeringii). However, the king cheetah and the woolly cheetah, also thought to be sub-species, have recently been found to be different from the ‘basic’ cheetah only through a single recessive gene, so they are no longer treated as separate.

2 – The word ‘cheetah’ comes from Sanskrit, citrakāyah, apparently meaning ‘variegated’ – which is rather ironic since tests have shown that the cheetah has a surprisingly low level of variation, genetically, and in fact most cheetahs are hard to tell apart!

3 – As happens with inbreeding everywhere, this means that they also have a low sperm motility/count and there tends to be deformed flagella as well, all of which means cheetahs are not breeding as fast or as widely as they need to, if their current decline in numbers is ever going to be reversed. They are all so similar genetically that when totally unrelated animals are used as donor and recipient for skin grafts, there is never any threat of rejection. This lack of variation is thought to have been caused by a ‘genetic bottleneck’ during the last ice age, but doesn’t seem to have prevented them thriving for thousands of years, until recently.

4 – The cheetah is officially considered ‘vulnerable’ on the conservation listings; it has been hunted for its fur in previous years, but now habitat loss and reduction of prey are more of a problem, along with the difficulty in breeding it in captivity and its low ability to adapt to change in environment. Surprisingly, some success in captive breeding has been made by giving the cheetah a canine playmate/guard dog as a companion – apparently they feel less threatened then!

5 – There are thought to be only about 12,400 cheetahs left in the wild, with some sub-species more threatened than others – the Asiatic sub-species is ‘critical’ and the Indian sub-species is already extinct. Some suggestions have been made regarding re-introducing them in India through captive breeding and later release, but this will not recreate the Indian cheetah, of course, merely put one of the other sub-species in India.

Cheetah Facts – Characteristics

6 – The cheetah is not only the fastest animal on the earth, with the ability to run at 70-75mph (112-120kmh) in very short bursts or around 58mph (93kmh) for longer runs of around 200m, it also has the fastest acceleration – 0 to 60mph (100kmh) in just three seconds! That would leave most cars standing, even the sports models.

7 – Cheetahs hunt entirely by vision and therefore can only hunt by day – albeit early or late, when it’s cooler but still light. In fact, they have very poor night vision, unlike most big cats! They are also the only big cat that cannot climb trees, as their fixed claws don’t angle and grip in the same way as the other cats’ retractible claws.

8 – Up to 37in (94cm) tall at the shoulder, the golden- coloured cheetah is covered in black spots everywhere except its white tummy and the end of its white-tufted tail where the spots merge into several black rings. An adult male weighs up to 160lbs (72kg) and is up to 59in (150cm) long, of which some 33in (84cm) will be the tail. Females are a little smaller, but not by much.

9 – In order to run as fast it does, the cheetah has a deep chest, narrow waist, large nostrils, an enlarged, ultra-efficient heart and lungs and the ability to speed its breathing up from 60 breaths per minute to 150. The non-retracting (officially ‘semi-retractible’) claws help with traction and its long tail acts as a rudder, enabling it to make sharp turns to match its fleeing prey.

10 – Almost all cheetahs come in the standard colour scheme of golden yellow with black spots, but there are a few variations. The so-called ‘king cheetah’ has larger spots which merge into blotches and long bars down its back, but this is so rare that until 1987, only 38 specimens had been found, many just as skins. Even rarer are the melanistic (black with ghost markings), albinistic (white with pale grey spots), speckled and gray-coloured variations, most of which have only been known by report rather than having been seen directly.