Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) differ from typical cats in several ways. Instead of stealth, they use speed to run down their prey, assisted by blunt claws that grip the ground. The dew-claws, however, which are used to grasp the prey, are curved and sharp. A cheetah is built like a racing dog, with a small head and long legs and body, but the teeth and jaws are too small and weak to deliver an effective death bite, so the cheetah is forced to suffocate its prey. After the sustained effort of catching and killing a prey animal, a cheetah may need to rest for half an hour before starting to eat.

The cheetah is well known as the fastest animal on land. Sadly, despite captive breeding programmes, it is now an endangered species. A breeding female requires a hunting range of up to 800sq km and, apart from some national parks and isolated populations, suitable territories are mainly restricted to Namibia and parts of South Africa.


ARKive photos and videos of the cheetah