The cheetah is a large and powerful feline that was once found throughout Africa and Asia and even in parts of Europe. Today however, it is found in only a few remote regions of its once vast natural range, primarily due to growing human settlements and the hunting of them for their fur.
Cheetahs are widely considered to be five different subspecies that vary only slightly in coloration and are most easily distinguished by their geographic location. Although they are not considered to be part of the ‘big cat’ family as they cannot roar, cheetahs are one of Africa’s most powerful predators and are most renowned for their immense speed when in a chase.
Capable of reaching speeds of more than 60mph for short periods of time, the cheetah is the fastest land mammal in the world. The species is IUCN red Listed as vulnerable, as it suffered a substantial decline in its historic range in the 20th century due to habitat loss, poaching for the illegal pet trade, and conflict with humans.
By 2016, the global cheetah population has been estimated at approximately 7,100 individuals in the wild. Several African countries have taken steps to improve cheetah conservation measures.
The cheetah has a long and slender body that is covered in coarse yellowish fur and dotted with small black spots. Its long tail helps with balance and changing direction quickly and unlike the rest of the cheetah’s body, there are ringed markings along the tail which ends in a black tip.
Cheetahs have small heads with high set eyes that aid them when surveying the surrounding grasslands for potential prey. They also have distinctive black “tear marks” that run from the inner eye, along their nose and down to the outside of their mouths, which are thought to help protect them from being blinded by the bright sun.
Keywords to learn
Immense: Extremely large or great, especially in scale or degree.
Adequate: Satisfactory or acceptable in quality or quantity.
Hey Kids, my name is Cameron the Cheetah and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kds.nationalgeographic.com
Key Cheetah Data:
Lifespan:10 – 12 years.
Scientific Name:Acinonyx jubatus.
Mass:40kg – 65kg. (88lbs – 140lbs)
Length:115cm – 136cm. (45in – 53in)
Region found:Asia and Africa.
Current population trend:Decreasing.
Sexual maturity:20 – 24 months.
The cheetah is a beautiful cat. Yes, it’s a cat, but not everyone would know this, or know by looking at them. They are not like the normal house cat that is a lot smaller. Cheetah’s are large dangerous cats that endangered in the wild. They are fast and the are dangerous, so be careful and stay your distance. They are also very beautiful.
Now that you know more about the cheetah by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the cheetah here: Cheetah (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the cheetah. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Cheetah Fun Facts for Kids:
- # 1. The exceptional speed of the cheetah is caused by a number of things including having strong and powerful hind legs, and an incredibly flexible and muscular spine which allows the cheetah to not only sprint quickly but also makes them very agile. They also have non-retractable claws which dig into the ground, giving the cheetah better grip at high speed and also the larger nasal passages to allow more air to flow.
- # 2. The cheetah once had a vast historical range that stretched across a number of continents, but their distribution today is much more scattered with a small number found in Iran and the majority found in sub-Saharan Africa. Although cheetahs are still found in a few different parts of eastern and southern Africa, the highest population of wild cheetahs is now found in Namibia in south-western Africa. Cheetahs are most commonly found stalking prey on the vast, open grasslands but they are also found in a variety of other habitats as well including deserts, dense vegetation and mountainous terrain, providing that there are both adequate supplies of food and water.
- # 3. Cheetahs are one of Africa’s most vulnerable felines with population numbers being mainly affected by growing human settlements that encroach on their native habitats.
- # 4. The cheetah is unique amongst Africa’s felines primarily because they are most active during the day, which avoids competition for food from other large predators like Lions and hyenas that hunt during the cooler night. They are also one of the more sociable cat species with males often roaming in small groups, generally with their siblings, and oddly enough, it is the females that are more solitary animals apart from the 18 months or so that they spend looking after their cubs.
- # 5. After a gestation period that lasts for around 3 months, the female cheetah gives birth to between two and five cubs that are born blind and incredibly vulnerable in the African wilderness. The cubs suckle from their mother for the first few months when they begin eating meat and start to accompany her on hunting trips as they are able to learn how to hunt from watching her. Cheetah cubs learn the majority of their hunting techniques through playing with their siblings and remain with their mother until they can hunt successfully and leave to find their own territory at between 18 months and 2 years old.
- # 1. What do the tear marks under a cheetah’s eye do for the cheetah?
- # 2. How long does the cheetah live for?
- # 3. What is the cheetahs scientific name?
- # 4. Name 2 factors that help the cheetah reach exceptional speeds.
- # 5. How long does gestation last?