Cheetahs have long been known as the world’s fastest land animal, but did you know that the name “cheetah” is derived from the Hindi word “Chita,” which literally means “spotted one”? Their bodies are almost entirely covered in small black spots on a pale yellow background, with a white underbelly and faces defined by prominent black lines that curve from the inner corners of each eye to the outer corners of their mouth, like a trail of inky tears.
These animals prefer a wide range of habitats that include dry, open country and grasslands, as well as denser vegetation and rocky upland terrain, where they can be easily spotted.
With that being said, here are some fascinating facts and information about these animals.
1. Cheetah Appearance.
Cheetahs are known for their tawny coats covered in black spots, each in a different pattern to help the animals identify one another. These animals also have black rings encircling the ends of their bushy tails, as well as bold black stripes streak-like tears that run from the inner corners of their eyes down to both sides of their mouths.
These stripes protect their eyes from sun glare as well as perform the same function as a rifle scope, allowing them to focus on their prey at a long distance range by reducing sun glare. They are the only big cat with a semi-retractable claw rather than the fully retractable claws that can be found on other big cats which are used to tear flesh and climb trees.
2. Cheetah Behavior.
Unlike lions, cheetahs don’t live in groups. Females lead solitary lives unless they are accompanied by their cubs. In most cases, females’ home ranges are usually determined by the distribution of prey.
If the prey is roaming and widespread, females will have larger ranges. Meanwhile, males either live alone or in small coalitions with one or two other males, who are usually their littermates. Some males form small territories in areas where they are likely to find mates. Both male and female cheetahs mate with multiple partners, and studies show that cubs from the same litter can have different fathers.
Litters range in size from one or two up to six cubs that live with their mothers for about one and half years. Young cubs spend this time learning from their mother and practicing hunting techniques through fun games. After leaving their mother, littermates stay together for another six months before the females venture out on their own.
3. Cheetah Speed & Hunting.
Cheetahs’ bodies are uniquely adapted to allow them to run at high speeds, from their long, slender limbs and hard foot pads to the flexible spine that allows them to take long strides. To provide stability during the chase, the cat’s light tail acts as a rudder, and its semi-retractable claws act like the spikes on a sprinter’s shoe.
They also have large nasal cavities that aid in oxygen consumption and the shape of their inner ears allow them to maintain balance and keep their heads still while running. They usually initiate their hunt by stalking their prey before sprinting after it in an attempt to knock it down when the time is right.
These hunting techniques require a tremendous amount of energy from the hunter and can last less than a minute. If successful, the cheetah begins eating its prey as soon as possible to avoid opportunistic animals such as lions and hyenas. These animals rarely scavenge for food and stay hydrated by drinking their prey’s blood or urine.
4. Cheetah Conservation Status.
Cheetahs’ populations are under threat as the open grasslands they prefer are being destroyed by human occupation and development. They are also largely threatened by poachers and the illegal wildlife trade, due to the demand for their skins and the urge to pet them.
In fact, there’s a lack of clarity on how many cubs are taken from the wild each year for the pet trade, but some estimates put the number at several hundred. These cats also face fierce competition for prey, and their cubs are especially vulnerable to lion predation.
To make matters worse, cheetahs have a very low level of genetic variation, which is required for a species to evolve in the face of environmental changes and disease. This lack of genetic variation is thought to have nearly caused their extinction at the end of the last ice age, and scientists fear it might leave them vulnerable to extinction today.
GET IN TOUCH
To contact an expert travel planner to start planning your adventure in Kenya, click the button below: