The fastest land mammal on earth, the cheetah is able to sprint at speeds of up to 120 kph (75 mph) over short distances when pursuing prey.


The cheetah has specialized muscles that provide amazing acceleration. It can go from a standing start to a speed of 64 kph (40 mph) in just three strides. Its respiratory rate increases from about 60 breaths per minute up to 150, and its large heart pumps the oxygenated blood around the body. But if it has not overtaken its quarry in just 550 m (600 yd), the cheetah will have to slow down again.


Distribution: Now mainly found in southern and eastern Africa, especially in Namibia, Botswana, Kenya and Tanzania. Rare in northern Africa. Survives in Asia, in northern Iran.

Weight: 40 – 65 kg (88 – 143 lb).

Length            : 199 – 219 cm (78 – 86 in); about 90cm (35 in) tall.

Maturity: Females 1 – 2 years; males about 1 year.

Gestation Period: 90 – 98 days.

Breeding: Averages 3 – 5, but can be up to 9; weaning occurs at around 90 days.

Food: Carnivorous, often preying on gazelles; may take other herbivores occasionally.

Lifespan: 1 – 12 years in the wild; up to 20 in captivity.


The large eyes point forwards and determine the position of prey with great accuracy.


No two cheetahs have identical patterning. The spots can be up to 5 cm (2 in) in diameter.


The spots on the tail are fused to create rings.


Colour can vary from tan to buff. The underside of the body is white.


The cheetah’s vertebral column is exceedingly flexible, giving these cats a stride length of 700 – 800 cm (20 – 25 ft).