What Are the Characteristics of the Cheetah?

Cheetahs are slim cats with long legs, small heads and small paws with claws that cannot fully retract. Their body weight is between 50 and 160 pounds, and their length is between about 4 and 5 feet. Male cheetahs are generally larger than females. They have yellow to gray fur with randomly arranged, round black spots.

Cheetahs only eat meat. Their favorite prey animals are gazelles. They also hunt impalas and other small hoofed animals, as well as the young of larger hoofed animals. They hunt hares, birds, and other small animals when their more favored prey is scarce.

Cheetahs are built for speed, and they are some of the fastest animals on land. Their hunting style is unique among cats. They do not stalk prey until it is within pouncing distance. Instead, they stalk their prey from a greater distance and then charge, relying on their great speed to catch their prey. They can only sustain their speed for about 1,640 feet before they start to overheat. Most chases end in failure. In addition, cheetahs are vulnerable to larger predators, such as lions and hyenas, stealing their kills.

Cheetahs live in Africa in grasslands and deserts. Their range once extended into Asia and India, but human efforts at eradication removed them from these areas.