Although cheetahs are one of the smallest species of the big cats, they are the fastest mammals on land with bodies that evolved for speed. However, the cheetah is also the most endangered of the cats due to habitat loss.
Cheetahs weigh between 70 and 140 pounds and are 6 to 8 feet long. Although they live between 10 and 12 years, many cubs do not survive longer than their first year because lions and hyenas hunt them. However the cubs have long manes of fur along their heads and necks and spotted hides that help them to blend into the savannah.
A cheetah's muscular tail and large feet help it to reach speeds up to 60 or 70 miles per hour with 21-foot strides. Its paws are large with semi non-retractable claws that function much as a football cleat does, giving the cat traction. The pads at the bottom of the feet are hard, improving grip and speed as it runs. The cheetah's tail helps it to steer and balance at high speeds. The black tear marks on the cheetah's face also distinguish it from other cats and prevent the sun's glare from blinding it as it hunts.
When a cheetah runs down a small deer, it suffocates the animal by biting through its throat. The cheetah also feeds on smaller prey such as hares when necessary.