As of 2014, there are only about 60 king cheetahs in the world. Fewer than 10 are believed to exist in the wild, as the others are all in captivity. Most captive king cheetahs were bred at the De Wildt Cheetah Centre in South Africa.
King cheetahs are a color variant of the cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus, and were first observed in Zimbabwe in 1926. Normal cheetah coloration consists of round black spots on a tan background. In king cheetahs, the spots are merged into larger blotches and stripes. King cheetahs were once believed to be a separate subspecies, but are now known to owe their markings to the same recessive gene that creates blotched tabby markings in domestic cats.