Cheetah comes from a Sanskrit word meaning variegated, but most importantly the name suggest only speed, lightning speed. The only land mammal that achieve mind blowing speed due to their bio-mechanical engineering. On video you won’t get that much excited to see a cheetah running but believe us, if you see them running with full pace in the wild, it would be definitely a jaw dropping moment. These cats don’t roar in fact they do meow. Shocked? Not only their speed, their body texture and habits are also different from other cats. We are going to uncover many truths about them so, stick with us.
1. Cheetah is the fastest animal on land and what could be more interesting than talking about their speed. They are able to accelerate from 0 to 97kms (60miles)/hr in just 3 seconds and has a top speed of around 113-115kms/hr. Running in full speed their feet cover nearly 20-22 feet(6-7meters) in each stride but only touch the ground twice. But, great achievement comes with great sacrifice. Their high speed can last only for 16-20 seconds or target ranging in between 250-1000 feet and due to the exhaustion cheetahs do rest for 30 minutes to catch their breath again.
In 2012, 11 year old cheetah named Sarah from Cincinnati Zoo made a record of covering 100 meters at a peak speed of 61miles or 98kms/hr in 5.95 seconds. In contrary, Usain Bolt holds the record for covering same distance in 9.58 seconds.
Their body has been engineered precisely through out the evolution. The spines are so flexible that stretch and contract with each stride, the long legs cover huge distances without needing to step rapidly, the flat thick long tail acts as radar and maintains body balance in high speed turning, the semi retractable claw give them more traction and the pads under their feet are thick which are like rubber Tyre giving them excellent grip. Even the head is also light just like their light streamline body to eliminate any excess weight. But, the lightness comes at a cost, unlike other big cats their jaw is not so strong to catch and hold larger prey.
These cats are masters in disguise. They have spotted coats to blend in the surrounding. There are nearly 2000-3000 black spots on their coat which are not only fur deep but, skin deep. Not only for camouflage and stalking, these spots also help them from other predators. Cheetah cubs have long brush like hairs that cover up from the neck trough the back and end on the tail tip. It give the cubs a honey badger look and helps to blend in tall grass.
These cats do hunt in day time. Usually they go to a high land from where they use their very sharp vision which could give detailed pictures up-to 5 kilometers away. Rest is race off, their lightning speed takes care of the lunch. In spite off their sharp eyes, they have black tear marks from the eyes corner to their mouth. These marks reduce the glare in front their eyes helping to maximize the focus on target. Although having great vision during the day, they don’t have good night vision like most other cats. Cheetahs have more cone cells in their eyes and fewer rod cells, which explains this disadvantage. This is also one of the reasons why cheetahs are more active during the day.
5. Cheetahs are not so strong, so they feed on small animals like Antelopes, Springboks, rabbits and birds. But they finish their meal faster than other aggressive animals like Hyenas or lions. Because of their comparatively weak body they can’t drag the prey far in safety or protect from strong snatchers. So they catch small prey which requires less effort and eat all of it in one sitting quickly.
They live in conditions like dry open grass lands or Sub-Saharan Africa, where water is not plenty. Hence, they develop their metabolism so effectively so they need to drink water in 3 or 4 days interval. They even survive up to ten days without water, relying only on their prey’s body fluid.
7. Cheetahs don’t roar like other big cats, instead they do meow and mainly communicate in growls or chirps. Like smaller cats their purrs usually indicate contentment. Meanwhile, they display aggression through moaning, growling, and making spitting noises. In addition they also have a distinct yelp that can be heard from as far as 2 kilometers away.
8. Not only Tigers have stripes, Cheetahs do have also. There is one rare cheetah variety called the King Cheetah native to South Africa is known for their thicker coat that features three stripes along with its trademark spots.
9. The cubs do stay with their mother for 1 and half to 2 years. But, they start eating meat at the age of 3 weeks and hunt from as early as 8 months with their mother’s help. At this time they replace their milk teeth with stronger teeth.
10. They live approximately 10-12 years in the wild whereas, in captivity they double their life span up-to 18-22 years.
11. Females are solitary. They live with their young for 15-24 months, teach the cubs hunting techniques and feed them. Mother leaves when the cubs get prepared and could lead their life own with sexual maturity. Males on the other hand are often found forming tribes with other males either from same or different litter.
12. Compared to other exotic cat species, Cheetahs are the easiest to train, although they don’t breed well in captivity.
13. Although they belong to the cat family, they cannot climb trees. Due to not having retractable claws, they could not fold their feet to scale trees. However, it is also the weakness that helps them to run at incredible speeds.
14. There were more than 100,000 of these cats in 1900, but unfortunately there are only between 9,000-12,000 adult and cubs in the wild. They are considered as vulnerable due to habitat loss, conflicts with humans and illegal trade.