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Acinonyx jubatus


The cheetah is a big cat with several distinctive features – a slender body, deep chest, spotted pelage, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a long spotted tail. Its lightly built, slender form is in sharp contrast with the robust build of the other big cats. The head-and-body length ranges from 112–150 centimetres (44–59 in). The cheetah reaches 70–90 centimetres (28–35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kilograms (46–159 lb). 

Thus, it is clearly taller than the leopard, which stands nearly 55–70 centimetres (22–28 in) at the shoulder. The weight range of the cheetah overlaps extensively with that of the leopard, which weighs 28–65 kilograms (62–143 lb). On the other hand, the cheetah is significantly shorter than the lion, whose average height is nearly 120 centimetres (47 in). Moreover, it is much lighter than the lion, among which females weigh 126 kilograms (278 lb) and the much heavier males weigh 186 kilograms (410 lb). Based on measurements, the smallest cheetahs have been reported from the Sahara, northeastern Africa and Iran. A sexually dimorphic species, males are generally larger than females.

The head is small and streamlined, adding to the agility of the cheetah. Saharan cheetah have narrow canine faces. Small, short, and rounded, the ears are marked by black patches on the back; the edges and base of the ears are tawny. The high-set eyes have round pupils. The whiskers, shorter and fewer in number than those of other felids, are fine and inconspicuous. The pronounced tear streaks are unique to the cheetah. These streaks originate from the corner of the eyes and run down the nose to the mouth. Their role is obscure – they may be serving as a shield for the eyes against the sun's glare, a helpful feature as the cheetah hunts mainly during the day; another purpose could be to define facial expressions.

The cheetah is often confused with the leopard and the cougar and can be distinguished by its small round spots in contrast to the leopard's rosettes and the cougar's plain coat; in addition, the leopard lacks the tear streaks of the cheetah. The cougar possesses neither the tear streaks nor the spotted coat pattern of the cheetah.The serval has a form very similar to that of the cheetah but is significantly smaller. Moreover, it has a shorter tail and spots that fuse to form stripes on the back

Fun Facts

Apart from the lion, the cheetah is the only cat that is gregarious; however, female cheetahs tend to remain solitary. Tim Caro, of the University of California, Davis, tabulated the various social classes and their longevity. Pregnant and nursing females, a few adolescents and males who have not joined any groups are typically solitary. Non-lactating females, their cubs, adolescent siblings and several males will form their own groups. A loose association between the opposite sexes can be observed during the breeding season.

These social groups typically keep away from one another. Males Adult males are typically gregarious despite their territoriality, and may group together for life and form "coalitions". These groups collectively defend their territories. In most cases, a coalition will comprise brothers born in the same litter, who stayed together after weaning. However, if a cub is the only male in the litter then two or three lone males may form a small group, or a lone male may join an existing group.

Males in coalitions establish territories that ensure maximum access to females. Solitary males may or may not be territorial. Some males alternate between solitude and coalitions, whichever ensures encounters with a greater number of females. Although a coalition, due to its larger membership, demands greater amount of resources than do the solitary males or their groups, the coalition has a greater chance of encountering and acquiring females for mating.

Females and juveniles Females are not territorial, and live alone or with their offspring. Juveniles form mixed-sex groups after weaning, but most of the young females stay back with their mother, with whom they do not show any significant interaction. Males eventually mature and try to acquire territories


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