The Amazing Cheetah
Cheetahs are amazing animals but are very difficult to see, but you can try to spot one while on a safari with us.
The body of a cheetah is designed for speed. It has long legs in comparison to its greyhound-like body; it has a large heart and lungs, as well as wide nasal passages. It is the fastest land mammal, capable of reaching speeds of up to 114 kilometers per hour.
The cheetah’s pace gives it an advantage in the more open savanna, where the lion and leopard rely on getting close to their intended prey before breaking cover. Cheetahs are marginally larger than leopards, but they are not as bulky, weighing between 40 and 60 kilograms.
Cheetahs have non-retractable claws like dogs, despite being part of the cat family. This reduces their ability to climb trees but gives them a speed boost while charging.
A cheetah will usually charge an antelope from 60 to 100 meters away and will be running at full speed within seconds. If the buck is alerted in time, it will zigzag and dodging through trees and shrubs to
throw the cheetah off its tracks. The cheetah will chase its prey with zeal, using its long, heavy tail as a stabiliser and attempting to predict which way it will turn.
It will drive the antelope off balance at just the right moment and catch it by the throat as it falls. Cheetahs do not kill their prey as easily as lions or leopards do because of their small jaws and teeth, and it can take anywhere from five to 25 minutes for their prey to die.
Cheetahs, like other large predators, benefit from the element of surprise in hunting. While its pace gives it an advantage, the cheetah’s stamina is its weak spot. It will only be able to run at full speed for around 250 meters before needing to take a breather. And before it eats its prey, the cheetah has to rest for about half an hour after a high-speed chase. Cheetahs are most vulnerable during this period. During this period of healing, they are often robbed of their kill by lions or hyaenas. If the cheetah is left alone, it will typically eat its prey at the kill site.
A cheetah’s food preferences are narrower than those of a leopard, and it prefers small and medium antelope. Cheetahs eat the young of larger mammals, as well as warthogs, ground birds, porcupines, hares, and smaller antelope.
The kill rate of a cheetah is difficult to estimate, but experts estimate that each cheetah kills between 30 and 150 animals per year, depending on its size, hunting frequency, and the state of the environment. Experts estimate that a single cheetah needs between one and three kilograms of meat per day to maintain its health.
Because of their non-retractable paws, there has been some scientific debate about whether they should be known as dogs, but they have far too many cat-like characteristics, such as the ability to purr loudly. Cheetahs cannot scream, but they can growl and spit like cats, and they sometimes make a strange chirping noise.
Cheetahs, unlike lions and leopards, do not provide a territorial defence zone. They have a home range that they label with urine, but they do not actively defend against other cheetahs. Cheetahs are a hybrid of lions and leopards in terms of social behaviour.
They do not form prides like lions do, but small groups of four to six cheetahs, especially brother groups, are popular. Cheetahs in the wild are thought to live for 12 to 15 years. They hunt throughout the day, unlike most other large carnivores.
Cheetahs rely heavily on surprise, despite their pace. A cheetah has a one-in-ten chance of capturing an animal that is not surprised, and a one-in-two chance if the quarry is caught off guard, according to experts. Cheetahs are the most fearful of all the big cats, and no cheetah has ever attacked a human in Southern Africa.