How do cheetahs adapt to their habitat?

The cheetah: information about the big cat in the animal lexicon

Cheetahs mainly live in Africa. The big cats are the fastest animal in the world. Since they are capable of great acceleration, they are also known as hunting leopards

Despite its size, the cheetah does not belong to the subspecies of the big cats, which also includes lions, tigers and leopards. Instead, cheetahs belong to the subspecies of small cats (Felinae). The scientific name of the cheetah is Acinonyx jubatus.

General information about the cheetah

The cheetah's physique is geared towards speed. Its slim body and long, thin legs are particularly suitable for high acceleration. Therefore, even with a body length of 150 centimeters and shoulder height of 80 centimeters, the big cats only weigh a maximum of 75 kilograms.

The cheetah uses its 70 centimeter long tail for steering and can therefore change direction quickly even at high speeds. Another characteristic of the big cat is the pattern of fur. The fur of this land animal is golden yellow with small black spots.

Speed: how fast is a cheetah?

The cheetah is considered to be the fastest land animal on earth. Due to its athletic physique, the cheetah can cover distances of more than 100 kilometers per hour when hunting, for example. The cheetah's high speed is favored by its muscular legs and the great flexibility of the spine and shoulder girdle.

However, cheetahs are so-called short-range sprinters, so they can only maintain high speeds over a short distance. If they do not catch their prey quickly enough while hunting, cheetahs will soon have to give up. The small cats are not persistent runners.

What does a cheetah eat?

Cheetahs use their speed to hunt. Their prey mainly includes gazelles. In order to overwhelm their victim, cheetahs run into the legs of the fleeing animal in order to throw it off balance. After it falls, the cheetahs kill it with one bite in the throat.

Since this hunting behavior is very exhausting for the cheetah, they then have to eat the prey as quickly as possible. Because the slender animals can hardly defend it against other predators.

How does a cheetah live?

The male and female animals meet only for the purpose of reproduction. The females live alone with their offspring, which they give birth to after 95 days of gestation. As a rule, the litter of a female consists of around three young animals.

While the females move on alone after weaning the young, the males join together to form smaller groups of cheetahs.

Animal welfare photo gallery: Endangered cheetahs

27 images

Is the cheetah endangered?

There are currently around 12,000 cheetahs in Africa. About 2,500 of them live in Namibia. Cheetahs are therefore classified as endangered. The African cheetahs are a little more numerous than the Asian cheetahs.

These are already considered to be critically endangered. The reason for this is that the habitat of cheetahs and their prey is increasingly being limited by humans.

Profile: Cheetah

  • Scientific name: Acinonyx jubatus
  • size: 150 centimeters body length, 80 centimeters shoulder height
  • Weight: maximum 75 kilograms
  • lifespan: 15 years
  • habitat: Steppes and savannas in Africa, Western Asia, on the Indian peninsula and in parts of Central Asia
  • nutrition: mainly gazelles, but also antelopes, hares and young warthogs

The difference: cheetah or leopard?

Cheetahs and leopards are easy to confuse as both cats have the characteristic black spots on their fur. But there are clear characteristics that you can use to distinguish cheetahs and leopards.

Cat species



  • slim build, long legs, small head
  • small eyes, black tear streaks
  • Fur: ​​black spots, none rosette-shaped
  • Family: small cats
  • Home: Africa
  • Habitat: savannah, steppe


  • strong build, larger head
  • big eyes, no tear streaks
  • Fur: ​​black spots, some rosette-shaped
  • Family: big cats
  • Home: China, India, Africa
  • Habitat: rainforest, savannah