Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus

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Lion - Panthera Leo | Leopard - Panthera pardus | Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus | Caracal - Felis caracal | Serval - Felis serval | African Wildcat - Felis lybica | Small spotted Cat - Felis nigripes


Afrikaans Jagluiperd
Zulu Hlosi Shangaan Khankanha
Tswana Lengau
Photo Kobus Hugo
R.W. Min 12⅜" Max 14"
S.C.I Min E.D. Max 15" Measurement Method 18

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F 10 cm
H 9 cm


7 cm

Unusual features/differences from similar animals

The body is covered with black spots whereas  Leopards have rosettes of spots. The tail is long wheras the tail of the serval is short. There is a tear stripe from the inner corner of each eye to the corner of the lips which the leopard does not have. The stripe does not reach to corner of mouth in serval. The ears are small and rounded whereas the ears of the serval is large.

Visible Male/Female Differences

Males larger than females

Habitat and Distribution

Prefers open grassland and savanna woodland, extending into arid areas.  Not dependent on water.


Smaller antelope such as impala, steenbok, springbok, common duiker; also takes smaller mammals such as scrub hares and springhares, and ground birds. Males hunting togethe take larger species such as young wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck and gemsbok. Lactating females double their food intake.


Litters of 1-6 are born at any time of year after a gestation 90-95 days. Eyes open at 10-12 days. Females give birth and hide their cubs in dense cover. Cubs are moved frequently, presumably to avoid predators. The mother brings live prey for cubs to do hunting practice on when they are 4-5 months old. Weaning starts at 8 weeks and they have permanent teeth at 9 months. Cubs are Independent at 18 months. Females are sexually mature at 2 years. Cheetah cubs are very vulnerable and fall prey to spotted hyenas and leopards and in Namibia cheetah are frequently killed by leopards.

Behavior and Habits

Active during the day but also hunts at night, specifically springhares which must be hunted at night because they are out and about only at night. Cheetahs hunt prey using a high-speed chase (measured up to 90km/h) of up to 600m, the tripping up of the prey  and a suffocating bite to the throat, sometimes not even puncturing the skin. They do not have the stamina for longer chases. The prey is dragged into cover to avoid the other carnivores and being spotted by vultures which will attract other predators. Kills are stolen by lions, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas and leopards and cheetahs feed quickly because their kills are often taken from them. The lose almost 20% of their kills to spotted hyenas in some areas. Jackals avoid cheetahs because cheetahs are fast enough to catch and kill them.

Cheetahs rarely scavenge. Confrontations with other predators are avoided because even a minor  wound could cause starvation.  On stock farms in Namibia cheetahs are considered a pest because they do not scavenge and have to kill frequently for fresh meat. Males hold territories of  about 100-200 square km which they defend. They alone have access to the females on their territories. Intruders may be killed and sometimes eaten. Males scent mark their territories sprayed urine. Females urine mark more frequently when they are in heat.


High pitched chirrups are short-range contact and greeting calls. Growl and snarl in agonistic interactions and purr loudly when content.

Dung and Field sign

Droppings 7cm long and 3 cm thick with tapered ends. Carcasses with most of the bones and skin intact. Cheetahs are the only feline whose claws mark in the spoor. Urine marks on trees and rocks.

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