© Roger de la Harpe


Cheetah [Acinonyx jubatus]


The Cheetah is credited as being the fastest land animal over short distances, and can reach speeds of up to 90 km/h (55.9 m/h) in pursuit of prey. This Cat is characterised by a slender body, long legs, and a distinctly rounded head with small rounded ears which are set wide apart. It measures two metres from the snout to the tip of the tail, has a mass of 40 - 60 Kg's, and stands about 800mm high.

It has a concave back and lower hind quarters. This Cat is characterised by a strongly spotted coat and by a long tail which is half as long as the length of its head and body. The tail has a unique pattern of striped markings.


The Cheetah's main prey is medium to small antelope such as Steenbok and Duiker, Thomson's Gazelle and Springbok, but there have been accounts of males grouping together to hunt larger prey such as Wildebeest. They also prey on Baboons, ground-living Birds, Bustards, Hares and Porcupines.
©Karl Svendsen


Cheetahs do not have a fixed seasonal breeding cycle and in this too, they are similar to leopards. Cheetah cubs are born after a gestation period of about three months.

Usually two cubs are born in the litter, but occasionally there are up to six. Cubs stay with their mother for about two years, but sadly, most of them never live to adulthood because they are preyed upon by Lions, Leopards, Hyenas, Foxes and Eagles, to name but a few.

Being a comparatively frail Cat, the mother often has to give up her young or risk being killed herself. However in areas where there is good cover or few predators, the possibility of a Cheetah's survival is quite good.

©Nigel Dennis


They live in family groups of two to six strong, although some individuals prefer a solitary existence at times. Its historical distribution has been greatly reduced and modified. Cheetahs have disappeared from very large areas of the African continent due to modern man's colonisation.

Cheetahs are predominantly diurnal, with peaks of activity at sunrise and sunset. Choosing an elevated resting place, they lie up in the shade during the hottest hours of the day.

Those who have never heard a Cheetah's call will be very surprised to hear it make an almost bird-like chirp. While they also growl, snarl and hiss like domestic Cats, they do not roar as some people might expect them to.


Prefers to frequent open plains as is often depicted in films, but they are also at home in savannah woodland areas.
©Nigel Dennis

Where Cheetah are Found

This rare and totally protected species is found only in the Kalahari and remote area's of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga, as well as sporadically in the Northern Cape Province. Cheetahs were exterminated in the 1930s in the Kwazulu Natal Province of South Africa.

Namibian stock was been reintroduced to Hluhluwe, Umfolozi and Mkuze game reserves in 1965, and eastern shores of Lake St. Lucia in 1978.

Interesting facts

The King Cheetah is not a species on its own, but rather a natural phenomenon amongst the Cheetah family, where at times young are naturally born with this colouring. The King Cheetah is mainly observed in the Kruger National Park and the northern Gauteng.
©Karl Svendsen

Latin name

Acinonyx Jubatus.

Vital Statistics

Weight (Female)
36 - 48 kg
Weight (Male)
39 - 60 kg
Length (Female)
2,0 m
Length (Male)
2,0 m
Gestation Period
3 months
No of Young
1 - 5 cubs
Sexual Maturity
2 years
Birth Weight
272 g
FelidaeRunning Speed
The young are born at various times of the year in different areas.

Spoor Description

Although not touching the ground when immobile, their claws protract with every step taken, thus gripping the ground.
Kruger National Park - South African Safari