cheetah

Scientific name:

Acinonyx

Size/weight:

69-140 lbs, 4 feet

Physical attributes:

Cheetahs have tan coats covered in black spots and black teardrop shaped markings between their eyes and mouth. They fur on their stomachs is white as well as the tip of their tails. The base of the cheetahs tail has black stripes. Compared to some other wild cat species, the cheetah is relatively small and is physically weaker than other cats in its size range. However, despite their size and strength disadvantages, cheetahs compensate with their unmatched speed. Cheetahs are able to reach speeds up to 58 mph as a result of their oversized heart and liver, excellent lung capacity and extremely flexible spine.

Life span:

8-12 years (the cub mortality rate in cheetahs is unusually high in both the wild and in captivity, which has a significant effect on this average).

Conservation status:

Considered endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act since July 1975. In Namibia, the cheetah is a protected species.

Similar species:

Cheetahs are often confused with leopards, a species of wild cat that share the same tan coat tone and are also covered in black spots. Cheetahs can be differentiated from leopards by their striped tails and solid black spots, which appear differently than the rosette spots that leopards have. Additionally, cheetahs are more slender whereas leopards are shorter in length and visibly more muscular than cheetahs.