8 interesting facts about cheetahs: this is how many spots they have

Hangai Lilla

2024. March 23 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

Although the cheetah is referred to as a representative of the big cats, in reality it belongs to the Felinae subfamily, which means that it is actually a smaller wildcat despite its larger size. A common feature of these cats is that they can purr, but cannot howl, because of their hyoid bone.


In the following you will find interesting facts about the evolution of the cheetah, its appearance and habits.

1) The cougar is the closest relative

It may come as a shock to many, but the fastest animal in the Serengeti is most closely related to the puma and the jaguarundi. Despite their size, they are not big cats. Interestingly enough, its pupil is round. like that of a big cat, and not like that of a small cat, whose pupil is straight. (Although there is also an exception, the pallas cat.) The cheetah is the only representative of the genus Acynonix, the other four species belonging to it are already extinct.

4 subspecies are distinguished, Iranian, Southeast African, Northeast African and Northwest African. The Iranian is the only cheetah population found in Asia, with an estimated 12 individuals in 2022, 9 males and 3 females.

And while we’re on the subject, the cheetah has an endangered status due to poaching, hunting and habitat destruction.

2.) Those individual dots

Each cheetah has around 2000 spots in the cream-coloured fur, which can serve as a unique identifier. This means that no two cheetahs have the same pattern.

The cheetah also has a mane, which is about 8 centimetres long and covers the neck and shoulders of the animal. It is more prominent than the males, and the juveniles are longer and different in colour, even bluish grey.

3.) The king cheetah

King cheetahs owe their fantastic coat to a very rare genetic mutation. The cream-coloured background on his coat is decorated with large dark patches and three dark, wide stripes running from the neck to the tail. Unlike the coarse fur of cheetahs, this coat is silky.

Some speculated that it might be a cross between a cheetah and a hyena, others guessed that it was the love of a cheetah and a leopard that produced this strange specimen. What gave these animals away, however, was their non-retractable claws, which the average cheetah has. It has been known since 2012 that this pattern is caused by a gene mutation. It is caused by a mutation in the same gene that causes mackerel and classic tabby in domestic cats. The trait is recessively inherited, which means that both parents must carry the mutated gene. In this case, a quarter of the descendants are likely to be king cheetahs.

King cheetah

4) The fastest land animal in the world

It is undeniable that the cheetah and the greyhound have many similarities in morphology, which is also related to their speed. However, a cheetah can reach a higher maximum speed than a greyhound. A cheetah can run at an average of 93-112 kilometres per hour, while a greyhound, specifically the English greyhound – considered the fastest of all dogs – can run at a maximum of about 75 kilometres per hour.

The cheetah’s light, streamlined body makes it capable of short, explosive accelerations and sudden changes of direction. Because of the smaller canine teeth, the nasal passages are also larger, ensuring a rapid flow of large amounts of air to the enlarged heart and lungs. During a typical chase, their respiratory rate increases from 60 to 150 breaths per minute.

They also have semi-retractable claws for better grip when running, and a long tail that they use as a handlebar. Bones have a lot to contribute to an exceptional sprint. The cheetah’s limbs are longer, with the tibia and fibula close together, so the legs are less likely to turn out of balance, reducing the risk of imbalance. As a result, however, the cat is not a particularly skilled climber, but it can turn in the air while running by jumping up.

5.) Not an apex predator

The cheetahs are mostly active during the day, and for good reason. This allows them to avoid sympatric species, the large predators with which they share their habitat. This makes it more likely to ward off attacks by leopards and lions that are active at night, or to take its prey.

6) Trained hunter

The Sumerians in 3000 BC trained cheetahs to hunt. The Indian (then Hindustani) emperor Akbar hunted with 1000 cheetahs between 1556 and 1605, when he was in power. But Tutankhamun’s tomb also contained various cheetah artefacts, leading historians to believe that the cheetah may have been the sacred animal of the ancient Egyptians.

7.) Males stick together

Cheetahs live in very interesting social groups, which is not typical of felines; apart from the lion, they are all solitary. There are 2 types of cheetah groups. Some females tend to rest together with their cubs and female siblings during the day, but it is generally believed that although cheetah females are not aggressive, they tend to avoid each other. Unlike other felines, they have a larger territory than males.

However, just as there are exceptions for females, there are also exceptions for males. These animals form coalitions, just like lions. This gives them a big advantage, because they can protect their territory together. These coalitions are usually made up of litter mates, but sometimes they also allow foreign males into the group. They care for each other, look after each other and seek each other out when they are away for a long time. They have equal rights when it comes to killing and eating, and it has also been observed that these animals are generally healthier than solitary ones, and are more likely to survive than females.

8) The cheetah in captivity

The cheetah was tamed with great affection. The first cheetah was introduced to a zoo in 1829, specifically to the Zoological Society of London. While it is easy to get used to this beast, it was clear from the early days that they have a high mortality rate in captivity. On average, they lived only 3-4 years instead of 12. They are sensitive creatures who cannot reproduce in this way as successfully. Fortunately, since 1975, the CITES Convention has restricted trade in wild cheetahs and great efforts have been made to reduce and regulate captive breeding.

Cheetahs kept in captivity are shy and can be prone to anxiety, which is why they are often raised with puppies. This type of socialisation helps them to overcome their tensions and they can relate more easily to people and their peers. In fact, they often spend time with support dogs even when they are older.

It is interesting to note that no cheetah attacks have ever been reported in the wild, but there have been several occasions when a captive cheetah has injured or even killed a human.

You couldn’t deny that it’s a cat.

Click here to find out more about its closest relative, the cougar. For example, why a mother animal nursing her young can be hunted, or why P-22, who lived in Griffith Park in Los Angeles for 10 years, died.

big cat cheetah interesting facts about cats of interest Points of interest wildcat

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