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Cheetah - Africa’s spotted sprinter

 

Cheetahs are the long andCheetah lanky sprinters if the big cats. Over short distances, they can run at speeds up to 70 miles per hour. Built for speed, it has long, slim, muscular legs, a small head with high-set eyes set on a long neck, a deep chest, special pads on its feet for traction and a long tail for balance. The Cheetah has a flexible spine that allows them to stretch forward with their strides making for superior running ability covering as much as twenty plus feet per stride. They have non retractable claws that dig in adding tremendous traction. More thn 1/2 the time, they are off the ground during a chase.

 

Cheetahs are especially adapted for running with large nostrils for higher intake of oxygen. The enlarged lungs and heart work in unison to efficiently circulate the oxygen. Their respiratory rate will increase during a normal chase from 60 breaths per minute to 150 breaths per minute. The Cheetah uses its tail as a rudder while running to amke sharp turns. These sharp turns are a necessity as prey also make these sharps turns. Without this skill, they would have a hard time catching a meal. To catch its prey, they reach out with a paw and knock the feet out from under them, then apply a bite to the neck, holding on until their prey suffocates.  Cheetahs cannot guard, nor hide their catch, they must eat their meal quickly or other more aggressive carnivores will take it from them. Antelope, rabbits, porcupines, birds,  and ostriches are their main diet.

 

They have short coarse  fur that is tan with round black spots that give it some camouflage while hunting. On its white undersides, there are no spots, but there are spots on the tail. The spots taper down on the tail into rings with a bushy white tuft of hair on the tail tip.

 

At one time, the King Cheetah was thought to be its own species, but genetic testing has proven it is actually a genetic mutation. In central Africa, they were used for hunting which is also where they originated from. With their wonderful coat pattern, coupled with them being larger than the spotted cheetahs, and they were bred for these traits without considering the genetic factors for future breeding of the species as a whole. Both parents neds to carry the gene for their pattern which is recessive.

 

These sprinters can breed year round but tend to mate more often in the dryCheetah on a log season. Cubs are  usually born at the  onset of the wet  season. Females reach breeding age just under 2 years of age. Coalitions, which are normally brothers, will live together permanently. Males are drawn to females in heat, but only one male in a coalition usually mates with the selected female. The mothers carry their litters for about 3 months before an average of 3 cubs are born. She will keep them hidden as best she can until they are about 6 weeks old. If the need arises that she will need to move the kittens to another den, she will carry them. Cubs start following their mothers and sharing in the kills at about 6 weeks of age and are weaned by 3 or 4 months of age.

 

Though the Cheetah is a very reproductive cat, yet they are still endangered. This is due to two reasons. The first being lack of genetic diversity. This is a big factor as the cubs mortality rate rate is high when they get a little older due to weak immune systems. Illness and disease can attack the immune system, causing death. The second reason is close to 90 percent of the cubs die, with nearly 50% dying from predators. The mother has to leave them alone to hunt, and they are prey for other carnivores. Even if she was near the kittens, she could not defend them from Hyenas, Jackals, Lions etc. Cheetahs are made for running and not for fighting.