The cheetah, having the scientific name Acinonyx jubatus, originated about 4,000,000 years ago, long before the other big cats. The oldest fossils have been found in North America particularly Texas, Nevada and Wyoming. As per the findings, it is believed that cheetahs were common throughout Asia, Africa, Europe and North America about 10,000 years ago, until the end of the last Ice Age. At that time massive climatic change occurred and caused large numbers of mammals to disappear along with the cheetahs. The cheetahs today found are thought to be the result of inbreeding of ancient cheetahs’ ad their closely relative animals.
Cheetah is recognized as the fastest land animal (70-75 mph) in the world and has the ability to accelerate from 0 to over 100 km/h (62 mph) in three seconds. It’s slender, long-legged body and flexible muscles are built for speed. They are tan in color with round black spots of 2-3 cm all over their bodies. They can be distinguished from other big cats by their smaller size, spotted coats, small heads and ears and distinctive “tear stripes” that stretch from the corner of the eye to the side of the nose. The weight of an adult cheetah is about 36 to 65 kg; length is from 115 to 135 cm and is 67 to 94 cm in height at the shoulder. Males are slightly larger than females and have slightly bigger heads.
Cheetahs have very low genetic variability and lower sperm count and motility than other cats. Female cheetahs reach maturity in twenty to twenty-four months, and males around twelve months and mating occurs throughout the year. Gestation period is around 3 months and for about a year the females raise the cubs by themselves. Despite their speed and hunting prowess, cheetahs are largely outranked by other large predators in most of their range like hyenas and tigers. Cheetahs are listed as endangered under the ESA.