The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) is a large felid that can be found in Africa and parts of the Middle East. It is the only extant member of the genus Acinonyx and is the fastest living mammal. The Cheetah can reach speeds of up to 75 miles per hour in five seconds.



The name "Acinonyx" means "No-move claw" in Greek, referring to the Cheetah's dew claws and semi-retractable toe claws. These claws allow the cat to gain traction as it chases after its prey. Adult Cheetahs weigh up to 160 pounds and measure 59 inches from nose to base of tail. The tail of a Cheetah can grow up to 33 inches depending on the individual, and such a proportionally-long tail is crucial for maintaining balance when engaged in a high-speed, zig-zagging chase after a Thompson's Gazelle (or springbok, or impala, or Grant's Gazelle).



The Cheetah is built for speed, as evidenced by its deep chest, containing a large heart and lungs, large nostrils for efficient oxygen intake, and an elastic spine that allows the cat to maximize its stride length. When a Cheetah is in a chase, its breathing rate increases from 60 breaths to 150 breaths per minute.



Fairly unique among large members of the family Felidae, the Cheetah is able to purr, but cannot roar. It can also chirp, chatter, growl, and moan.



The Cheetah population has been so greatly reduced that it now suffers from a dangerously low amount of genetic diversity. Along with the high-level of predation regarding young Cheetah cubs, they also suffer from deformities and birth defects. Efforts to strengthen the population through captive breeding are difficult and not always successful. It is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.