Nearly everyone knows that cheetahs are the fastest land animals. However, there are more to cheetahs than their lightening fast speed. This beautiful big cat can be seen if you go on a safari in Africa but not everyone can do that. Here are some facts about cheetahs for kids that you probably didn’t know.
Speed is Everything
photo credit: Charles Barilleaux under CC license 2.0
Nature has ensured that the cheetah’s body is built perfectly to attain high speeds so that it can chase down its prey. It has a really large heart that can pump oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body while the cheetah is running. Furthermore, it has a flexible spine, sleek muscular body and a huge lung capacity. Did you know that when a cheetah runs it lays just one foot on the ground at a time?
A scientific study has revealed that the cheetah’s body uses the same basic idea as what is seen in rear-wheel drive cars. The front legs are used for balancing and steering, while the powerful and muscular hind legs are used for sprinting. In just under three seconds, a cheetah can accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour.
Cheetahs cannot sustain their speed for very long. They can sprint at amazing speeds but only for a short time, about 20 to 60 seconds. And, during this time they use a lot of energy, which isn’t good if you miss catching your lunch.
A Big Cat with a Difference
Photo credit: William Warby
Unlike lions and leopards that tend to hunt for their food during the night, a cheetah prefers to hunt during the day. As a result, it does not compete with lions and leopards for food. When running at speeds the cheetah does, you need have a very good view of what is around you, which is why they need to hunt during the day.
The distinctive black tear marks that cheetahs have under their eyes are an evolutionary trait and are actually useful. In Africa, in the wild, the sun shines very brightly and can be blinding. The black tear marks absorb the light and help reduce glare which helps prevent a cheetah from losing sight of their prey while they are hunting.
Cheetahs are not pack animals like lions. They are solitary creatures and as cubs, cheetahs are extremely vulnerable. The mother has to leave the cubs alone to hunt for food and this makes the cubs easy prey.
Cheetahs are shy animals and are not aggressive like lions and tigers. When they sense danger, their natural instinct is to run away rather than attack. This is the reason why many other predators often succeed in taking away a cheetah’s kill.
With the great savannahs in Africa being threatened by farming, cheetahs are gradually losing their natural habitat and prey. As a result, their numbers in the wild are slowly reducing. Today, cheetahs are categorized as a vulnerable species by the IUCN Red List. Many cheetahs have been mercilessly killed by farmers, who were protecting their farm animals and livestock. Another problem that the cheetah population is facing is poaching. Cheetahs are also hunted by poachers for their beautiful hide.
Cheetah conservation involves educating farmers about this creature and taking steps to stop illegal poaching.
According to many wildlife experts, there are just 12,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild today. So the push is on to increase this number.
Some Fun Facts about Cheetahs
- Cheetahs are unable to roar, but they can purr
- The lifespan of a cheetah is about 12 years
- Cheetahs can reach an amazing speed of 71 miles while sprinting
- Cheetahs are not very good at climbing trees
- Unlike other cats, a cheetah cannot retract its claws
Find more information on Cheetahs