10 Things You Might Not Know About Cheetah
10. The cheetah’s English-language name is derived from the Hindi word ‘chita’, meaning ‘spotted one’.
9. Lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar can roar but not purr. With cheetah it’s the other way round – they can purr but not roar. Cheetah communicate through shrill ‘yips’ and ‘yelps’ to indicate stress or fear while deeper, more resonant ‘churrs’ have friendlier connotations.
8. Cheetah’s favoured method of hunting is by means of a high-speed chase. This makes them, in the words of cheetah experts Jonathan and Angela Scott, “the last of the sprinting cats”. There is no four-legged creature on Earth which is faster than a cheetah over a short distance.In the Mara-Serengeti the cheetah needs to be quick when trying to catch a Thomson’s gazelle in full flight – the ‘Tommy’ can reach speeds of 40mph. The cheetah’s leaping strides can see it reach speeds of up to 68mph. However, if prey can evade capture by a cheetah over the first few hundred meters of a chase they stand a better chance of surviving as cheetah lack the stamina to sustain high speeds over longer distances.
7. This beautiful beast really is a prime example of precision engineering. Its toes, which it uses to walk on, are pointed and hard enough to assist sudden ‘braking’ when it is cornering at speed. The animal has excellent eyesight which enables it to hunt at night and in the daytime too.
6. However it does not have a strong sense of smell; perhaps this is why its urine, used to mark its territory, is so pungent! There is also much evidence to suggest that its colour-perception is limited. Jonathan and Angela Scott, writing in the BBC’s Big Cat Diary Cheetah book, recall seeing a cheetah struggling to find pieces of red meat that had fallen from its larder in a tree.
5. Every cheetah has unique spot markings. The patterns found on the face, chest and tail are particularly useful at identifying which cheetah is which.
4. Cheetah tends to use a throat bite to strangle or suffocate their prey. They typically kill every one to three days; a higher strike rate than that of the other Big Cats. Lions and leopards tend to dine on the spoils of their kill for longer as they are better able to defend them from other predators. Cheetah, unlike hyaena, are incapable of dragging their kill into trees to keep it safe from being stolen.
3. Mankind’s relationship with cheetah is thought to date back to around 4,000 to 5,000 years. In times gone by we have domesticated cheetah for sport, hunting purposes and prestige – we value their incredible speed.
Artefacts dating from around 500BC retrieved from a Caucasus burial ground show cheetah wearing collars. In today’s world, cheetah can still become intimidated by humans. The Bushmen of the central Kalahari take advantage of this to steal fresh kill from cheetah by walking up to the, waving their arms and shouting out to force the cat to retreat.
2. Cheetahs were once found in Asia, Europe and North America. Today they are thought of as typically African creatures. The cheetah’s natural African habitat is grassy plains, open woodlands and semi-desert.
1. Namibia is the African country which is most strongly-associated with cheetah. In 2005, there was thought to be around 3,000 cheetah in Namibia – making the nation the cheetah capital of the world.
James Christie writes for African safari specialists Safari Consultants.
Safari Consultants can organise a tailor-made safari in Namibia – a great place to see cheetah in their natural environment.
Source: The BBC Big Cat Cheetah diary by Jonathan and Angela Scott
Posted on Monday, 18 June
Tagged as: Cheetah trivias facts science animals gif
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