Adapted for Speed

Capable of reaching peak speeds of over 60 mph, cheetahs are often considered the fastest land mammals on earth. They have several adaptations that aid them in catching prey at such high speeds. Their semi-retractable claws function like cleats, increasing traction to help with sharp turns and speed. They use their tails like rudders to counter balance their body weight during sudden, sharp turns. Finally, their flexible spines extend, allowing cheetahs to cover more than 20 feet in each stride.

The Cat’s Meow

Cheetahs cannot roar. They lack the two-piece hyoid bone in the throat that allows the “big cats” of the genus Panthera (tigers, lions, jaguars, leopards) to roar. However, cheetahs can still communicate audibly with each other by purring, hissing, chirping and growling.

Brotherly Love

Adult female cheetahs are solitary, except when rearing cubs. Males, however,  will form coalitions of two or three cheetahs who are usually brothers. These coalitions compete for the best hunting grounds as well as areas that are frequently traveled by females.

Natural Sunglasses

The black “tear lines” on the cheetah’s face help absorb sunlight and cut down on glare.


Class: Mammalia 

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Acinonyx

Species: Jubatus

Status: Vulnerable

Weight: 70-149 lbs

Diet: Antelope, warthogs, zebras, small mammals, game birds

Habitat: grasslands, savannas, woodlands

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The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest non-profit zoos in the U.S., caring for over 3,000 animals, with nearly 400 species represented, including many threatened/endangered species.