Built for Speed
The cheetah is the fastest land animal on earth. A cheetah body is muscled and streamlined and well adapted for speed. They are capable of running up to 70 miles per hour for short periods of time, with strides reaching 20-25 feet!
Average Body Length: 4 feet. Average Tail length: 2 feet. Weight ranges from 85-145 pounds.
A cheetah is equipped with long slender legs, and an elongated spine with large muscles used for flexing and stretching enabling it to increase its stride length during high-speed chases. The long tail acts as a rudder to help change direction while maintaining speed. During these runs a cheetah needs large amounts of oxygen. These specimens have enlarged nasal and sinus passages, large lungs, strong arteries and an oversize heart to help with extensive oxygen exchange.
This enhanced speed does come at a cost. They lack a sweating mechanism so most are unable to run full speed for more than 300 meters without the body temperature increasing to dangerous levels. These cats are not as muscular and are relatively week compared to other big cats.
These animals run with a form called a "rotary gallop," which means the hind limbs land first, providing for explosive force on the next stride. The cheetah paws contain pads that are ridged for extra traction. They are the only cats without fully retractable claws. Their claws are semi-retractable. The claws are very hard and act like cleats on running shoes, which provide the cheetah with even more traction.
Cheetahs have a relatively flat face, reduced muzzle length, and large eyes that allow for their excellent vision. They are equipped with acute hearing. The back of the ears contain a black spot, or fake eye, which is believed to scare off predators creeping from behind.
As seen in the picture above, the cheetah cubs have a grey main. This acts as an umbrella against rain, sun and helps to camouflage them while in the shade.
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