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Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Fact Sheet: Summary

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Fact Sheet

a cheetah on a log

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Felinae — lynx, bobcat, caracal, puma lineage (includes cheetah), fishing cat, ocelot, margay, jaguarundi, serval

Genus: Acinonyx

Species: Acinonyx jubatus (Schreber, 1776)

*Subspecies: A. j. hecki
Subspecies: A. j. jubatus
Subspecies: A. j. soemmeringii
Subspecies: A. j. venaticus

*Subspecies may be further merged in the future.

Head/Body Length: 112-135 cm (44-53 inches)

Tail Length: 66-84 cm (26-33 inches)

Weight: 39-65 kg (86-143 lbs)

Coat: Tawny to light brown with white underparts. Small and large, solid black spots. Regional variants exist.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Widespread in southern and eastern Africa; a small population persists in Iran.

Habitat: Semi-open country with cover.

IUCN Status:
Vulnerable (some subspecies Critically Endangered).

CITES Status:
Appendix I (all subspecies)

Population in Wild: approximately 7,100 individuals (2017 estimate)

Speed: 64 mph (103 kph)

Activity Cycle: Diurnal, most active in daytime between 07:00-10:00 and 16:00-19:00.

Social Groups: Males may form coalition groups; females are solitary except when caring for cubs.

Communication: Wide variety of calls. Males use urine and feces to delimit territory.

Diet: Carnivorous.

Predators: Lions, hyenas, and humans

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights
Sexual Maturity: Females mature at 21-22 months; males at 2.5-3 years.


Gestation: 90-98 days

Litter Size: 3-4 usual; up to 8

Birth Weight: 150-350 g (0.33-0.77 lbs)

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: typical life expectancy of about 6-7 years for females, about 8 years for males; more research needed (on more populations)
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 12 years

Featured Facts

  • Five subspecies are recognized by DNA study
  • Cheetahs can endure wide extremes in temperatures (0-45ºC)
  • Found in both arid and semi-arid habitats
  • Average speed during chase of prey is 64 kph (40 mph), but top speed is 112 kph (70 mph) lasting only about 20 seconds.
  • Species is classified as vulnerable, but some subspecies are considered endangered mainly due to habitat fragmentation and competition from other large carnivores for their kills
  • The San Diego Zoo acquired its first cheetahs in 1939.
  • "Juba," born at the Wild Animal Park in 1970, was the first zoo-born cheetah to survive infancy. More than 125 cheetah cubs have been born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2002-2018 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates 2009, 2012, 2015. Taxonomy and population estimates updated Sep 2018.

How to cite: Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Fact Sheet. c2002-2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. cheetah. (note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

Recommended Reading

Book cover: Cheetahs Biology and Conservation

Cheetahs: Biology and Conservation (2018)

Detailed resource on many aspects of cheetah conservation: history of conservation, cheetah-human relationships, evolution, threats to survival, etc. Table of Contents available here.

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