The coarse, short fur of the cheetah is tan with round black spots measuring from 2 to 3 cm across, affording it some camouflage while hunting. The cheetah has a small head with high-set eyes. Black “tear marks” running from the corner of its eyes down the sides of the nose to its mouth keep sunlight out of its eyes and aid in hunting and seeing long distances. The adult cheetah weighs from 35 to 65 kg. Its total head-and-body length is from 110 to 140 cm, while the tail can measure 65 to 80 cm in length. Cheetahs are 66 to 94 cm tall at the shoulder.
There are several geographically isolated populations of cheetah, all of which are found in Africa or southwestern Asia.
The cheetah thrives in areas with vast expanses of land where prey is abundant. The cheetah likes to live in an open habitat such as semi-desert, prairie and thick brush, though it can be found in a variety of habitats.
The cheetah is a carnivore eating mostly gazelles, springbok and the impala. The young of larger mammals such as wildebeests and zebras are taken at times. Guinea fowl and hares are also prey.
The cheetah has a unique, well-structured social order. Females are solitary and tend to avoid each other, living alone except when they are raising cubs and they raise their cubs on their own. At eighteen months, the mother leaves the cubs, which then form a sibling group that will stay together for another six months. At about two years, the female siblings leave the group, and the young males remain together for life. If a cub is the only male in the litter then two or three lone males may form a group, or a lone male may join an existing group. These groups are called coalitions.
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