The cheetah's method of hunting deviates from that of most cats in that it runs down its prey, rather than stalking it and pouncing upon it for the kill. This doglike method of hunting is suited to its habitat, which is open grassland. The swiftest four-footed animal alive, it can achieve bursts of speed of over 60 mi (95 km) per hr and is the only animal capable of running down black bucks and gazelles.
An average cheetah is about 2 1⁄2 ft (75 cm) tall at the shoulder and weighs about 100 lb (45 kg). It has long legs and a tawny coat with closely spaced round black spots. It is unique among cats in having nonretractile claws. Cheetahs are tamable and were used for centuries in India for hunting game; they sometimes have been called hunting leopards.
Cheetahs are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology