Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: cheetah from The Penguin English Dictionary

a long-legged spotted African and formerly Asiatic cat that resembles a small leopard and is the fastest land animal: Acinonyx jubatus [Hindi cītā from Sanskrit citrakāya tiger, from citra bright + kāya body].


Summary Article: cheetah from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(chē'tӘ), carnivore of the cat family, Acinonyx jubatus, native to Africa and SW Asia as far east as India. Formerly numerous all over their range, they are extinct now in Asia except for small numbers in Iran's Dasht-e Kavir, and are threatened in all of their range. Very little is known about the rare and elusive Saharan cheetah.

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 21/2 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 Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2017

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article cheetah
Philip's Encyclopedia

Spotted large cat found in hot, arid areas of Africa, the Middle East and India. A long-legged animal with blunt, non-retractable claws, the...

Full text Article cheetah
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A large cat , Acinonyx jubatus , of Africa and SW Asia, also called hunting leopard. It has a reddish-yellow coat with black spots and grows...

Full text Article cheetah or chetah
Collins English Dictionary

n 1 a large feline mammal, Acinonyx jubatus, of Africa and SW Asia: the swiftest mammal, having very long legs, nonretractile claws, and a black-sp

See more from Credo