1 – Their Secret Weapon for Speed? The Tail
True, cheetahs are the fastest land mammals on the planet. Their fastest recorded speed is 71 mph (112 km/h). You’d get a speeding ticket on most highways for driving that fast! But here’s the secret: it’s the tail. Cheetah tails are super long and flat — like 2-3 feet long — and full of muscles to help steer like a rudder while they’re bursting towards prey.
Another helpful adaptation for maximum speed is tear lines, black fur that runs from the insides of their eyes to the nose. Just as baseball players swipe black ink on each cheek to redirect sunlight away from the eyes, cheetahs evolved this trait so as to not become blinded by sun. Here is an incredible video of a slow-motion cheetah vaulting at top speed:2 – Cheetahs Barely Drink Water
With all that running you’d expect these large cats to drink often, but this is not the case. Most of the water they do ingest is mainly through their prey. Cheetahs only take on average one drink of water every 3-4 days. (Source)3 – Good at Running, Bad at Most Other Things
Cheetahs are indeed the Usain Bolt of the Serengeti, but their specialized anatomy leaves few other skills for evolutionary success. For example, cheetahs can’t see much at night, they can’t climb trees very well, and they lack genetic diversity. So it’s a good thing they can outrun every other animal out there.4 – Iran has Cheetahs, Too
Most people only know of the cheetah as vaulting through African wilderness, but the Asiatic cheetah is a lesser known subspecies living in Iran. Critically endangered, there are only 50 Asiatic cheetahs left in the world. Similar in speed to the African cheetah, the Asiatic cheetah is perhaps slightly smaller.5 – Cheetahs Can’t Roar (They Meow.)
As a formidable feline you’d expect cheetahs to roar something fierce, like lions or leopards. Hardly. Cheetah sounds come more in purrs and meows and chirps. Yes, chirps. Why no roar, you ask? It’s a simple matter of anatomy. Every roaring cat species—lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars—have what’s called a two-pieced hyoid bone that enables them to roar. No two-pieced hyoid, no roar. Sorry, cheetah. Bottom Line?
Cheetahs rule the roost with their speed and agility. As muscle-bound, daylight hunters of the savannah, look out for these stealthy ones perched atop rock outcroppings and cliffs (hopefully not in your safari vehicle! Cool, curious, and confident, you’re bound to spot one of these “spotted ones” on your Easy Travel Safari. Contact us today and let’s design your safari dreams together.
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The cheetah’s amber eyes sharpen their gaze as she identifies lunch three miles away: a Thomson’s gazelle. The average human couldn’t spot such movement with a pair of binoculars from that distance, but cheetahs? No problem.