Big Cat Week is back on Nat Geo! The upcoming episode "Cheetah: Fatal Instinct" focuses on the fastest of all land animals. While you may know that cheetahs are fast, here are some amazing tidbits (or should we say bites?) about their speed and other qualities you may not know. These spotted creatures truly stand apart in the big cat world.
Cheetahs can accelerate from 0 to 70 mph in just a few seconds
The fact that the cheetah is the fastest animal on land is fairly well known. What is not as well known is that they can accelerate to their top speed of 70 mph very quickly. In car terms, they can go from 0 to 60 mph in three seconds, which is as fast as a Porsche 911 Turbo S. While their top speed is 70 mph, they can only run about 400 to 600 yards before they become exhausted.
A single bound by a cheetah can cover 22 feet because of a flexible spine that allows them to extend their front legs extremely far. They are also nimble at high speed, so they can make sharp, sudden turns while pursuing their prey. Their tails help them balance as they make these quick turns.
Cheetahs have deep chests, and enlarged hearts, lungs, and nostrils. That's how they take in enough oxygen for high-speed bursts and for intense chases. They also have non-retractable claws helping them gain traction on soft ground.
Cheetahs can't roar
One surprising quality that differentiates a cheetah from most other big cats is the fact that it can't roar. It can purr, however, which is something cheetahs have in common with house cats. Just like house cats, they purr most loudly when grooming or sitting near other cheetahs. They are also "small big cats," because they weigh only 99 to 132 pounds. What else sets cheetahs apart from most other cat species: They cannot climb trees and do not see well at night.
Cheetahs are vulnerable to larger cats
Cheetahs hunt for food during the day, which protects them somewhat from the larger nocturnal cats, such as tigers. Since they are smaller and have blunt claws, they are not easily able to protect themselves. Consequently, they will give up their prey to avoid fighting against a larger or more aggressive animal in the wild. Cheetahs will usually eat their prey right away as to not lose it to other predators.
A cheetah has exceptional daytime vision
A cheetah can spot prey from about three miles away. They have long, thick, black lines that run from the inside of each eye to the mouth. Many scientists believe these "tear lines" help protect cheetahs' eyes from the sun and help them to see long distances. They also have high-set eyes, which give them a 210-degree field of view.
Cheetahs have a high cub mortality rate
Cheetahs in the wild lose up to 90 percent of their young. Until the cubs are about 6 weeks old and can follow their mother to hunt, she has to leave them alone. The cubs wean when they are about 3 months old. Female cheetahs usually have three cubs per litter. The cubs live with their mothers for about one and a half to two years.