Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) - Puma Lineage
Cheetah at Lower Sabie, Kruger National Park (South Africa) by Mukul2u (Own work) [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The speedy Cheetah is very distinct from other cats and has many unique adaptations to enable it to chase prey at high speeds, being well known as the fastest land mammal. One of these adaptations is non-retractable claws that help it grip the ground when running, whereas most other cats have retractable claws.

Cheetahs have declined drastically in the past century and now only occur in 10% of their historic range in Africa and a small population of less than a 100 in Iran.

Puma Lineage

1. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

2. Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi)

3. Puma / Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)

Key Facts about Cheetahs

~ Fastest land mammal - 80km+/hr ~

~ Non-retractable claws ~

~ Active during the day ~

Classification

In scientific classification (taxonomy) the Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) belongs to the genus Acinonyx within the small cat subfamily Felinae of the Felidae cat family.

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

 Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

  Class: Mammalia (mammals)

  Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

  Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Acinonyx

Species: Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah)

Subspecies:

A.j. jubatus

A.j. soemmeringii

A.j. venaticus

A.j. hecki

 

Note: The scientific name for the Cheetah species, Acinonyx jubatus, is also known as the cheetah binomial name, cheetah species name, cheetah latin name, cheetah biological name and cheetah zoological name. Some call it the cheetah botanical name however that term is applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

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Classification Chart

This Cheetah classification chart shows where the Cheetah fits into the Felidae family within its own Acinonyx genus.

Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) Classification Diagram
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.
Credit: www.wildcatfamily.com.

Female cheetah and cub playing by Anup Shah

Subspecies (Lower Classifications)

Five subspecies (or lower classifications) of Cheetah have been recognized in the past:

  • Acinonyx jubatus fearsoni - East Africa (or A.j. raineyi)
  • Acinonyx jubatus jubatus - Southern Africa
  • Acinonyx jubatus soemmerringi - North East Africa

However based on genetic studies the last taxonomic revision of Felidae in 2017 proposed only four Cheetah subspecies:

  • Acinonyx jubatus jubatus - Southern and Eastern Africa
  • Acinonyx jubatus soemmerringi - North East Africa
  • Acinonyx jubatus venaticus - South West Asia and India
  • Acinonyx jubatus hecki - West and North Africa

 

Research

Here are some papers published on Cheetahs. Click on the title bar to view the abstract and the link to the article.

View more articles on Acinonyx jubatus in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database (scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list).

Consider joining the Friends of the Cat Specialist Group to access the full articles and receive their journal Cat News covering the latest wild cat research.

Cheetah cubs playing by Anup Shah

Conservation

The global conservation status for Cheetahs is Vulnerable (VU) and Endangered (EN) for the Mediterranean region. Two of the four subspecies are further listed as Critically Endangered (CR) - the Asiatic Cheetah and the Saharan Cheetah.

The following organizations are all fighting to protect our remaining Cheetahs, in the face of continuing habitat loss and fragmentation, persecution and illegal trade:

Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) - Namibia
Action for Cheetahs - Kenya
Cheetah Conservation - Botswana (CCB)

Cheetah and African Wild Dogs - Africa

Iranian Cheetah Society - Iran

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Cheetahs:

 

Big Cat Documentary:

Preview The Secret Lives of Big Cats filmed using high tech starlight and thermal imaging night cameras to capture previously unrecorded behavior. The series includes seven episodes on the secret lives of Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Pumas and Cheetahs. Produced by CuriosityStream.

Wild Cats of Africa Poster - Big Cats of Africa Poster
Wild Cats of Africa by Roger Hall
View Wild Cats of Africa Print