Cheetahs can grow to lengths of 3.5 to 4.5 feet, not including their tails, which extend some 30 inches, standing at 2-3 feet at the shoulder, according to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. And the spotted cats weigh between 75 and 145 pounds. Here, a cheetah stretches out in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve.
The fastest runners in the animal kingdom have some of the biggest eyes for their body size, researchers reported May 2, 2012 in the journal Anatomical Record. That's because bigger eyes often mean better eyesight. And when you're moving as fast as a cheetah, the super vision comes in handy.
They are fast! Cheetahs are considered the fastest animals on land, with their wiry bodies built for intense bursts of speed. In fact, an 11-year-old cheetah at the Cincinnati Zoo broke the world speed record in 2012; Sarah (see next image) ran the 100-meter sprint in 5.95 seconds, four seconds faster than the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt of Jamaica, whose quickest time for this distance is 9.58 seconds.
Sarah, who set a world land speed record in June, is 11 years old and lives at the Cincinnati Zoo.
Sarah the cheetah first set a world record in speed in 2009, when she ran 100 meters in 6.13 seconds.
An 11-year-old cheetah named Sarah broke a world record by running 100 meters in 5.95 seconds on June 20, 2012. [See more photos of cheetahs]
They are forces to be reckoned with, stalking their prey and approaching to within about 50 feet, according to the Smithsonian, before sprinting from cover toward their target. The wild cats grab pretty by the throat and suffocate them within just minutes. Here, a cheetah chases down a wart hog in Kruger National Park.
After securing their kill, like this gazelle, cheetahs may drag it elsewhere to cover, though, despite their best efforts to hide catches, larger predators often snag their prey, according to the Smithsonian.
Female cheetahs reach breeding age at 21-22 months old, and though they can breed any time of the year, they tend to mate in the dry season, according to the Smithsonian. And except for when they are raising cubs, the females live alone and rarely associate with other cheetahs.
Adorable cheetah cubs usually wean from their mom at about 3 months old. Mom usually has three cubs at a time, though until about 5 or 6 weeks of age, the cubs stay hidden. After that, they follow mom around to learn her skills.