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Acinonyx jubatus

Did you know?

  • Cheetahs are part of the Felidae family, along with other cats.
  • They live in semi-arid savannas and light woodlands in Africa and northern Iran.
  • They are between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half feet long and two to three feet tall at the shoulder.
  • They are the fastest land animal, with the ability to run 65 miles an hour over short distances.
  • A female cheetah can birth one to eight cubs in one litter, with the average size being four cubs.


Cheetahs have many adaptations that enable them to reach extreme speeds. Their slender, streamlined body reduces drag when they are running, and their flexible spine and long legs enable them to take big strides. They also have oversized lungs, heart, and breathing passages, so they are able to pump more oxygen through their bodies during runs. Their long tail acts as a counterbalance when running, and semi-retractable claws provide better traction during sprints. It is even thought the black "teardrops" under their eyes may enhance their vision by reducing glare from the sun.

Unique Breeding

Cheetahs are unusually selective in their breeding choices. The Zoo's cheetah breeding program has already successfully produced over 60 captive-bred offspring. In 2017, for the first time in Saint Louis Zoo history, a cheetah gave birth to eight cheetah cubs. This litter was well-known as the “Bingwa Bunch.” The cubs, three males and five females, were born at the Saint Louis Zoo River’s Edge Cheetah Breeding Center.

Threat Level

  • Unknown
  • Common
  • Near Threatened
  • Threatened
  • Endangered
  • Critically Endangered
  • Extinct in the Wild


The Cheetah faces a high risk of extinction in the wild.


Sub-Saharan Africa and Northern Iran


Open and semi-arid savannas; light woodlands

We care about Cheetahs

Today, fewer than 8,000 cheetahs inhabit a broad section of Africa, including areas of North Africa, the Sahel, and the eastern and southern parts of the continent. Over the past 50 years, cheetahs have become extinct in at least 13 countries.

Since 1974, the Saint Louis Zoo has been a leader in cheetah research and captive breeding. Through the Saint Louis Zoo WidlCare Institute Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa, we are helping cheetahs at the Zoo and in the wild. Learn more about how we are helping cheetahs.

The Saint Louis Zoo Center for Conservation of Carnivores in Africa

Find this animal in River's Edge


River's Edge

Take a journey along a mythical waterway through four continents to discover how wildlife, plants and people interact. River's Edge is the Saint Louis Zoo's first immersion exhibit—a lushly planted naturalistic environment showcasing multiple species from around the world.

Explore River's Edge