The cheetah occurs mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. It is the fastest land animal. The cheetah is characterised by a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and long spotted tail. Its lightly built, slender form is in sharp contrast with the robust build of the big cats, making it more similar to the cougar. Though taller than the leopard, it is notably smaller than the lion. Typically yellowish tan or rufous to greyish white, the coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots. Cheetahs are active mainly during the day, with hunting their major activity. Carnivores, cheetah mainly prey upon antelopes and gazelles. Cheetahs inhabit a variety of habitats – dry forests, scrub forests and savannahs. Classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the cheetah has suffered a substantial decline in its historic range due to rampant hunting in the 20th century.
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