Monday, April 04, 2016

A-Z Blog Challenge: C is for Cats, Big Cats

No, not this kind of kitty cat

I'm talking about the big cats - the kind people go on safari to see. They are on my mind at the moment because there was series of documentaries recently on pay TV focussing on these big cats and fascinating creatures they are, too - and there are more of them than I expected with every continent except Australia having at least two species.

So I thought I'd make some of them the topic for a few of my A-Z Blog Challenge posts starting today with cheetahs.

While technically cheetahs are not classified as big cats because they don't roar they are by no means tiny and these beautiful creatures are only marginally smaller than the other large cats found in Africa  where they are most common. Small populations are also found in Iran and south western Asia. Cheetahs have short, coarse fur which is tawny coloured and covered with black spots each 2-3 cms in diameter. They have a graceful form with a deep chest and noticeable waist, long legs and a relatively small head. The face has a dark tear like streak from the inner corner of each eye which outlines the nose and muzzle giving them a very distinctive appearance. They communicate by chirps, churring and purring but can also growl.

They are day time hunters, preying on smaller mammals like Thompson's gazelles, springbok and impala when hunting alone but family groups or male coalitions (groups of males, usually brothers, who form life long bonds) will tackle larger prey like zebra and wildebeeste. They are able to reach speeds of 120 kmh (75 mph) over short distances making them the fastest land animal on Earth. They tend to live on open savannah and grasslands where prey is bountiful.

Cheetahs are less aggressive than the other big cats and in one of the documentaries one wild family had decided that the photographers were no threat and came to greet them, even climbing on top of their vehicle to use it as a vantage point and resting in the shade it gave. They have been kept as pets at different times in history and there are paintings of them on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs, sometimes walking on a leash but at other times out they seem to be part of a hunting party.

Sadly they are under threat due to low genetic variability (the cause is unknown but is assumed to be linked to a genetic bottleneck at some time in the distant past), the illegal pet trade, conflict with humans - a problem for all big cats - and habitat destruction.

Fascinating creatures, aren't they.

If you want you can find out more about cheetahs here and here.


Jo said...

Not only that, they can be socialised. We met some young cheetahs at a local safari park (Matt was working there part time) and went into the cages with them. They purred like cats, licking with their tongues which were more like sandpaper and enjoyed being stroked although one of them got behind me and nipped me on the bum. Playful, not hurtful. Beautiful animals.

Random Musings said...

Great post, very interesting. Cheetahs are beautiful animals and they do seem fairly friendly

Helen V. said...

That must have been a wonderful experience, Jo.

Helen V. said...

Thanks for dropping by, Debbie. I visited your blog. You have certainly set yourself a challenge with that much flash fiction in a short time. Good luck with it.