Cheetahs are swift-moving spotted carnivores belonging to the cat family, Felidae, order Carnivora. Exterminated in India in the 1950s, they are still found on the open plains of tropical Africa. Two species exist: A. jubatus and the uncommon A. rex of east central Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), both of which are endangered. They are the fastest land animals, achieving speeds of 70 mph (110 km/h) but for short durations. The head and body of the cheetah may be 5 ft (150 cm) long, with a 2.5 ft (76 cm) tail and long, slender legs. The height at the shoulder is 39 in (100 cm), and the maximum weight is 140 lbs (65 kg). Closely set black spots dot the tawny fur. This is the only member of the cat family with non-retractile claws. This endangered African grasslands cat feeds mostly on Thompsons gazelle. Our mounted specimen died of old age at a zoo.
The large powerful feet of the Jaguar from Central and South America provide good climbing ability. The open spots with inner spots are good camouflage among leaves. Jaguars previously occurred throughout North America.
Mountain lions are also known as puma, cougar, and panther. They range from British Columbia through South America, preferring forested areas and jungles and can adapt to various climates. A male mountain lion may grow to be 6 ft (1.8 m) long, with a tail of 2-3 ft (60-90 cm), and may weigh more than 200 lbs (91 kg). The coat ranges in color from reddish to brownish-yellow or gray. Black stripes reach from the eyes to the mouth, and the tail tip is black. The head is small and round with a black spot over the eyes. The mountain lion prefers to hunt at night. It climbs well, is an excellent jumper, and often drops from limbs onto its prey. Its mating call is a harsh scream. Litters, which are born usually 2 years apart, contain from one to five young. The male does not aid in raising the young. Mountain lions usually live to be about 12 years old, but they have been known to live up to 19 years in captivity. Mountain lions have been either eliminated or endangered in many parts of the Americas by cattle ranchers because it is erroneously believed that mountain lions attack cattle.