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King Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus rex
Photo of King Cheetahs
King Cheetah
See also Cheetah

The King Cheetah is an extremely rare, regal and strikingly beautiful animal. At one time it was considered to be a separate subspecies. Main difference between our King Cheetah and the normal standard spotted Cheetah is that its coat pattern differs distinctively. The standard Cheetah's coat is generally a yellow or golden color with a circular spotted pattern of small black markings. The King Cheetah has spots that run together to form several (usually three) black stripes down its back from the crest of its neck to the top of the tail. They also sport dark patch shaped markings, irregular in size and shape along their sides and flanks.

King Cheetah Cub Photo
King Cheetah Cub
In 1926 a cat, originally thought to be a cheetah-leopard hybrid, was trapped near Salisbury in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The cat was found to resemble a Cheetah however the coat was not spotted but had long dark stripes down the middle of the back with dark patches on the flanks. Other animals of the same type were found and it was believed to represent a new species, the King Cheetah. It is widely believed now that these animals are merely an unusually marked variant of Cheetah and not a separate subspecies.

Cheetahs are classified in their own subfamily, Acinonyxchinae. Cheetahs have long legs and run down their prey rather than stalking it although they do seek cover to move as close as possible before the chase begins. They also have blunt non-retractable claws. Two subspecies are recognized, the African Cheetah Acinonyx jubatus jubatus and the Asian Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus) . However, there is no clear visual difference between the subspecies. Reginald Innes Pocock, was convinced that it was a new species and in 1927 named it Acinonyx rex...but the animal was only to be sighted five more times between then and 1974 when one was finally photographed in South Africa's Kruger National Park.

King Cheetah's are extremely rare with a world population under 30 animals with only 10 of those believed to be in the wild in a few remote areas of Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. The DeWildt Cheetah Centre in Pretoria, South Africa is largely responsible for their preservation and present day population. The DeWildt Research Centre started their "King Cheetah" breeding in the early 1980's where many questions were answered when King Cheetahs were born as a result of pairing normal Cheetahs at the DeWildt center. Often times the King Cheetah is referred to as a "DeWildt Cheetah" which is certainly a fine tribute to their diligent efforts to preserve and protect this animal from extinction.

Scientists believe about 10,000 -12,000 years ago at least 99 percent of the world population died in a very short period of time and that the population may have gotten as low as one pregnant female. The King Cheetah has the same genetic makeup as that of the standard Cheetah with little genetic diversification and problems inherent from inbreeding. A male Cheetah's sperm count is very low and a large percentage is abnormal. It is interesting to note if Cheetah were livestock, they would be classified as infertile.

Scientific Data: Same as the Cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus excepting the King Cheetah is slightly larger.

Genetic Diversity Distribution | See also Cheetah

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