Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus rex
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.
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.
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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
. 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
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
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
the King Cheetah is slightly larger.
Diversity Distribution | See