The cheetah is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae that occurs mainly in eastern and southern Africa and a few parts of Iran. The cheetah is characterised by a slender body, deep chest, spotted coat, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a 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. The cheetah reaches nearly 70 to 90 cm (28 to 35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kg (46–159 lb). Though taller than the leopard, it is notably smaller than the lion. Basically yellowish tan or rufous to greyish white, the coat is uniformly covered with nearly 2,000 solid black spots.
The cheetah is the fastest land mammal on the planet, reaching speeds of up to 87 kilometres per hour. Cheetahs mainly hunt during the day to avoid competition with larger predators such as lions and hyaenas, which usually hunt at night. Unlike other cats, the cheetah has claws that are not fully retractable, enabling it to grip the ground when in a hunting sprint. The common name ‘cheetah’ is derived from the Hindi word chita which means ‘spotted’ or ‘sprinkled’, describing the species’ striking coat.