Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) are the fastest land mammals on Earth and live in the open grasslands of most parts of sub-Saharan Africa and Iran. They are characterized by a golden fur covered with small, black spots and prey on smaller herbivores such as antelopes and hares. Because of their light and agile build, cheetahs are able to accelerate from 0 km/h to 100 km/h in 3 seconds and run at incredible speeds of up to 120 km/h over short distances. Chasing prey costs massive amounts of energy and requires so much of their bodies that cheetahs even risk brain damage at the end of a chase. As a result, they have to rest and recover in the shadow after each endeavor, during which they are mostly unable to defend themselves or their prey against other predators. Male cheetahs are often social and may live in groups to establish a territory and even hunt together, but female cheetahs are mostly solitary and hunt alone. Females raise their cubs on their own and leave them behind once the young become independent of their mother. Subsequently, female cubs leave the litter as well, but male cubs may remain together for the rest of their lives.

Information sources: National Geographic, WWF

Image: Cheetah in the savanna grasslands of Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Credit: Tobias, Wikimedia Commons.

African Lion

African lions (Panthera leo) are apex predators that live in the barren savanna grasslands of most parts of sub-Saharan Africa, blending in well with the surroundings because of their golden fur. They feed on large herbivores such as wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, warthogs and gazelles, as well as smaller rodents. Lions are the only cats that live together in groups, called prides, which may consist of up to three males, ten lionesses and their young. They rest for most of the day, but are generally active at dusk and during the night. Male lions are known for their long manes and defend the territory of the pride against rivals, while the lionesses are the main hunters and stalk their prey in groups before closing in for a kill. As they grow, young males leave the pride to establish their own, while females often stay behind. Historically, the lion has been regarded as the king of beasts and is therefore still used as a symbol of courage, strength and royalty.

Information sources: National Geographic, WWF

Image: African lions feeding on a buffalo carcass in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Source: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.