Black Pilot FineLiner ink sketch and W&N watercolour on Amedeo 200gsm
Stalks of brittle grass, towering and light-russet in colour, rose several feet high on the breezy African plain. A faint rustle sounded among the grass. Two sparks of amber, the eyes of a creature, lit up the maze of grass like candle flames, and hovered there. The crackle of shifting stalks grew louder until the grass parted, revealing a magnificent beast, dappled pelt rippling as if made of glistening gold.
Majestically, the cheetah strode into a rock clearing where a light breeze blew swirling dust at her head. She blinked, unfazed. Suddenly, crouching into a stalking position, her muscles pulsed with tension. With explosive speed, she propelled herself across the plain…
- Read the rest of this lovely story at A Day on the Savannah
The Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) has unusually low genetic variability. This is accompanied by a very low sperm count, motility, and deformed flagella. Skin grafts between unrelated cheetahs illustrate the former point in that there is no rejection of the donor skin. It is thought that the species went through a prolonged period of inbreeding following a genetic bottleneck during the last ice age.
Cheetahs are found in open and partially open savannahs, inhabiting most of Africa and parts of the Middle East and they are basically solitary animals. At times, a male will accompany a female for a short while after mating, but most often the female is alone or with her cubs. Cheetah mothers spend a long time teaching their young how to hunt. Small live antelopes are brought back to the cubs so they can learn to chase and catch them.
Cheetahs do not roar like lions, but they purr, hiss, whine and growl. They also make a variety of contact calls – the most common is a bird-like chirping sound. They are the only existing felines that do not possess retractable claws.