Mother Cheetah Ambushes an Impala but Leaves It for Her Cub to Practice Its Hunting

Written by Rachael Monson
Updated: October 25, 2023
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This video starts with a mother cheetah ambushing a gazelle. The big cat keeps her body low to the ground and sneaks up as close as possible. Then, she bursts forward! She stretches and recoils her body, gaining incredible speed. The surprised gazelle dashes away, but it can’t escape her. The cheetah reaches out one of her front paws and trips her prey, throwing it to the ground. It tries to make a swift escape, but this mother cheetah isn’t hunting alone.

She’s teaching her baby (cub) to hunt. The cub springs into action, copying its mother’s attack. The cub swipes the legs from under the gazelle and manages to take it down. It wrestles with its prey for a few moments, trying to figure out how to make the killing bite. In the end, the gazelle breaks free, but did it get away? We may never know. Let’s learn more about cheetah hunts before watching the video below!

Watch the Astounding Cheetah Hunt Below!

How Do Cheetahs Hunt?

Watching a cheetah hunt inspires awe in animal lovers worldwide. Their unique techniques and unbelievable speed rivals watching peregrine falcons dive to catch their prey. Although cheetahs have some amazing features to help them hunt, they have a poor success rate. One study showed only 30 out of 157 cheetah hunts ended in a kill. Regardless of the roughly 20% success rate, watching them hunt is still breathtaking. Let’s learn more about cheetah hunting methods!

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Ambush

Cheetah hunts involve stalking prey

Cheetahs hunt by stalking their prey and getting close before launching themselves into action.

©edeag3/iStock via Getty Images

Perhaps the most important element of a cheetah hunt is the ambush. Cheetahs must sneak up as close as possible to get the best opportunity to catch their prey. If the prey runs too soon, the cheetah will likely lose it. In our video, the mother cheetah teaches her cub how to do this. These lessons are critical to a growing cheetah cub. Soon, they will have to hunt entirely alone!

Speed

Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Adult Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatas) begins running while chasing down Wildebeest calf on Ndutu Plains

Cheetahs cover up to 30 feet in a single leap and reach speeds up to 75 mph.

©Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

This video shows an awesome representation of a cheetah hunt. The fastest land animal on earth only keeps up their speed for a few minutes. Although they can reach up to 75 mph (miles per hour) in only a few strides, this extreme speed uses a lot of energy. That’s why the cheetah’s chest is so deep – to hold its massive heart and lungs. The cheetah needs a huge heart to pump blood quickly and efficiently, while its oversized lungs ensure the blood is well-oxygenated.

They also have enlarged nostrils to help intake more air. When chasing prey, the cheetah’s respiratory rate (how fast it breathes) increases nearly 2.5 times normal (from 60 to 150 breaths per minute). Without these features, cheetahs could never run at such insane speeds.

Another part of their body that helps cheetahs hunt and gain speed is their long legs and body. Because they are long and lean, they can stretch their body out super far and cover up to 30 feet in a single bound. When they do this, all four feet leave the ground to maximize the distance covered. Then, their feet all come together.

When it’s time to stretch again, their claws help them push off the ground to repeat the process. The cheetah’s short claws that cannot fully retract function similar to cleats on a football or soccer player’s shoes. They help them grip the ground and keep their footing.

Changing Direction

Types of Big Cats - cheetah

The cheetah’s tail acts as a rudder, helping them steer and change directions quickly.

©Elana Erasmus/Shutterstock.com

Maintaining balance is essential to the cheetah hunt. In the video showing the cheetah hunt, we see that cheetahs change direction quickly with ease when chasing prey. This astonishing talent is directly related to their tail. If you watch the cheetah’s tail closely, you will see that it acts as a counterbalance. The long, heavy tail moves in the opposite direction of the cheetah’s turning body to help her maintain her upright stance. It may look crazy whipping around, but it truly helps them steer!

Teeth

Cheetahs hunt by suffocating their prey with their teeth biting the throat

Cheetahs have large canine teeth, which they use to clamp down on their prey’s throats to suffocate them.

©Eric Gevaert/iStock via Getty Images

In the end, a successful cheetah hunt depends on getting the correct killing bite. Most often, this is a bite directly to the throat of the prey animal. This bite severs the main arteries and/or the spinal cord. Once the prey is dead, cheetahs often must rest to regain their strength before they can eat.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/StuPorts


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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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