Watch a Cheetah Protect Its Baby and Bullet Right Into the Side of a Leopard

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Written by Rachael Monson

Updated: November 9, 2023

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

Filmed in Kruger National Park, South Africa, this video throws us right into a desperate situation involving a mother cheetah protecting its baby. A large leopard appears, ears back and staring ahead. Clearly, she is stalking something in the distance. Then the scene shifts to show a mother cheetah and her two cubs. They appear completely at ease, unaware of the danger sneaking up on them.

The leopard edges closer. Suddenly, she makes her move. She grabs hold of the cub closest to her. The mother cheetah tries to protect the cub by attacking the leopard head-on. When she has its attention, she makes a break for it. The leopard ignores her as the poor baby makes an attempt to defend itself, slashing out at the leopard’s face. The mother cheetah moves back in, and the leopard takes the bait. They run into the bushes, and we can’t see what’s happening there.

The camera moves back to the cheetah club, obviously severely injured and unable to stand. Then the leopard reappears, breathing heavily. Meanwhile, we see the cheetah mother watching on, unable to protect her baby from the much larger, stronger cat. The leopard comes for her again, forcing her to back away. Unfortunately, the cheetah cub meets its end in the jaws of the leopard.

While the video below is incredibly sad, it is a completely natural cheetah-leopard conflict. Let’s learn more about each of these big cat species and why these fights occur.

How Does a Cheetah Protect Themselves?

A cheetah and cub relaxing in the grass

Mother cheetahs protect their cubs as best they can.


Cheetahs are the smallest of the big cats. They are built for speed, not fighting. Because they run faster than any other land animal, their best defense is to get away. Running at speeds of up to 70 miles per, no attacker can catch them. Mother cheetahs try to protect their cubs as best they can. They often do this by enticing the attacker into a chase.

She tries to tire them out so she can circle back and lead her cubs away. This doesn’t always work, though. Lions, leopards, and hyenas all kill cheetah cubs whenever they can. That’s because they are in direct competition for food and territory. Only 5% of cheetah cubs live to become adults. They also die of starvation when other predators take kills from their mothers.

Leopards are larger and stronger than cheetahs. They may look similar, but there are several differences between the two species. In reality, a mother cheetah really has no chance in a fight to protect her babies from a leopard, or any other predator, including humans.

Why Should We Save the Cheetah?

Female cheetah and her four tiny cubs sitting on a large termite mound with a smooth background with copy space in Serengeti Tanzania

Cheetahs are an important part of their ecosystem.

©Stu Porter/

Generally, cheetahs are not strong enough to protect themselves from other predators. They also have beautiful spotted coats that poachers can sell.

Poachers also steal cheetah cubs to sell in the pet trade. In some places, having a pet cheetah is a sign of wealth. These cats are not meant to be pets. They might not be able to defend themselves against a leopard, but they can certainly hurt a human.

We should protect cheetahs for many reasons. The most significant of these is their role within the ecosystem that they live in. If cheetahs disappear from the wild, all of Africa will feel the loss. These cats help control the population of impalas, springboks, and other small antelope species. They also feed on the young and injured of larger herd animals such as kudu.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund works tirelessly to educate people about cheetahs and how to help protect them. Another group, Running Wild Cheetah Conservation, breeds, and releases cheetahs back into the wild. You can help protect cheetahs by donating to one of these groups. Many zoo programs use cheetahs as wildlife ambassadors.

You can also spread the word and teach others how incredible these cats are!

Is it Normal for a Cheetah to Fight with a Leopard?

Cheetah in mid-air running toward the camera

As the fastest land animal in the world, Cheetahs stand a better chance of escaping battle by running.

©Marcel Brekelmans/

Cheetahs and leopards have quite a few things in common, besides their looks. As they both live on the African Savannah, they compete for similar resources. While they may not always go after each other, it has been documented that they do not particularly get along as leopards, like lions and hyenas, tend to target cheetah cubs as prey. Adult cheetahs are incredibly fast and are not as much of an easy meal as the cubs are. It is normal for female cheetahs to defend their cubs from leopards, or any other predator. However, in a fight-or-flight scenario, it is generally thought best for cheetahs to partake in flight as they don’t have the strength needed to defeat leopards.

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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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