The cheetah is the only extant species of the genus Acinonyx.It belongs to Felinae, the subfamily of Felidae that also includes lynxes, wildcats, and the puma.Cheetahs are induced ovulators, breeding throughout the year.Gestation is nearly three months long, resulting in a litter of typically three to five cubs (the number can vary from one to eight).In May 1981 two spotted sisters gave birth at the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre (South Africa), and each litter contained one king cheetah.Each sister had mated with a wild male from the Transvaal region (where king cheetahs had been recorded).Extinct North American cats resembling the cheetah had historically been assigned to Felis, Puma or Acinonyx.
Thanks to its prowess at hunting, the cheetah was tamed and used to kill game at hunts in the past.
Cooper wrote about an animal he had shot near modern-day Harare.
Describing the animal, he noted its remarkable similarity to the cheetah, but the body of this individual was covered with fur as thick as that of a snow leopard and the spots merged to form stripes.
The species was first described by German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber in his 1775 publication Die Säugethiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen.
Although the cheetah is an African cat, molecular evidence indicates that the three species of the Puma lineage evolved in North America two to three million years ago, where they possibly had a common ancestor during the Miocene.A genome study concluded that cheetahs experienced two genetic bottlenecks in their history, the first about 100,000 years ago and the second about 12,000 years ago, greatly lowering their genetic variability.