The fastest land animals in the world, cheetahs are known for their slender, flexible bodies and strong legs. They can reach speeds over 70 miles per hour. What people often forget is that cheetahs are much more than fast – they are lethal. Part of the big cats’ family, cheetahs are apex predators engineered to stalk and kill. And this begs the question: how strong are cheetahs?
With a bite force of about 500 PSI and a strike strong enough to fight off a warthog or antelope, cheetahs are three times stronger than humans but weaker than other big cats. What they lack in strength, they have in speed and agility. Cheetahs also have the ability to understand a prey’s escape strategy to ensure hunting success.
Here are some cheetah strength facts:
- Cheetah bite force: 500 PSI
- Adult cheetah teeth size: 1 inch
- Cheetah striking strength: 12,000 lb.-ft./s
- Cheetah paw size: approximately 2 x 3.5 inches
- Adult cheetah weight: 46 to 160 lbs.
How Strong Are Cheetahs?
Closer related to cougars than lions or leopards, cheetahs are not the strongest big cats. However, they are the fastest – not only among the big cats but among all other animals.
Size-wise, cheetahs are slightly larger than a leopard. However, they don’t have the same strong muscles and bones. In fact, cheetahs’ bodies are built for velocity: they are slender, flexible, and incredibly agile.
However, this morphology compromises on strength. Cheetahs weigh between 46 and 160 pounds, and the largest ones have a striking strength of about 12,000 lb.-ft./s. That’s about three times less than the striking force of a tiger.
Apart from the lower striking force, cheetahs also have other disadvantages compared to other big cats.
Not only do they have smaller heads (which means smaller jaws and teeth), but cheetahs don’t have retractable claws. Thus, they cannot climb trees, nor can they keep their claws sharp enough to use them for killing.
The table below compares the striking strength of African vs. Asiatic cheetahs:
|Avg. strike force
|62 - 160 lbs.
|46 - 139 lbs.
|75 - 143 lbs.
|60 - 119 lbs.
Note: The African cheetah subspecies include Southeast African cheetahs, Northeast African cheetahs, and Northwest African cheetahs. While there are some differences in appearance between these subspecies, they all have a similar size and weight. We should also note that Northwest African and Asiatic cheetahs are critically endangered.
Are Cheetahs Stronger Than Humans?
Yes, cheetahs are stronger than humans. Their bite force is about three times stronger than a human’s bite force. Their striking strength is also about seven times higher. Cheetahs might not be strong enough to kill you on the spot through striking or bite force alone, but they are still strong enough to crush some bones with a single bite.
Luckily for humans, cheetahs are rather timid animals, and they rarely attack people. If they do happen to attack, you have about the same chances of surviving a cheetah as you would a mountain lion.
Built for running, cheetahs have long, muscular legs and paws designed for maximum sprint speed. Together with a flexible spine, these felines can reach a stride length up to 22 feet.
Compared to other big cats, cheetahs have slimmer yet longer legs. The hind legs are slightly longer than the front ones, with muscles built to rapidly protract the limb and increase speed.
Overall, cheetahs have a smaller muscle volume at the hip compared to other animals built for speed, such as the greyhounds. However, researchers believe that cheetahs use their strong back muscles to generate power when running.
The construction of a cheetah’s body and the top speeds it reaches may make you believe that they use only top speeds to chase and catch their prey. However, in a study by the Queen’s University Belfast, researchers concluded that cheetahs only use top speed to get closer to their prey.
Once they are close enough, the predators slow down to match the prey’s speed and use different attack strategies to block the prey’s attempts to escape. Apparently, cheetahs can study their prey and decide the best attack approach before even starting the chase.
Bite Force (Jaw)
Cheetahs have a bite force of around 400 to 500 PSI. Their jaws are stronger than those of a cougar but weaker than those of a lion or jaguar. However, their bite force is still strong enough to crush a few bones or to kill their prey through asphyxiation.
The reason why cheetahs suffocate their prey is the size of their teeth. Unlike other big cats, cheetahs don’t have long fangs. Their canines are about 1-inch long – too short to pierce through the prey’s skin and rip open their throat.
Thus, once the prey is down, cheetahs grab the animal’s throat in the jaws and use their jaw force to clamp shut the windpipe. Once the prey is dead, cheetahs start eating from the animal’s rear flanks – this is the most nutritious part.
This behavior is not random. The smaller size makes cheetahs vulnerable, with lions and hyenas being notorious for stealing a cheetah’s kill.
Like everything else in their bodies, the cheetahs’ claws are built to aid the predator during running. Cheetahs have semi-retractable claws that are curved and blunt. Their role is to increase traction while pursuing prey.
On the downside, they have little to no use during the killing. The blunt claws also make it impossible for cheetahs to climb trees.
How Strong Are Cheetahs Compared To Other Big Cats?
Cheetahs are the fastest but not the strongest big cats. They are weaker than lions, tigers, and jaguars.
Leopards are physically smaller than cheetahs, but they are strong and bulky. Leopards also have retractable claws. Thus, even if they have a less powerful bite force compared to a cheetah, leopards would still win a one-on-one.
The same is true for cheetahs and mountain lions. While cheetahs are larger and have a more powerful bite compared to cougars, the latter can easily fight off cheetahs through body strength alone.
Are Leopards Stronger Than Cheetahs?
Yes, leopards are stronger than cheetahs. Leopards are the smallest of all big cats, but their strong muscles and bones give them sufficient strength to fight off cheetahs.
The table below compares the strength of a cheetah vs. leopard:
|2 x 3.5 inches
|3 x 4 inches
As shown in the table above, cheetahs are technically stronger than leopards. They have a more powerful bite and striking strength. However, cheetahs would only manage to fight off a leopard if they collided with it while running at full speed.
While leopards are slightly smaller in size than cheetahs, they are heavier. The higher muscle mass, together with their strong bones, longer teeth, and sharp, retractable claws give leopards clear advantages. In a real fight, cheetahs wouldn’t stand a chance – except for running.