The cheetah is an atypical member of the cat family that
is unique in its speed, while lacking climbing abilities.
The species is the only living member of the genus Acinonyx.
It is the fastest land animal, reaching speeds between 112
and 120 km/h (70 and 75 mph) in short bursts covering distances
up to 460 m (1,510 ft), and has the ability to accelerate
from 0 to 103 km/h (64 mph) in three seconds, faster than
most supercars. The cheetah is a vulnerable species. Out of
all the big cats, it is the least able to adapt to new environments.
It has always proved difficult to breed in captivity, although
recently a few zoos have managed to succeed at this. Once
widely hunted for its fur, the cheetah now suffers more from
the loss of both habitat and prey. The cheetah was formerly
considered to be particularly primitive among the cats and
to have evolved approximately 18 million years ago. New research,
however, suggests that the last common ancestor of all 40
existing species of felines lived more recently than that—about
11 million years ago.