Conservation and Research
October 4, 2016

Cheetah and African Wild Dog Anatomy & Hunting

We were fortunate to have some veterinary students with us a while ago who took the time to look into Cheetah and African Wild Dog anatomy in terms of the body parts used for hunting. Here’s what they came up with.

African Wild Dog Anatomy & Relation to Hunting

African Wild Dog Anatomy
African Wild Dog Anatomy

Wild Dogs are commonly known to be crepuscular hunters, which means they will hunt mainly in the early morning and evening. These impressive hunters have a very organized system and use a tactic of exhausting their prey, with a few running close to the prey while the others lag behind. This allows other members to take over when the primary hunters tire.

The Wild Dog skull is heavy with strong muscles and modified upper incises, which give a very powerful bite. Sharp canines are used to grip prey once caught. The carnassial (paired upper and lower teeth) pass by each other to slice meat. These teeth enhance the shearing capacity so that prey can be consumed quicker. What’s really interesting about these sectorial teeth is that they have self-sharpening abilities.

Cheetah Anatomy & Relation to Hunting

Cheetah Anatomy
Cheetah Anatomy

Uniquely adapted to speed, the cheetah tail acts like a rudder to counter balance its weight when changing direction quickly during a hunt and the small head reduces wind resistance when sprinting. Cheetah teeth are smaller than other carnivores. This is due to an enlarged nasal passage required for more effective breathing when running at such speeds.

The cheetah has hardened paws for traction, which act much like tyre tread. This helps with quick turns when hunting. Cheetah claws are semi retractable and aid in acceleration. They have what is termed a “dew claw” which aids in hooking prey when running. What’s really interesting about cheetah paws is that each has its own unique paw print - much like human fingerprints.

Many thanks to our veterinary students Thibault Laurent, Natacha Bonomeli and Camille & Romane Lassere for these drawings of Cheetah and African Wild Dog Anatomy!