Watch: Leopard vs Cheetah

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Leopard vs cheetah: These two cheetahs were lucky to have speed on their side when they were ambushed by a leopard whilst taking a drink at a waterhole in the Greater Makalali Nature Reserve, South Africa.

Cheetahs in the Greater Makalali Nature Reserve, South Africa © Sophie Barrett / Garonga

While the cheetah may be the fastest land mammal on earth, it is the smallest of the big cats and its slight build makes it a relatively easy target for the two larger cat species, the lion and leopard. The cheetah’s physique allows for speed and agility on the plains, and their prey is generally scrub hares and antelopes. Fortunately, their speed also allows them to run away from conflict rather than stay to battle it out.

Cheetahs are at the bottom of the food chain and must be careful to avoid other predators who will try to kill them as they are seen as competition for food. A cheetah will nearly always flee conflict as they are very poorly designed for it. In the case of the two cheetahs captured on film by guests of Garonga Safari Camp in the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve, they had a split second to get out of the way.

Considering that a common cause of death for cheetahs are these kinds of attacks by leopards and lions, they were fortunate to get away unharmed!

A leopard in the Greater Makalali Nature Reserve, South Africa © Sophie Barrett / Garonga

If the cheetah’s weapon in battle is its speed, stealth is what makes the leopard a highly potent adversary and it will use that stealth to try and catch the cheetah unawares. When it comes to lions, a cheetah will likely be outnumbered in any potential conflict situation and once trapped, their speed unfortunately no longer serves them.

There have been times where cheetahs have chosen to stand and defend their ground when challenged by jackals or large birds of prey by trying to chase the smaller predator away. The cheetah’s defensive behaviour includes stomping or pouncing on the ground, snarling or hissing and raising their hackles to appear bigger and more aggressive.

However, there are times when even a jackal can chase a cheetah off of its hard-earned prey as the commotion the challenge makes can attract the attention of larger predators so it is often safer for the cheetah to flee and find more food elsewhere!

South Africa is a fantastic safari destination if big cats and other Big Five animals are at the top of your wildlife bucketlist. Contact us to plan a safari that will match your budget, time, interests and travel style.