Cheetah taxonomy

I was told a couple weeks ago that cheetahs are actually more closely related to dogs than cats. I looked up the taxonomy and found that, yes, the Cheetah is in the family Felidae, but the idea seemed just crazy enough to be true. Is there something else that I’m missing here? Is the taxonomy the same but the relationship different? Was I just gullible?

Related to dogs ?

I dont think so.

Surely the f-e-l-i of Felidae is to do with cats anyway isnt it ?

Order Carnivora can be split into two groups: caniforms and feliforms.

Feliforms include Felids (cats), Hyenids (hyenas), Viverrids (civets) and Herpestids (mongooses).

Caniforms include Canids (dogs), Ursids (bears), Procyonids (raccoons), Mustelids (badgers, weasels, skunks & otters) plus the pandas.

That split shows the interrelationships between different carnivores.

You can accurately say that hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, even though they might look more like dogs.

But it’d be stretching things too far for someone to suggest that a particular felid really should belong in the caniform group.

Cheetahs are said to be rather doglike in a couple of superficial respects. They have non-retractable claws ( for added purchase when running ). Behaviorally they are a bit peculiar in that they supposedly tame easily and are said to have a temperment much like a pet dog once tamed ( The Mughul Padishahs kept hundreds in stables for coursing game - Sadly they are incredibly hard to breed in captivity for some reason and are now extinct in India ).

However those are, again, very superficial characters. Taxonomically cheetahs are no closer to canids in any significant way than any other felid.

  • Tamerlane

Probably helps that they are barely capable of cutting anyone open with their teeth; in the wild they must suffocate their prey because their jaws are so weak.

I’ve heard the same thing as the OP, but I don’t believe it. They look like cats in so many ways, and they act like cats.

Taxonomy is not an exact science (and I am speaking as someone who presented a paper on numerical taxonomy to the Classification Society once upon a time.)

Also, cheetahs have sort of a “barking” sound.

As others have pointed out, the resemblances between cheetahs and canids are entirely superficial. They are the result of convergent evolution, in that cheetahs have adopted a hunting strategy - running down prey in open country - that is similar to that of canids, as opposed to the typical felid strategy of hunting from ambush. They are definitely true cats, and no more closely related to dogs than they are to bears, racoons, sea lions, or weasels.

Here is a family tree of the Feildae. The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus is most closely related to the Puma or Mountain Lion Puma concolor, and evidently evolved in North America, later migrating to Eurasia via the Bering Land Bridge and becoming extinct in its original home. It is somewhat more distantly related to the Jaguarundi of the Americas and possibly the Clouded Leopard of southeast Asia .

In which I hope you stated that it is mostly inferior to morphometrics :D.

A brief search turned up that the New World puma and jaguarundi seems to be the closest relatives to the cheetah based on some recent genetic work. Though I found one recent reference that disagrees.

And I should have said their claws are only “semi-retractable” ( they have no sheath ).

  • Tamerlane

Bah! Colibri, steals my thunder again ;).

  • Tamerlane

As I read it, cheetahs evolved in Africa during the Miocene, and migrated to Asia and North America (as Miracinonyx ) before dying out.
Another peculiar thing about cheetah taxonomy is the status of the King Cheetah, sometimes regarded as a subspecies, sometimes just a sport.

but dogs, no.

Apparently it’s now just considered a very rare color mutation, caused by a recessive allele. It seems a king cheetah cub can be born into a litter of perfectly normal cheetahs ( that’s how the argument was settled - one was born to normal parents in the DeWildt Cheetah Center in South Africa ).

  • Tamerlane

Turnabout is fair play, Lame One. :wink: