The cheetah is a felid with several distinctive features – a slender body, deep chest, spotted pelage, a small rounded head, black tear-like streaks on the face, long thin legs and a long spotted tail.
Its lightly built, slender form is in sharp contrast with the robust build of the big cats. The head-and-body length ranges from 112–150 centimetres (44–59 in). The cheetah reaches 70–90 centimetres (28–35 in) at the shoulder, and weighs 21–72 kilograms (46–159 lb).
Thus, it is clearly taller than the leopard, which stands nearly 55–70 centimetres (22–28 in) at the shoulder. The weight range of the cheetah overlaps extensively with that of the leopard, which weighs 28–65 kilograms (62–143 lb). On the other hand, the cheetah is significantly shorter than the lion, whose average height is nearly 120 centimetres (47 in). Moreover, it is much lighter than the lion, among which females weigh 126 kilograms (278 lb) and the much heavier males weigh 186 kilograms (410 lb). Based on measurements, the smallest cheetahs have been reported from the Sahara, northeastern Africa and Iran.
A sexually dimorphic species, males are generally larger than females