Mountain Lion vs Cheetah: Which big cat wins in a fight?


cheetahs and mountain lions they are two big cats known for their incredible hunting skills. While the cheetah is native to Africa and parts of the Middle East, the puma resides in the Western Hemisphere. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the two will ever meet and fight. However, just in case they did, one of these predators maintains some incredible advantages over the other. Find out if a cheetah or puma would win in a fight and discover the characteristics of these predators that make them unique.

Background on Mountain Lions

Mountain lions go by several common names, including cougars, pumas, and panthers. Mountain lions have brown or tan coloration. However, some pumas have gray, reddish-brown, or even black fur. Although, black mountain lions are a rare encounter. Many pumas have color patterns on their faces, and their tails often have a black tip at the end.

The species ranges from 3.25 to 5.25 feet in length, excluding its tail, which can be as long as 33.5 inches. The mountain lion is similar in stature and size to the Jaguar. Jaguars and pumas are the only big cats native to the Western Hemisphere. An interesting fact about the mountain lion is that it can be found almost anywhere in the Western Hemisphere, from the south Argentina to southeast Alaska. The wide range of the mountain lion makes it have the largest distribution of any mammal in this hemisphere.

The mountain lion’s habitat is diverse, as these cats can adapt to a variety of climates. Some habitats where cougars reside include swamps, forests, desert scrub, and more. However, pumas do not prefer to live in regions with little vegetation or shade. Therefore, the species is not found on flatlands or plains.

Additionally, there are approximately six subspecies of mountain lions throughout the Western Hemisphere. Mountain lions residing near the Ecuador it registers smaller sizes than pumas in the north or south. Male North American mountain lions typically weigh around 136 pounds. However, some can weigh up to 220 pounds with females averaging 93 pounds.

Cougars are stealthy creatures that stalk their prey.

© Holly Kuchera/

Dangers of Mountain Lions

Mountain lions are extremely dangerous predators with keen hunting skills. They can kill animals and humans, even if their prey is much bigger than them. Mountain lions are stealthy creatures, allowing them to sneak up on their prey undetected. By the time a prey recognizes that a mountain lion is nearby, it is already too late for them. The mountain lion’s ability to sneak up on its prey is one of its most dangerous and important characteristics.

In addition, pumas register high speeds, since they can attack up to 50 miles per hour. They also blend well into their surroundings, allowing them to hide before an attack. The bite force of a mountain lion measures more than 400 PSI, and its teeth are about two inches long. They also have extremely sharp and powerful claws that clock in at 2.5 inches in length.

When a mountain lion finds prey, it will stalk it carefully. Cougars can hide in nearby vegetation or blend into their surroundings. Cougars are silent in their search for prey, making them virtually invisible. When a mountain lion attacks, it pounces on its prey, wrapping its front paws around it. This action pushes the prey to the ground, immobilizing it.

Mountain lions can reach 50 mph in short bursts.
Mountain lions can reach 50 mph in short bursts.


Background on Cheetahs

Cheetahs are beautiful big cats native to the African continent. The coloration of cheetahs is usually light yellow with a white belly and black spots all over the body. Like the mountain lion, cheetahs have a facial color pattern characterized by black lines starting at the eyes and running down to the mouth.

Cheetahs log lengths of around four feet, but their tails can add an extra two to three feet in length. Therefore, cheetahs are about the same size as pumas. Unlike the mountain lion, however, cheetahs are largely reserved for the African continent. The distribution of this species extends from southwestern Africa to Iran.

Cheetah habitat includes grasslands and open plains. However, in some cases, cheetahs can be found in areas with more vegetation or rocky terrain. Cheetahs usually travel in small groups, either a mother and her puppies or a group of male cheetahs, who are often brothers.

The weight of a cheetah ranges from 75 to 119 pounds, making it slightly lighter than the mountain lion. Also, females are usually smaller than their male counterparts. Male and female cheetahs are unlikely to travel together or meet outside of mating. Females usually give birth to between two and eight young. Unfortunately, many cheetah cubs are in danger of being killed by predators. Pup mortality can be as high as 90% in some areas.

Female cheetah and her four small cubs sitting on a large termite mound with a soft background with copy space in Serengeti Tanzania
Cheetahs can travel in groups, including a mother and her cubs.

©Stu Porter/

dangers of cheetahs

Like the puma, cheetahs also stalk their prey before attacking. The species will lurk as close to its prey as possible before beginning to pursue it. Cheetahs are extremely fast and can run up to 71 miles per hour. When the cheetah catches up with its prey, it will trip them up and strangle the prey.

The cheetah will then begin to eat its prey rapidly, while other predators begin to pounce on the cheetah and its prey. These predators often scare the cheetah away from its prey. However, the cheetah will not come back to finish eating. Cheetahs only eat fresh meat. Therefore, if a cheetah is unable to chase and kill its prey due to illness or injury, it will starve.

Additionally, cheetahs have a bite force similar to that of pumas, ranging from 400 to 500 PSI. However, cheetahs have shorter teeth measuring around an inch. Cheetah claws are semi-retractable. Their claws are much like the cleats used in a variety of sports, allowing them traction when running at high speeds. The cheetah’s claws are not particularly long and are not extremely sharp. However, cheetah teeth they are sharp, like those of many species of big cats.

Unlike mountain lions, cheetahs do not pose a threat to humans or other predators. In fact, cheetahs are calm animals and will not start conflicts with other predators. The species is more likely to flee than engage in a fight. While cheetahs are not dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean people should go near them. Cheetahs must be left alone for their safety and that of humans.

Tanzania, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, adult cheetah (Acinonyx jubatas) starts running while chasing wildebeest cub on the Ndutu plains
Cheetahs can run up to 71 mph.

©Danita Delimont/

What big cat would win in a fight?

In a fight between a cheetah and a mountain lion, the mountain lion would be victorious. Cheetahs are extremely fast creatures, so a cheetah could easily outrun a fight. However, if a cheetah couldn’t escape, the mountain lion would easily win. Cheetahs are not aggressive creatures and tend to shy away from conflict. On the other hand, pumas are aggressive and can take down animals and humans larger than themselves.

Also, pumas have longer teeth and claws than cheetahs, giving them an advantage. Cougars are also incredible hunters, undetectable when stalking their prey. If a cougar is stalking a cheetah, the cheetah is unlikely to notice the cougar until it is too late. If a cheetah were to stalk a cougar and chase it, the cougar would overpower the cheetah with its strength.

Finally, the image of a cheetah stalking a puma is relatively impossible. Cheetahs do not conflict with or hunt other predators. However, pumas can hunt other predators in the wild. Therefore, the advantages of the puma significantly outweigh those of the cheetah. In this big cat battle, the puma would surely triumph over the cheetah.

America's Deadliest Animals
Mountain lions can easily attack and kill animals larger than themselves.


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