Do cheetahs roar? Decoding Their Secret Language

If you’re looking for answers to the age-old question, “Do cheetahs roar?” you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll dive in, learn about these incredible animals, and get to the bottom of their vocal abilities.

Cheetahs are renowned for their speed over short distances and have been admired by humans since ancient times; they even appeared in cultural folklore thousands of years ago!

Despite being one of Africa’s most iconic predators, however, there is still much that remains mysterious about them, including whether they can roar like other large cats. Let’s uncover the truth together: read on as we take a closer look at cheetah biology and behavior while putting this question under scrutiny.

Do cheetahs roar?

Contrary to popular belief, cheetahs do not roar. Unlike lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards, which are part of the Pantherinae subfamily and known for their distinct and mighty roars, cheetahs are part of the Felinae subfamily.

Instead of roaring, cheetahs communicate through a diverse range of vocalizations, such as purrs, hisses, growls, and high-pitched chirps. Their inability to roar is due to a difference in the structure of their voice box or larynx.

Do Cheetahs Roar

Despite not being able to roar, cheetahs are still incredibly vocal animals. They use these vocalizations to communicate with one another and express emotions such as fear, aggression, or contentment.

Cheetahs also make unique sounds during mating season when males try to attract females with a series of loud yowls and barks. These calls can be heard up to a mile away and are an important part of their reproductive behavior.

But why do other big cats roar while cheetahs cannot? The answer lies in the anatomy of their voice box.

The Anatomy of Roaring

The ability to roar comes down to a specific piece of anatomy called the hyoid apparatus located in the throat, specifically the larynx. In roaring cats—lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars—this apparatus is partly composed of flexible cartilage, which allows it to stretch and produce deep, resonant sounds when air passes over the vocal cords.

The hyoid apparatus in cheetahs and other smaller cats is completely ossified or bony and lacks flexible cartilage. This influences the range and type of sounds they can produce.

So, while cheetahs may not be able to roar like their larger counterparts, they can make a broader range of vocalizations, from purring to hissing and chirping. This unique aspect of their vocal anatomy underlines the beautiful diversity of the animal kingdom.

Do Cheetahs Roar

On the other hand, cheetahs have a shorter, narrower vocal fold than other large cats, which is essential for producing roars. This difference may be due to their unique ability to run at high speeds, which requires a different vocal structure for effective breathing and stamina.

Alternative Vocalizations of Cheetahs

Cheetahs have a unique and diverse vocal repertoire, compensating for their inability to roar. They primarily communicate through various vocalizations, including purring, hissing, growling, and a high-pitched chirping sound.

Interestingly, the chirping sound, also known as “cheetah chirp” or “cheetah tweet,” is often likened to bird-like sounds, and it can convey various messages, from calling their cubs to expressing distress or alerting about nearby dangers.

Purring is another common vocalization, similar to those made by domestic cats, often indicating contentment, especially when the animal is resting or grooming. Cheetahs also hiss and growl, typically as a form of warning or annoyance, especially when faced with threats or territorial disputes.

Another key vocalization during the mating season is the series of yowls and barks by males to attract females. These loud and long-distance calls heard up to a mile away, play a crucial role in their reproductive behavior.

Despite their inability to roar, these alternative vocalizations underline the cheetahs’ complex communication system, demonstrating the versatility and adaptability of this swift and graceful animal. So, while cheetahs may not roar like other big cats, they have much to say in their unique way.

Comparing Roaring and Non-Roaring Cats

When comparing roaring cats (Lions, Tigers, Leopards, and Jaguars) with non-roaring cats like Cheetahs, one of the stark differences is in the structure of their hyoid apparatus, as we’ve previously detailed. However, other characteristics set these two groups apart.

Roaring cats, belonging to the Pantherinae subfamily, are generally more massive and built for strength. They have a more robust build and strong, muscular bodies designed to take down large prey. Their vocalizations, notably the roar, are primarily used to communicate over long distances and to establish territory.

On the other hand, non-roaring cats, including Cheetahs and others in the Felinae subfamily, tend to be smaller and more agile. They rely more on stealth and speed, as seen in the cheetah’s remarkable sprinting abilities. While not as loud or far-reaching as a roar, their vocalizations are more varied and often used for close-range communication.

Do Cheetahs Roar

Furthermore, behavioral differences can also be observed. Roaring cats, such as lions, are sociable and live in groups called prides. In contrast, cheetahs, like most other non-roaring cats, are solitary animals.

It’s fascinating to see how these different adaptations and characteristics have evolved to suit each species’ unique lifestyle and environment. While they may share a common feline ancestry, the divergence between roaring and non-roaring cats is a testament to the incredible diversity found within the world of big cats.

Explain the differences in vocalization abilities among different cat species.

The divergence in vocalization abilities among different cat species can be traced back to their evolutionary adaptations. As mentioned earlier, the ability to roar depends on the structure of the hyoid apparatus in the throat, specifically the presence or absence of flexible cartilage. This distinct feature has evolved differently in various cat species based on their specific needs and environments.

For roaring cats such as lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, their size and hunting behavior have led to the developing a flexible hyoid apparatus. These large predators rely on their strength and power to take down prey, which requires a mighty roar to communicate over long distances and establish dominance within their prides or territories.

In contrast, non-roaring cats like cheetahs, which are smaller and more agile, have evolved a more robust and bony hyoid apparatus. This structure provides them better stability and support while running at high speeds, which is crucial for chasing their swift prey. Additionally, their vocalizations serve a different purpose – communicating within close range for hunting strategies or territorial disputes.

The divergence in vocalization abilities among cat species also reflects their social behavior and lifestyle. Roaring cats live in groups and use loud roars to communicate over long distances, but non-roaring cats, who are solitary animals, rely on a more diverse range of vocalizations for close-range communication.

The Role of Cheetah Vocalizations in Their Ecosystem

Cheetah vocalizations play a vital role in maintaining the unique dynamics of their ecosystem. Cheetahs use their distinct vocalizations, like purring, hissing, growling, and chirping, mainly for intra-species communication.

This allows them to effectively coordinate hunting, express territorial claims, signal distress, or call out to their cubs. These sounds help cheetahs maintain their solitary lifestyle, avoiding unnecessary confrontations with other predators that could lead to injury or loss of their prey.

Beyond intra-species communication, the vocalizations of cheetahs also influence the behaviors of other species in their habitat. For instance, prey animals learn to interpret these sounds as warning signals, leading to adaptive behaviors for survival.

Similarly, other predator species may recognize these sounds as an indication of a cheetah’s presence and respond accordingly, maintaining the delicate balance of competition and co-existence.

In the grand tapestry of the ecosystem, the vocalizations of the cheetah contribute not only to their individual survival and species propagation but also to the intricate dynamics of communication, competition, and survival among various species in their habitat. Thus, cheetah vocalizations, though not as loud or far-reaching as the roars of their larger counterparts, profoundly influence the structure and function of their ecosystem.

Addressing Common Misconceptions

There are several common misconceptions surrounding the vocalizations of big cats, particularly cheetahs. One widespread myth is that all big cats roar, which, as we’ve discussed, is inaccurate.

Despite being classified as a big cat, Cheetahs lack the anatomical structure required to produce a roar. Instead, they communicate through various other sounds, such as purring, growling, hissing, and even bird-like chirping.

Do Cheetahs Roar

Another misconception is that the inability to roar indicates a lack of communication skills or reduced aggressiveness. This is also untrue. Cheetahs, although unable to roar, possess a complex system of vocalization with a wide range of sounds used for different forms of communication, including hunting coordination, territory defense, and distress signals.

Lastly, it’s a common fallacy to assume that roaring is a sign of the strength or dominance of a cat species. In reality, roaring is more about communication and less about indicating physical prowess.

Both roaring and non-roaring cats, including cheetahs, have unique strengths and adaptations that enable them to survive and thrive in their respective habitats. So, let’s put these misconceptions to rest and appreciate the diverse vocalization abilities of all cat species.

Overall, the differences in vocalization abilities among different cat species have evolved to cater to their specific needs and lifestyles, contributing to the fascinating diversity found within the world of big cats.


Despite being unable to roar like other big cats, cheetahs are still quite vocal animals. They have a unique language of purrs, hisses, growls, and high-pitched chirps that allow them to communicate with one another and express their emotions.

Cheetahs also vocalize during mating season, making loud calls that can be heard from up to a mile away. So the next time you watch National Geographic or explore the African safari on animal planet, be sure to pay attention not only to the roar of lions but also listen to the eloquent language of cheetahs!

Let’s raise awareness about this incredible species and work together to preserve their habitat, as cheetahs need all our help to survive our rapidly changing environment.