The two species commonly identified are M. inexpectatus and M. trumani. Sometimes, a third species, M. studeri, is included, but it is more often listed as a junior synonym of M. trumani. Both species are similar to the African cheetah, with faces shortened and nasal cavities expanded for increased oxygen capacity, and legs proportioned for swift running. However, these similarities are not be inherited from a common ancestor, but instead resulted from either parallel or convergent evolution. Both species are larger than an African cheetah and similar in size to a cougar. Body mass is typically around 70 kg (150 lb), with a head-and-body length of 170 cm (67 in), tail length around 92 cm (36 in), and shoulder height of 85 cm (33 in). The largest specimen ever killed weighed more than 95 kg (209 lb).
Due to some habitat loss and other human activities during the late 1800s to early 1930s, American cheetahs were listed as Endangered, but thanks to conservation efforts, American cheetah populations have (mostly) recovered and are now back from the brink of extinction. They are now listed as Least Concern by conservationists.