The cheetah Acinonyx jubatus is an atypical felid, well known for having blunt, only slightly curved, and only partly retractile claws, clearly an adaptation for high-speed locomotion in the pursuit of swift mammals. However, saying that prey ‘is usually knocked down by the force of the cheetah's charge’ (Nowak, 1999) is incorrect, because this predator actually relies on the claw of the first digit of the forepaw, the so-called dewclaw, to hook the fleeing prey off balance. Although (1) this was understood by Indian huntsmen through their use of tame cheetahs and published (Burton, 1950) in a natural history journal circulating well outside India, (2) wounds attributable to the dewclaws of cheetahs were later observed (Schaller, 1972) on prey animals in Africa, the area of most research on this felid, and (3) the information from India was finally reported (though with the wrong year in the citation) in an authoritative book on African mammals (Kingdon, 1977), no systematic study of the dewclaw itself, or of explicitly related questions, has been made. Perhaps the general connotation of the term ‘dewclaw’, as intended for a non-functional claw on a rudimentary digit as in the case of dogs, has masked the importance of what is not only a strongly curved and sharply pointed, but also a very large claw in the cheetah. In fact, this specialization of the cheetah has escaped the attention of behaviourists (Eaton, 1970), anatomists (Gonyea & Ashworth, 1975), and palaeontologists (Adams, 1979).