This is a nice and unexpected story. It is not hard, fresh news but it is news to me. I expect it is to some other people as well.
You may know that in Africa farmers sometimes use the Anatolian Shepherd dog as a guard for livestock such as goats and sheep. The Anatolian protects against attacks by the cheetah. This indirectly protects the cheetah too as the cat steers clear and thereby avoids being shot by farmers who want to protect their livestock. However, I would doubt that this large dog would be effective against a lion or leopard.
Anyway that isn’t the point. In American zoos, zoo managers have found a neat way of improving the lives of captive cheetahs; pairing them up with a best mate, an Anatolian Shepherd dog. It is turning the original use of this dog on its head and apparently it is proving very effective.
A dog is selected to grow up with a cheetah cub. When they grow up together the dog provides a security blanket for the cheetah and they become thoroughly socialized to each other.
The point is that the cheetah is an inherently cautious and skittish large cat. It has to be because it relies on one thing to catch prey: speed. If it gets injured it is dead in the wild because it will starve being unable to chase down prey. The calm and adaptable Anatolian Shepherd dog provides the security the cheetah needs under unfamiliar surroundings.
The cheetah plays with the dog and the dog can groom the cheetah. They are very compatible in size and desires. The shepherd dog weighs about 130 pounds. The cheetah weighs about a maximum of 143 pounds so is very similar is weight, perhaps generally lighter.
Apparently, at mealtimes they are separated just to be on the safe side as feeding can bring out aggression in both cat and dog. Other than they are best mates and companions for life. Dogs are better companions for the cheetah than a human, unsurprisingly.
That is what I like – a bit of lateral, out of the box thinking to help the cat. We need some more. I feel that, in general, people need to be more alert to the emotional sensitivities of animals. I think we are misunderstanding the animal a lot of the time.
The Anatolian Shepherd dog comes from Turkey. It is an ancient breed with origins going back 6,000 years. The breed has a history of being used as a guard dog. It is a loyal and independent dog.
Note: I want to thank dw for her birthday present of a book about animal relationships that gave me the idea for this post.