Emperor Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs – 16th century with large retinue in attendance. The cheetahs are hunting gazelles and blackbuck.
Cheetahs have long been associated with people. We see them as endangered wild cats now but in the past they were used for hunting a lot. There are images of cheetahs wearing collars from art as long ago as about 700 BC. As the pharaohs of ancient Egypt believed that their spirit would be carried away by the fleet footed cheetah, the cat was buried with them.
There are also images such as the one above of cheetahs having been trained for hunting duties. Tame cheetahs were used to hunting animals during the the seventeenth and eighteenth Dynasty (1550-1292 BC) in Egypt and later hunting with cheetahs was practiced in these countries:
- the Middle East
- southern Russia
In reference to the picture above, Akbar the Great (picture above right) was the ruler of the Mughal Empire from 1556 to 1605. The Mughal Empire occupied a part of what is now India – see map below. At the time of the death of Akbar the area of the Empire is marked in orange in the map below:
A cheetah was presented to Akbar in 1555. The cheetah’s name was, Fatehbaz and it was the beginning of a long association with tame and trained cheetahs for this potentate. He was the first potentate to be introduced to the idea of hunting with cheetahs. He came to own and use a thousand cheetahs at one time, and over the period of his life he owned 9,000!
Painting by George Stubbs 1764-1765 – picture in the public domain.
In the west, Europeans began hunting with cheetahs one thousand years ago. Coursing with cheetahs was a popular sport in Europe, specifically, Italy, France and Italy, in the 14th and 15th centuries. The cheetah was used to chase hares and row deer.
In India, the blindfolded cheetah was taken to the hunting site on a cart. The blindfold was removed when the prey was released. The cheetah would leap down and chase the prey.
It was unsurprisingly discovered that it was much easier to train adult cheetahs to hunt as they had been trained in the basic skills by their mother. It would take about 6 months to train an adult cheetah. Cubs by contrast were relatively hard work and it took much longer.
Cheetahs were snared and trapped to become tame hunting cheetahs. It is no surprise that the cheetah was an ideal big cat for this role as they are shy and retiring in character. In recognition of its hunting skills the cheetah was sometimes called the hunting leopard.
Header, picture of Akbar the Great and the map of Mughal Empire are published here under under Wikimedia® creative commons license = Attribution-ShareAlike License.
George Stubbs painting is in the public domain due to the passage of time
Hunting with Cheetahs – Sources: Times Newspaper, Wild Cats of the World