There’s a picture in The Times newspaper today March 5, 2020 which I have taken the liberty of publishing on my website because it is interesting and it is unsurprising. It was taken by Ali Aboukhalil and distributed by Media Drum Images. The caption is, “A cheetah decided a sightseeing truck was the best way to get around the Serengeti in Tanzania“.
The cheetah looks thoroughly at home on the roof of a sightseeing vehicle which has a large open top. The tourists are able to photograph the cheetah who looks directly into the camera of the photographer who, I’m going to presume, is also a tourist. Or he may be one of the guides.
Ostensibly, this is a thoroughly wild cheetah living in the Serengeti in Tanzania. There’s nothing tame about him or her but yet he is tame or at least partially so because he is relaxed in the close presence of humans. In fact he chose to be there. He chose the spot because it’s a high point and there are very few high points in the Serengeti. This allows the cheetah to survey the landscape around him. He has no fear of people and by the look of it there is no chance of him attacking the people either. One aspect of this is that he may have become habitualized to the presence of tourists.
Nonetheless, both the cheetah and the snow leopard are two large wild cat species who are predisposed to domestication. We can tell that from the history of the cheetah. It is said that when they are captured as adults cheetahs are reported to be easy to tame and train for hunting. And people hunting with cheetahs has a very long history going back at least 4,000 years.
For example, a Mesopotamian seal dating from the third millennium BC depicts a cheetah-like cat on a leash. In addition, tame cheetahs are enshrined on many Egyptian tombs and rock temples. In Europe, the nobility hunted with tame cheetahs for nearly a 1,000 years. This history of hunting with cheetahs would not be possible unless this beautiful wild cat species has a strong predisposition to working with humans.
There are also many videos online showing cheetahs in reserves who are very friendly with rangers supporting again the character of this cat as suitable for a degree of domestication. Not all wild cat species are so predisposed.
It is said, incidentally, that cheetahs captured as adults are more likely to be better at hunting with people because they have been trained by their mother but when taken as cubs and bred in captivity the training of a cheetah is reported to be difficult and long.
The cheetah is sometimes called the ‘hunting leopard’ and the name is derived from the Hindi word chita which means spotted or sprinkled.