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Big Cats - Cheetah

( Originally Published 1936 )

The cat which differs most from all others, and which, in, fact, is not a true cat, being placed in different genus although included in this family, is the Cheetah or Hunting Leopard of India and Africa. This singular creature has a very small head, long, slim legs, and a very narrow chest; indeed, the whole body has a generally squeezed-in appearance. The tail also is flattened vertically, and possibly serves as a rudder when running at great speed. The feet, too, differ from the feet of the true cats, in that the claws are only partially retractile. The ground colour of the fur is tawny, thickly sprinkled with small dark spots. See Plate 13, Fig. 62.

The Cheetah is also less catlike in disposition than any of the other species, and is often used as a dog might be to hunt game. The animal is hooded, placed in a cart, and driven to within as short a distance as possible of a herd of black buck, or Indian antelope, without startling them. Then the hood being removed, the Cheetah is turned in the direction of the game. Leaping to the ground, it singles out an individual from the herd, and stealthily endeavours to get as near to it as possible without being seen. When the buck becomes aware of the Cheetah's presence, the chase is on, and the Hunting-Leopard displays full character, literally flying over the ground at terrific speed; and though the antelope is a swift animal, it is usually soon run down, the Cheetah springing on it and sinking its teeth in the throat, remaining in this position, growling and lap-ping the blood until the hood is again put over its eyes. After releasing its hold, the Cheetah is put back into the cart, and the same process may be gone ever again before it is returned to its stable or cage. If an intended victim succeeds in getting too great a start, however, the Cheetah, true to the cat-like character, will not pursue, but will quickly give up the chase. In fact, its build is such that it can run at great speed for only a short time, as it has not the lung-capacity and consequent endurance of an animal like the greyhound.

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