Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Cheetah Weeping

Inspired by the Zulu folktale concerning the origin of the black lines running down a cheetah's face from its eyes. These lines were the tear tracks of a mother cheetah weeping for her lost cubs. The young cheetahs had been stolen by a hunter who wanted to train them to hunt for him.

When the mother's grief came to the attention of an old man from the hunter's village, the village elders returned her cubs and expelled the hunter, who was regarded as "lazy" and "dishonorable" for desiring to hunt in an "untraditional" way.

The moral condemnation for keeping hunting cheetahs is certainly not universal. Listed here are a few (not all) of the peoples that had tamed cheetahs for hunting:

  • Persians - Persian literature describes 5th-7th century rulers hunting with cheetahs.1
  • Arabs - medieval Arabic manuals contain instructions on how to tame and train hunting cheetahs.2
  • Mongols - 13th century emperor Kublai Khan had a stable of hunting cheetahs.3
  • Indians - a Mughal-era painting shows cheetahs accompanying the 16th century Emperor Akbar on a hunt.4 The tradition of hunting with cheetahs continued into the 20th century, as can be seen in the video People Hunting with Cheetahs, India 1939.
The Asiatic cheetah had fared worse than that of the African Cheetah due to habitat encroachment and the over-hunting of cheetah prey by humans.5 The last cheetah in Saudi Arabia has killed by a hunter in 1950; the wild cheetah populations in India, Syria, Jordan and Israel also disappeared soon after.5 Today the range of this severely endangered subspecies is limited only to Iran, which observes Cheetah Conservation Day on August 31.4

Available as:
Final piece in Wild Cat Portrait series. :-)

  1. Thomas T. Allsen, p75, The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History (Encounters With Asia)
  2. Allsen, p76, The Royal Hunt in Eurasian History (Encounters With Asia)
  3. Cheetah Fact Sheet on
  4. Asiatic cheetah on wikipedia
  5. Endangered Animals and Habitats - The Cheetah
  6. Asiatic cheetah on wikipedia

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