Labs, Cheetahs and Zoo Safety

Cheetahs can be skittish. Labrador Retrievers are not. Dallas is not the only zoo that has raised them together from kittenhood and puppyhood. The Cheetahs who are raised with dogs are used for educational purposes; going to schools and events to educate people about their plight and what they can do to help in the conservation effort of this gorgeous, endangered animal. An event of this kind might be held at a venue where the Cheetah and dog need to go up a flight of stairs or enter an elevator, for example. Either of those would freak the Cheetah out, but when he sees his dog brother happily comply, he gains the confidence to do it, too.

Windspear and Amani as babies.

Amani and Windspear as babies.

“Cheetahs are shy, so the dog instills confidence in him whenever they go to new places,” zoo official Sean Greene said. “Also, the dog has an outgoing personality and while the cheetah is reserved she likes that attention, so their relationship is very natural.”

Cheetahs can go from zero to 70 miles per hour in 3 seconds. They are the fastest of the land animals. I know that but I’m wondering why they say, “land animals.” Is there a sea creature that goes faster than that? I need to google that. The only thing Cheetahs eat is meat and when they make a kill they eat almost as fast as they run because inevitably a larger cat will smell the kill, run the Cheetah off and finish the meal. So, Cheetahs have to eat as much as they possibly can as quickly as they possibly can.

I’ve noticed that when Windspear and Amani play chase, Amani is by far the fastest dog I’ve ever seen in my life. Being raised with Windspear must have busted through his genetic inclinations and inborn perceived limitations about how fast a Labrador Retriever can run.

        Playing together

Playing together

At 2:30 four days a week, the zoo does a show called “Cheetah Encounter.” It is an opportunity for zoo guests to see how fast Windspear can run and also to see him playing with Amani and interacting with his keepers. I go often to see it. One day I saw a guy wearing a zoo employee uniform, which is only slightly different than the volunteer uniform I wear. Like me, he also wears a nametag, which I didn’t bother to look at because I couldn’t care less who’s who at the zoo. I walked over and introduced myself, he said his name was Kevin and we got talking; or should I say I got talking.

   Lovin' on each other

Lovin’ on each other

“I was surprised when I saw the keepers in with the Cheetah,” I said.

Kevin didn’t say anything.

“I spoke to one keeper and asked her if she felt safe.” I said. “She said she felt completely safe because they’ve raised the Cheetah since it was a tiny kitten. She also said that Cheetah’s do not consider humans prey.”

Kevin was quiet.

“I am not an expert on these things and I’m sure the keeper is and I know this is an accredited zoo and if this were a dangerous situation the Association of Zoos and Aquariums wouldn’t allow it but I don’t think I’d personally feel completely safe. I always think of Siegfried and Roy and that Tiger.”

While I was beginning to suspect Kevin was the strong, silent type, he saw me glance at his nametag. It said. Kevin Thomas, Director of Zoo Safety. We locked eyes and both burst out laughing.

12 thoughts on “Labs, Cheetahs and Zoo Safety

  1. LoL. Good thing Kevin had a good sense of humor. Oh, he must have been dying inside to burst out laughing.

    The whole dog/cheetah thing was very interesting to read. Who knew? (Meaning: I had no idea.)

    I am not totally surprised though. I used to raise Persian cats for show. Persians are not high energy cats. One litter’s mom had a breast infection and a fellow breeder offered to have her mom cat foster my kittens. Thing is, the foster mom was an Abyssinian. Aby’s are out going, energetic, smart…everything Persians aren’t. We weren’t sure if the experiment would work but mom instinct is strong. The Abysinnian mom took forever trying to lick the fur off the Persians on their first encounter. “What did you get into?” Well, long story but those Persian kittens grew up to be the most energetic, boisterous and crafty Persians that ever existed. They were still “slow” for Aby’s but amazing Persians. Nature/nurture is interesting.


    • Thanks! Yeah, of the 8 gorillas, Juba is the one who knows me and appears happy to see me. He also plays games though. I hadn’t been there for a while because gorillas can’t be out of their bedrooms under 40 degrees which it has been AND I had minor surgery which kept me away when it warmed up. Since he hadn’t seen me in a while he approached the glass and looked content when he saw me and we sat together on opposite sides of the glass for sometime which I love. Sometimes however, when I’m at the zoo on a regular basis, he will glance at me and then look away as if he is bored to death with my presence.


  2. Lisa

    Cheetahs have been my favorite (land) animal since I did a report on them when I was in about 5th grade. I proceeded to become a VERY fast as a runner 😉 I think I AM a Cheetah in agility and personality…and how ’bout how those babies look?! Hmmm…fastest OTHER animal…I probably knew that in 5th grade but can’t imagine what/who it might be…the American Condor?? That might be widest wingspan or something…I did a report on them too 😉


    • Oh, I didn’t even think of “air” animal, maybe thats what it is….thats probably what it is, some hawks are really fast. Don’t think it would be the Condor though because they are so big….could be wrong…they do have the widest wingspan of any bird on the planet if I’m not mistaken.


  3. Lisa

    QUOTE “The fastest animal in the world is the peregrine falcon, which can reach speeds up to 212 miles per hour during a dive. The fastest land animal is the cheetah, which can reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour. “


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