The agile cheetah is a big cat most famous for being the fastest mammal on land thanks to its lean body and long legs.

But did you know that cheetahs are sensitive, shy animals? In addition to external factors such as destruction of their natural habitats and hunting, the sensitivity of these big cats is pushing their species toward extinction.

Cheetahs can be skittish, too anxious to procreate because they haven’t even learned essential socialization skills.

Enter Labrador retrievers. In one exhibit at the Columbus Zoo, the adorable dogs draw big crowds daily.


Image credit: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook

It might seem strange to see Labs at a zoo, but they are actually in the exhibit as service dogs for the cheetahs. The frisky dogs get along remarkably well with the lanky cats, and they play and live together like siblings.

These Labs and cheetahs mingle from a young age when Labrador puppies are placed with cheetah cubs in their enclosure. The dogs and cats grow up together, forming a strong bond.

According to Janet Rose-Hinostroza of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, the help these support dogs provide is indispensable to the cheetahs. The dogs serve as behavior models, teaching the cats to read social cues and respond appropriately.

In addition, the dogs’ relaxed, cheerful disposition rubs off on the cats, who then grow into confident adults.


Image credit: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook

The dogs also offer comfort and companionship to the cats. When a Columbus Zoo cheetah named Kiara underwent leg surgery, her canine buddy Kobe contributed immensely to her recovery.

Dogs can help in other ways, too. In Africa, the Anatolian Shepherd is key to preventing the extinction of cheetahs not by being their friend, but by keeping them away.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund provides African farmers with Anatolian Shepherds, who drive cheetahs away from farm animals using their sheer size and booming bark. Thus, farmers don’t need to trap or kill cheetahs anymore.

Because of the important role dogs play, they’re not only man’s best friend—they now have the distinction of being a cheetah’s best friend as well!

Watch the dogs and big cats in action here:

Source: CBS News on YouTube

 

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