Online Encyclopedia

CHEETA (CHITA)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 22 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHEETA (CHITA), Or HUNTING-LEOPARD (Cynaelurus jubetus, formerly known as Gueparda jubata), a member of the family Felidae, distinguished by its claws being only partially retractile (see CARNIVORA). The cheeta attains a length of 3 to 4 ft.; it is of a pale fulvous colour, marked with numerous spots of black on the upper surface and sides, and is nearly white beneath. The fur is somewhat crisp, altogether lacking the sleekness which characterizes the fur of the typical cats, and the tail is long and somewhat bushy at the extremity. In confinement the cheeta soon becomes fond of those who are kind to it, and gives evidence of its attachment in an open, dog-like manner. The cheeta is found throughout Africa and southern Asia, and has been employed for centuries in India and Persia in hunting antelopes and other game. According to Sir W. Jones, this mode of hunting originated with Hushing, king of Persia, 865 B.C., and afterwards became so popular that certain of the Mongol emperors were in the habit of being accompanied in their sporting expeditions by a thousand hunting leopards. In prosecuting this sport at the present day the cheeta is conveyed to the field in a low car without sides, hooded and chained like hunting-birds in Europe in the days of falconry. When a herd of deer or antelopes is seen, the car, which bears a close resemblance to the ordinary vehicles used by the peasants, is usually brought within zoo yds. of the game before the latter takes alarm; the cheeta is then let loose and the hood removed from its eyes. No sooner does it see the herd, than dropping from the car on the side remote from it sprey, it approaches stealthily, making use of whatever means of concealment the nature of the ground permits, until observed, when making a few gigantic bounds, it generally arrives in the midst of the herd and brings down its victim with a stroke of its paw. The sportsman then approaches, draws off a bowl of the victim's blood, and puts it before the cheeta, which is again hooded and led back to the car. Should it not succeed in reaching the herd in the first few bounds, it makes no further effort to pursue, but retires seemingly dispirited to the car. In Africa the cheeta is only valued for its skin, which is worn by chiefs and other people of rank. It should be added that in India the name cheeta (chita) is applied also to the leopard.
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