Through the grasslands flies a slender spear of spotted grace and splendid speed Choose thoughts that slow its final race And save this graceful breed -Stu Wells
How the Cheetah Got Spots
A very long time ago, when the earth was first created, all the animals came down onto the savanna. The animals, birds, insects were all different shapes and different colors. When the cheetah first came to the earth, just like all other animals, it shook its body and stretched its legs, and took a deep breath of the new clean air. The cheetah thought if felt very good to be alive. Each animal had to get used to its own body, so the cheetah started running and found out it could run very very fast.
The cheetah ran and ran across the vast plains of the world. After a time of wandering the plains alone, the cheetah became lonely, and decided to look for friends of its own kind. One day, the cheetah, with its great eyesight, spotted some large cats off in the distance and eagerly went running as fast as she could toward these cats. As she was running toward them, one of the cats, which was much larger than the others, stood up and roared. The loud noise frightened the cheetah and she dug her claws into the dirt and came to abrupt halt. The cat was a big male lion, and he roared out to the cheetah in a very low booming voice, "Who are you and what do you want?"
The cheetah, which is much smaller in size than a lion and who by nature is a very shy and timid animal, said "I am lonely and have been searching the savanna trying to find friends of my own kind."
The lion roared, "Well, you are not a lion! Look at your legs and body, you are much thinner than we are. And look at your feet, you have claws like a dogs. Your claws do not retract all the way back into your feet like ours do. You are not a cat, you are a dog. So, you better run away fast and try to find someone in your own family."
The cheetah lowered her head and put her tail down, and crept away feeling a bit discouraged. She thought big cats were very unfriendly. The cheetah continued her search looking for a friend of her own kind. The days went by. Then one day, the cheetah saw a pack of wild dogs playing in the sun. The cheetah went racing up to the pack. The whole pack was yelping and barking furiously. The cheetah stopped immediately, and the pack leader yelped at her, "Who are you and what do you want?"
The cheetah began to tell the wild dogs her story about trying to find a family of her own. During her search, she was scared by a lion and saddened when he told her that the cheetah was not a cat, but a dog. The whole pack of wild dogs howled in laughter, and barked at her, "You are not a dog at all. Look at your round head and ears, and your rough tongue. They are like a cat's. Your tail is long just like the other cats. You are not a dog at all!" The pack chased the cheetah off, biting at her heels.
This time the cheetah raced away very fast because she was scared. After running a safe distance from the dogs, the cheetah laid down to rest under a big camel thorn tree. She felt sad. She thought about how the lion roared and did not want her, and how the wild dogs yelped and bit at her feet, and she felt sadder and sadder. The cheetah felt so sad that started to cry. She was very lonely.
The cheetah did not realize that any other animals were near her. A giraffe had walked up quietly while the cheetah was crying. The giraffe, looking down at the cheetah with its big brown eyes, asked, "Why are you crying?" The cheetah was very surprised when the giraffe spoke. The cheetah looked up tearfully at the giraffe and proceeded to tell her sad story about the lions roaring and telling her she was not a cat, and the wild dogs chasing her and saying she was not a dog.
Sniffling, the cheetah said, "I have been sitting here crying, and I have cried so long and so hard--look at my beautiful face, the tears have burnt marks in my face."
A bird that was flying by the camel thorn tree saw the beautiful cheetah and chirped, "I have traveled throughout this land and you, cheetah, are the most splendid and unique of all the cats I have seen."
The cheetah has had spots ever since that lonely day. And it chirps like a bird to show how proud it is of being the most unique of all cats.
How the Cheetah Got Tears
Why The Cheetah's Cheeks Are Stained (tears) (A Traditional Zulu Story)
Long ago a wicked and lazy hunter was sitting under a tree. He was thinking that it was too hot to be bothered with the arduous task of stalking prey through the bushes. Below him in the clearing on the grassy field there were fat springbok grazing. But this hunter couldn't be bothered, so lazy was he! He gazed at the herd, wishing that he could have the meat without the work, when suddenly he noticed a movement off to the left of the buck. It was a female cheetah seeking food. Keeping downwind of the herd, she moved closer and closer to them. She singled out a springbok who had foolishly wandered away from the rest. Suddenly she gathered her long legs under her and sprang forward. With great speed she came upon the springbok and brought it down. Startled, the rest of the herd raced away as the cheetah quickly killed her prey.
The hunter watched as the cheetah dragged her prize to some shade on the edge of the clearing. There three beautiful cheetah cubs were waiting there for her. The lazy hunter was filled with envy for the cubs and wished that he could have such a good hunter provide for him. Imagine dining on delicious meat every day without having to do the actual hunting! Then he had a wicked idea. He decided that he would steal one of the cheetah cubs and train it to hunt for him. He decided to wait until the mother cheetah went to the waterhole late in the afternoon to make his move. He smiled to himself.
When the sun began to set, the cheetah left her cubs concealed in a bush and set off to the waterhole. Quickly the hunter grabbed his spear and trotted down to the bushes where the cubs were hidden. There he found the three cubs, still to young to be frightened of him or to run away. He first chose one, then decided upon another, and then changed his mind again. Finally he stole them all, thinking to himself that three cheetahs would undoubtedly be better than one.
When their mother returned half-an-hour later and found her babies gone, she was broken-hearted. The poor mother cheetah cried and cried until her tears made dark stains down her cheeks. She wept all night and into the next day. She cried so loudly that she was heard by an old man who came to see what the noise was all about.
Now this old man was wise and knew the ways of the animals. When he discovered what the wicked hunter had done, he became very angry. The lazy hunter was not only a thief, he had broken the traditions of the tribe. Everyone knew that a hunter must use only his own strength and skill. Any other way of hunting was surely a dishonor.
The old man returned to the village and told the elders what has happened. The villagers became angry. They found the lazy hunter and drove him away from the village. The old man took the three cheetah cubs back to their grateful mother. But the long weeping of the mother cheetah stained her face forever. Today the cheetah wears the tearstains on its face as a reminder to the hunters that it is not honorable to hunt in any other way than that which is traditional.