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A Perfect Storm of Cute: Cheetah Cubs Grow Up With Puppy

Picture of a cheetah cub greeting his Labrador puppy playmate.
Amani the Labrador puppy greets one of the new cheetah cubs at the Dallas Zoo. Image courtesy of the Dallas Zoo.

Prepare for a cute overload: The Dallas Zoo has paired two cheetah cubs with a black Labrador retriever puppy.

The two male cubs are part of the zoo’s public outreach program, and the hope is that the puppy will act as a friend, companion, and calming influence on the shy cats. (Related: “Q&A: Unlikely Animal Friendships.”)

“Cheetahs are timid by nature,” said Sean Greene, vice president of guest experiences at the Dallas Zoo in Texas. By pairing them with a puppy, which is used to being around humans, trainers expect the dog’s calm demeanor will rub off on the cats. Eventually, all three animals will be part of the zoo’s public outreach programming, so they can raise awareness of the endangered status of cheetahs.

Two new cheetah cubs at the Dallas zoo
Two male cheetah cubs, Winspear and Kamau. Photograph from Dallas Zoological Society via AP

All three babies are eight weeks old. The two male cubs—named Winspear and Kamau—were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia on July 8. Kamau weighs about seven pounds (three kilograms) and his brother Winspear weighs about nine pounds (four kilograms).

The puppy, named Amani—which means “peace” in Swahili—is almost the same age as the cubs; Amani was born to a Texas breeder on July 10 and weighs about 14 pounds (six kilograms), said Greene.

Labrador puppy at the Dallas zoo
A black Labrador retriever puppy named Amani. Photograph from Dallas Zoological Society via AP

Zoo staff are in day three of introductions between the puppy and the cubs. “We’re doing a ‘howdy’ process,” explained Greene. Right now, there is a baby gate that separates the cubs from the puppy, he said. This allows them to sniff each other and get used to one another.

Play time consists of a 30-minute session with the puppy on a leash to ensure he doesn’t get too rough with the cubs. The cubs got as far as licking the puppy’s paws yesterday, said Greene. “That was a big deal.”

The Dallas Zoo is not the first U.S. zoo to pair puppies with cubs. In fact, about 15 other zoos around the country—including the San Diego Zoo and Busch Gardens—have done this successfully, said Greene. “They’ve done this with Labradors, Golden retrievers, and Anatolian shepherds,” he said. (Related: “Why Animals ‘Adopt’ Others, Including Different Species.”)


  1. cheyenne m seitz
    dayton n
    April 1, 2015, 2:59 pm

    all the people that don’t read the comments in the top should read them and that’s their answer because they’re asking stupid questions and the answer is right up there!!!!and the cubs are really cute did research for school project

  2. meee!
    Washington DC
    November 6, 2013, 6:17 pm

    I am 11.So using this for school project! Adorable!

  3. meghan
    September 22, 2013, 3:12 pm

    aww…..that’s so cute how 2 cheetahs can grow up together

  4. Lee
    September 18, 2013, 6:40 am

    Someone could use this as inspiration to make a good cartoon movie like ice age.

  5. Amy Qiu
    September 14, 2013, 9:39 pm

    so cute!

  6. Meg
    Washington, DC
    September 13, 2013, 9:15 pm

    AWESOME, would love to see this in person. Couldn’t be better pair. If we as humans could only learn (and follow) such actions and accept any and all just as demonstrated by our four legged friends, MEOW/WOOF 😉

  7. Janet
    Lynnwood WA
    September 10, 2013, 6:02 pm

    Hope this sweet pooch will continue to be safe with TWO kitties… I agree with lots of other comments that a VIDEO would be amazing to see! Such sweet kitties, and the pooch is also adorable! There better be “watchers” at all times, though.. and put in another pooch!! Hugs to all! 🙂

  8. Trevor Cannon
    September 10, 2013, 5:54 pm

    The puppy is sssoooooo cute! So are the baby cheetahs!

  9. Nicole Bargert
    United States
    September 10, 2013, 3:51 pm

    Why are the cubs not with their mother?

  10. erhao
    September 10, 2013, 2:19 am

    that is so cute

  11. erhao
    September 10, 2013, 2:19 am

    ur a piece of poop

  12. Lissie
    September 9, 2013, 8:14 pm

    there sooooooo cute i would love a video i used to have dogs and cats but they got sold. it just melts my heart

  13. skulldigger
    September 9, 2013, 6:11 pm

    I just wish I could blend his guts and eat him! LOL :]

  14. skulldigger
    September 9, 2013, 6:07 pm

    It’s so fluffy and cute i’m gonna exploooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooode!!!!!

  15. skulldigger
    September 9, 2013, 6:06 pm

    It’s so fluffy i’m gonna exploooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooode!!!!!

  16. mcg
    Austin, TX
    September 9, 2013, 1:08 pm

    AndiinSC, here’s my guess. I agree with you that the puppy doesn’t pose any *harm* to the cheetah cubs. But puppies do play rough. Other puppies and dogs yelp and growl when a puppy gets too rough, and puppies eventually learn their limits that way. It’s not clear to me that cheetah cubs will know exactly how to respond. So they may end up either getting too hostile towards the puppy, or too scared of it. Either outcome would defeat the purpose of the experiment. So, the leash is there to give the puppy a bit more guidance in his behavior than the cheetah’s may give him naturally.

  17. Susan
    September 9, 2013, 11:57 am

    Hopefully, there will be a follow-up of their progress.

  18. Jane J. Lee
    September 9, 2013, 11:50 am

    Hi AndiinSC. I think the zoo just wants to make sure the puppy doesn’t play too rough with the cubs, and the leash helps with that. At this point, the puppy weighs almost twice what the cubs do.

  19. geetha
    September 9, 2013, 4:08 am

    Labrador inside the house is a beautiful sight, but not the cheeta cubs inside the house.

  20. Jessica Queen
    September 8, 2013, 10:53 pm

    will there be a video about this?

  21. Ana Brower
    Atlanta, GA
    September 8, 2013, 6:44 pm

    I love Cheetahs. I’m so happy they have a puppy friend. I’m six years old, and I am writing an animal report on cheetahs. I wish I could see one.

    Let me know if you get a webcam.

  22. Nicole
    September 7, 2013, 5:21 pm

    They should start a Kickstarter for Dallas Zoo cheetah cubs/labrador puppy webcam. I would contribute!

  23. stephen davidson
    September 7, 2013, 12:26 pm

    That is SUCH a copout-like answer. Um, so..Hello…
    GET the capability.
    Welcome to the dawn of civilization.

  24. AndiinSC
    United States
    September 7, 2013, 9:16 am

    Can you please tell me why the lab is leashed? This lab is a domesticated animal and poses NO danger to the cubs! UNLEASH the lab!

  25. simon webb
    vancouver, Canada
    September 6, 2013, 6:25 pm

    My endorphins are going wild!

  26. Jane J. Lee
    September 6, 2013, 5:05 pm

    Unfortunately, the folks at the Dallas zoo inform me that they don’t have the capability for webcams.

  27. Dan McQuade
    Washington, DC
    September 6, 2013, 4:55 pm

    Please tell me there will be a webcam of this.

  28. Louise Mitchell Chapman
    September 6, 2013, 4:45 pm

    See how easily animals adapt and get on together. .
    Shame us humans are not the same…