The cheetah is a potent animal totem that has been revered by cultures around the world for centuries due to its speed, focus and instinctual insight to the world around it so not surprisingly cheetah tattoos are a very popular design. This is the fastest of all the big cats and also has the distinction of being the swiftest land animal too, accelerating from naught to a hundred kilometers in just a few seconds. This capacity to reach speeds of more than sixty miles an hour is part of the reason it is admired and respected so immensely. Nature built this magnificent beast with speed in mind giving it a small head, slim waist and long tail but it is its deep chest accommodating a rapidly accelerating heart that makes it such a successful hunter.

The cheetah relies on this to give it speed when chasing prey but its powerful strength then allows it to finish off its quarry with ease in one fierce bite, unusually to the jugular. However the physical exertion of the chase leaves the cheetah on the verge of exhaustion which makes it vulnerable to other predators. It is therefore essential for it to devour its kill quickly and efficiently as it cannot haul its prey to higher areas such as tree branches like its close relative the leopard. This makes the cheetah somewhat of a shy loner, and cements its reputation as the most elusive of all the big cat species.

For thousands of years, cheetah cubs have been trained as pets for aristocrats and royalty due to their beauty and elegance combined with their fairly timid nature. Genghis Khan was renowned for his many companions of the cheetah variety, while Sumerians took pride in designating them as their royal pets. Dionysus, the Greek god, had his chariot drawn by a cheetah while the ancient Egyptians worshipped it as a goddess and it was a symbol of status used by royalty in Ethiopia later in history.

Sadly, while the cheetah used to roam all over North America, Asia and Europe, it can now only be found in parts of the African continent although very rarely it can be found in Iran albeit very remote areas. The latter was the home of the Asiatic species which had a history dating back to ancient Persia when Persian kings trained them to hunt gazelle, as depicted in many Monghul paintings in south and central Asia. Some cheetah tattoos in our modern world are depicted in this tribal style.

Despite its strong constitution and robust genetic make-up, inbreeding has weakened this powerful creature to such an extent, that it now often falls victim to stronger predators like lions and leopards. Even wild dogs have been known to prey on modern day cheetahs but it is man that has done most damage in contributing to the elimination of this endangered species. Human hunters pursue this magnificent creature for its fabulous tawny coat with its distinctive black markings further adding to the threat to its survival which has already been heightened due to loss of its habitation and climate change. This creature will not thrive in captivity as it was born to roam freely across the open grasslands and plains that form of its natural habitat.

As body art, cheetah tattoos make very striking images due to their distinctive colouring and markings. According to African folklore, the golden cheetah got its black spots from the tears of a female ancestor. To this date, these black markings around the face are referred to as ‘tear stains’, due to their effect which gives them the appearance of streaming directly from its eyes. The legend tells of a mother who has her cubs stolen from her by a ruthless hunter who also stole the prey she had killed to feed her offspring. This cheetah was so distraught by her loss that she sobbed so hard that her tears channeled down through the fur leaving the black marks we associate with this big cat today. However, the cubs were eventually reunited with their mother and the hunter justifiably punished so a happy ending prevailed eventually. To this day, the tear stains of the cheetah serve as a reminder of the sacred traditions associated with the hunt, and symbolize honor and respect.

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