Cheetahs are well-known as the fastest land animal on Earth, and they are also well-known for their beautiful yellow fur and black spots. But have you ever seen a cheetah that looks like this?
At first glance, this cheetah appears more like an overgrown ocelot or jaguar; yet, despite its unusual fur pattern, it’s still very much a cheetah. Known as a “king cheetah”, this particular cheetah color morph is very rare in the wild, and they are generally only seen in captivity.
In fact, king cheetahs are so rare and bizarre that, when British naturalist Reginald Innes Pocock first encountered a king cheetah in 1927, he declared it a separate species. However, due to a lack of evidence to support his claim, he reversed his conclusion in 1939.
In reality, the king cheetah’s peculiar spots and stripes are caused by a single recessive gene, rather than divergence from other cheetahs. This is no different from two dark-haired parents with recessive genes for blonde hair giving birth to a child with blonde hair.
Thus, the “king cheetah” is merely an African cheetah with a funky fur pattern, although that doesn’t make it less fascinating.
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