Sahara and Alexa are the best of friends. What's unconventional is that Alexa is
an Anatolian Shepherd Dog and Sahara is a Cheetah, dispelling
the myth that dogs and cats cannot get along.
Known for their fierce guardian skills, the seven-year-old Anatolian Shepherd Dog
loves nothing better than to romp and play with seven-year-old Sahara. The two have
been residents of the Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio since they were both two months old.
They are part of a conservation program that the zoo designed to ensure the survival
of the African Cheetahs.
Linda Castaneda works with the Cheetah Conservation Fund of Africa and explains
that the "point of the Cat Ambassador Program is to protect Cheetahs from overzealous
farmers in Namibia and South Africa. We want to show the farmers that the cheetahs
do have respect for the dog and that, more importantly, the dog has no fear of the
ASDs have been breed in Turkey for thousands of years, are easy to train, fiercely
loyal guard dogs and possessive towards "their" property. The program wants to convince
farmers that if they employ an Anatolian Shepherd Dog, the dog will chase away the
Cheetah, eradicating the need to shoot them. Castaneda describes the ASD as a "non-lethal
Though Alexa and Sahara have a great friendship, playtime can, at times, become
rough. That's when 100-pound Alexa decides to let 85-pound Sahara know that she
has gone too far. They will have an "eyeball to eyeball moment" and both will know
that playtime is over.
Both animals have separate enclosures within the zoo, but once they are reunited,
it is just like they have never been apart. Caution is used with Alexa because she
is considered a zoo animal and spends most of her time with cats. She is not allowed
near other domesticated dogs "in case she tries to eat them."