Woolly Cheetah

Unrecognized big CAT of South Africa.

Scientific name: Felis lanea, proposed by Philip L. Sclater in 1877.

P^hysical description: Like the common cheetah but with a thicker body and tail and shorter limbs. Woolly, dense fur. Covered with roundish brown blotches instead of spots. "Tear line" missing around eye. Nonretractile claws.

Distribution: Great Karoo, Western Cape Province, South Africa; Lebombo Mountains, Swaziland.

Significant sightings: In 1877, Philip Sclater announced that the London Zoo had acquired an unusual-looking male cheetah from Beaufort West, South Africa. It had stouter limbs and a thicker tail than a normal cheetah. Sclater recorded receiving a similar skin in 1884, again from Beaufort West, that was smaller and almost as densely furred.

P-'ossible explanation: A genetic mutation of the common Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) that may be a species adaptation in progress. Lena Bottriell has suggested a partial albino morph. Others have suggested an erythritic or chinchilla albino morph.

Sources: Philip Lutley Sclater, "Felis lanea (Description of the Woolly Cheetah)," Proceedings of the Zoological Society ofLondon, June 19, 1877, pp. 532-534; Philip Lutley

Sclater, "Mr. P. L. Sclater on Felis lanea" Proceedings of the Zoological Society ofLondon, June 18, 1878, pp. 655-656; Philip Lutley Sclater, "The Woolly Cheetah," Proceedings of the Zoological Society ofLondon, November 4, 1884, p. 476; Richard Lydekker, ed., The Royal Natural History (London: Frederick Warne, 1893-1894), vol. 1, pp. 442-446; Lena Godsall Bottriell, King Cheetah: The Story of the Quest (Leiden, the Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1987), pp. 38-40; Karl Shuker, Mystery Cats ofthe World (London: Robert Hale, 1989), pp. 122-125.

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