Arusha and Anna

Over the years, there have been several cheetah and dog pairs at the San Diego Zoo, but the very first one was the friendship between Arusha and Anna.
  • 1980s
  • 1990s

Arusha the cheetah was born at another zoo and was hand raised because his mother didn’t take care of him. Trainer Kathy Marmack flew out to pick him up when he was only 3 months old and weighed just 11 pounds. The San Diego Zoo staff felt that because Arusha had been hand raised, he needed a companion. Another cheetah wasn’t a possibility, though—so they got him a dog: Anna, a golden retriever.

This was an unusual decision at the time, but they thought the pairing might work because cheetahs are actually more like dogs in their temperament than like other types of cats. However, when the trainers first introduced them, Arusha hissed and swatted at the dog. Anna didn’t defend herself, though, which puzzled the trainers. Then they realized she was trying to please them by not reacting! After that, they watched out of sight from around the corner.

Without the people present, when Arusha swatted at her again, Anna barked and stood up for herself—and Arusha backed off. Within a week, Anna was the boss. But she was also like a big sister; the pair had bonded, and they became best friends. They spent all their time together, snuggling at night, playing and chasing during the day, grooming each other, and going for walks around the Zoo with the trainers. The outgoing Anna kept Arusha comfortable in new situations, and even when the cheetah grew to be twice her size, Anna was still in charge.

As San Diego Zoo animal ambassadors, Arusha and Anna met thousands of Zoo visitors over the years. They even met celebrities, attended parties and school events, and made appearances on television shows. Everyone loved seeing them together and the strength of their friendship.

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