The close bond between a cheetah and a dog has melted hearts after footage of them playing together as "brother and sister" was recorded at a zoo.
Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, has paired a cheetah cub with a Labrador puppy to make the big cat more sociable and easier to train for demonstrations with visitors.
Cheetahs are cautious in the wild and do not normally approach humans – so the zoo needed to think of a way to bring their female cheetah Nandi out of her shell.
The solution was Bowie the Labrador, who is seen in this video sharing his toys with the big cat and play-fighting with her in the snow.
Nandi is also seen giving a deep rumbling purr as she is stroked by a zookeeper, said to be a sign she is relaxed.
“They’ve been together since they were just a few weeks old,” Charlotte Trapman-O’Brien told CBS New York.
Describing the relationship, she added: “Bowie has a very important job here, which is to be, kind of, her confidence builder.
“So cheetah’s are naturally skittish by nature, so one of the things that allows us to bring her out and do educational presentations… is having Bowie by her side.”
Bowie receives similar training to that of a therapy dog and has adjusted to lots of situations to make him a calm companion for the cheetah, according to his trainer Samantha Wegman.
She said: “He’s been exposed to a lot of different environments.
“Part of the reason he comes home with us at night is to get him exposed to all different scenarios: Car rides, honking cars.”
Cheetahs are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and there are an estimated 7,100 remaining in the wild.
The biggest threats are habitat destruction and the illegal pet trade in the Middle East, according to the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF).