The cheetah’s distinguishing feature, the tear marks running from the corner of the eye to the mouth, is to reduce the glare from the harsh sun.
But according to a traditional Zulu tale, long ago, a lazy, wicked hunter sat by a tree watching lazily the herd of springbok in front of him, but he was too lazy to hunt down the beasts. He then saw, out the corner of his eye, a cheetah, stalking her prey. With speed and finesse, the cheetah took down a springbok and dragged the meal back to the den where she was raising three cubs.
The lazy hunter thought to himself, ‘imagine if I could have a cheetah to do all the hunting for me.’
So he followed her back to the den. He waited until the mother cheetah left the den to drink at the watering hole, and he snatched all three of her young cubs, to claim as his own and hunt for him.
When the mother cheetah returned she was so distraught she cried and cried all through the night and into the next morning, which left dark tear marks down her face. She wept so loudly a local villager heard her cries and came to see what the matter was. The villager was wise with animals and figured that the lazy hunter had stolen her babies to use as his own. The lazy hunter was not only a thief, but had also broken the traditions of the tribe.
The villager returned to tell the tribal elders of what had happened, the villagers became angry and they drove the lazy hunter from the village. The villager took the cheetah cubs back to their mother, but the weeping had stained her face forever. To this day the cheetah wears tear stains as a reminder to hunters that it is only honourable to hunt in a traditional manner.