The stop-and-start impromptu race was more comical than competitive.
Mala Mala Game Reserve ranger Kevan Dobbie, who shared the footage with wildlife platform Latest Sightings on Tuesday, said it appeared the cheetah was taunting several lions with “you-can’t-catch-me” attitude.
That’s when one of the annoyed lions began his pursuit. Every time he accelerated, the young male cheetah responded with a burst of his own.
Lions will attack cheetahs over territory ― but first, they have to catch them. The math isn’t in the bigger cat’s favor. A lion’s top speed is around 50 mph, while the cheetah — the fastest land animal — can accelerate to 70 mph or more.
The lion probably didn’t have to read about the velocity difference to know he was overmatched. He could be seen giving up to nuzzle at some brush.
Dobbie was moved by the contest.
“In the wild, you can never have expectations because nature will amaze you in many ways,” he told Latest Sightings. “I was lucky enough to witness something that many people will never see in their lifetime, and it was an experience that I will never forget.”