WHILE most other dogs of his kind are busy chasing sheep, a Port Elizabeth pooch has struck up an unlikely friendship – with tiger cubs.
Seaview Lion Park’s tricolour border collie, Solo, has been taking care of two four-month-old tiger cubs, Judo and Ruby, since they were three days old.
Park manager Or Lazmi said Solo had formed an instant bond with the cubs.
"Solo was at the house when they arrived after being born prematurely. He helped clean them by licking their fur, and basically took care of them,” Lazmi said.
The bond between the animals has since grown. They play together and Solo is protective of the tigers.
"When the tigers are taken to the dam every morning, Solo joins them and plays in the water with them. He also joins the cubs when they come to the house for comfort, and gets very protective of them, careful not to let anyone touch them,” she said.
Solo, 5, who arrived at Seaview 1½ years ago with Ashley Gombert, a manager at the park, has helped raise all the baby animals at the park.
"It’s not unusual for different animals to form such close bonds if they’ve grown up together,” Lazmi said.
"But with the two older tigers also at Seaview, it is unusual how well they respond to Solo. They don’t use their size and strength to overpower him.
"They don’t ever fight. Solo will sometimes get too playful for them, but they will never fight.”
During a visit to the park, the two smaller cubs and Solo were seen chasing each other around the trees and bushes playing hide-and-seek.
Solo also seemed more enthusiastic playing with the older tigers because they could tackle each other harder when play- fighting.
"He has a closer bond with the older ones because they’ve been together longer. And when they’re at the dam the older ones can swim, so they play and splash each other with the water more comfortably, whereas the little ones can’t swim yet,” Lazmi said.
Solo also took care of those two tigers, who are now seven months old, when they arrived at the park as cubs.
Gombert said: "There’s obviously a fear that the tigers will one day hurt Solo because the interaction will change as the tigers grow.
"We will never put the dog in any kind of danger.”