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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Puppy love... but how long will it last? Border Collie strikes up an unlikely friendship with an eight-month-old tiger cub

By Suzannah Hills

Best friends: Border Collie Solo took an eight-month-old orphaned tiger cub under his wing when he was brought to the Seaview Lion Park, in Port Elizabeth, South Africa

A Border Collie has become inseparable from his new best friend - an eight-month-old tiger cub.

Tricolour Border Collie Solo and the orphaned tiger cub now do everything together - including sleeping, eating and playing.

The friends even share meals from the same bowl and groom one another.

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Jumping around: Solo and the tiger cub do everything together and love nothing more than playing chase

Game keeper Ashley Gombert, from Port Elizabeth, South Africa, first noticed his trusty dog was friendly with the ferocious cat when he spotted them splashing around in a lake.

And ever since he hasn't been able to tear them apart - even letting both ride shotgun in his Jeep when he travels into town.

Ashley said: 'Solo is like a big brother to all the tiger cubs, but this particular one has been literally following him around everywhere.

'They will share food from the same bowl and playfully splash around in the water. They all love jumping in the back of the Jeep and heading into town.'

Drying off: Game keeper Ashley Gombert first spotted the pair had struck up a friendship when he spotted them splashing around in a lake

Inseparable: Solo and the tiger cub go everywhere together - even for a ride in a back of a truck

Sizing up: Solo is currently bigger than his eight-month-old friend - but he will soon be on a equal footing

But Ashley added: 'Solo's Border Collie instincts will kick in sometimes. He will try and herd the tigers or control them if they step out of line.

'It shows that he is very caring though. He's even taken to grooming them and definitely makes sure we are looking after them properly.'

The tiger cub - which was taken to Ashley's Sea View Game and Wildlife Park when he was orphaned along with his three brothers and sisters - loves nothing more than play fighting with his new best friend.

And despite cats' supposed hatred of water, the pair can often be seen splashing around in one of the many lakes housed in the 120 hectare wildlife reserve.

Flying tiger: Solo gives the tiger cub a run for his money as he sprints off out of his reach

Rough and tumble: Solo gives the orphan tiger cub a quick snap as they play in the wildlife reserve

A tiger's best friend: Solo has grown up around tigers at the reserve and knows how to handle them

Ashley added: 'I've had interaction with tigers since I was 14, but I've never seen one become friends with anything other than its own kind.

'When orphans come into the farm Solo takes over and actually looks after them. He will groom them and lick them.

'He's grown up around tigers. He loves to swim, and the tigers love to swim too, so they can often be seen splashing around in the water.

'Solo sleeps, eats and plays with the tigers everyday. He often shares his food with the tiger cubs. They will come and eat out of his bowl.

Tight knit family: Seaview Lion Park owner Ashley Gombert cuddles up with Solo and the eight-month-old orphan cub

Let me in: The eight-month-old cub doesn't want to be left out of the fun - and paws at game keeper Ashley Gombert for attention

'But if they start eating too much of his food he will snap at them and put them in their place.'

The tiger cubs - which haven't been named yet - will be re-homed in their own enclosure once they are fully grown.

But Ashley is positive the duo can continue being friends.

He said: 'Solo is like a big brother to all the tiger cubs who get brought in to the farm, so I'm sure they will stay close even when the tigers are 300 pounds.'



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