Meaning of Amotekun, What is Amotekun?

Meaning of Amotekun, What is Amotekun?

The word ‘Amotekun‘ in Yoruba means ‘One who knows as Ekun (tiger)’. Therefore, Amotekun, in English, is a Leopard and not a Cheetah as touted or claimed by many. Operation Amotekun is the security network established in South-West Nigeria to tackle insecurity challenges across the region.

The debate of whether or not the word ‘Amotekun’ refers to the Cheetah or Leopard since the formation of the security outfit in Nigeria has left questions hanging about the dying culture and tradition of passing down quality Yoruba language from one generation to another.

So what are the animals of the ‘Big 4’ cat family named in the Yoruba language?

1. Lion


(Kiniun – pronounced ‘key-nee-uhn’ in Yoruba)

The lion is the strongest of the cat family. The lion is a muscular, deep-chested cat with a short, rounded head, a reduced neck and round ears, and a hairy tuft at the end of its tail. It is sexually dimorphic; adult male lions have a prominent mane, which is the most recognizable feature of the species. The lion is called Kiniun in Yoruba.

2. Tiger


(Ogidan or Ekun – pronounced ‘O-gi-dawn’ and ‘Eh-kun’ in Yoruba)

The tiger is the largest species among the Felidae (cat family) and classified in the genus Panthera. It is most recognizable for its dark vertical stripes on orangish-brown fur with a lighter underside. It is an apex predator, primarily preying on ungulates such as deer and wild boar. The tiger is called Ogidan or Ekun.

Consider the below Yoruba proverbs about the tiger:

A. “Ogidan o ni se Barber, ki aja de be lo ge irun”. (A tiger wouldn’t become a barber and the dog would visit to have a haircut).

B. “Kaka ki kiniun sakapo Ekun, olode a maa rode”. (Rather than the lion joining the colony of the tiger, he will rise).

Interestingly, no animal in the animal kingdom can match the lion grit for grit other than tiger which is often used to draw a comparison with the lion.

3. Leopard


(Amotkeun – pronounced ‘Ah-moh-teh-kun’ in Yoruba)

The leopard also called panther, is a large cat closely related to the lion, tiger, and jaguar. The name leopard was originally given to the cat now called cheetah—the so-called hunting leopard—which was once thought to be a cross between the lion and the pard.

The leopard is a graceful animal with an elongated body, relatively short legs, and a long tail. After the lion, it is the next-biggest African cat with an average body mass of between 60kg and 70kg, standing about two-thirds of a meter tall at the shoulder. Leopards in the wild may live up to 15 years. Unlike the lion, the leopard is a silent creature, only occasionally emitting a cough-like call.

The Yoruba people call the Leopard ‘Amotekun’, meaning one who knows like ‘Ekun’ (Tiger).

4. Cheetah


(Owawa – pronounced ‘Uh-wah-wah’ in Yoruba)

The Cheetah’s body is built for speed. Its legs are relatively long compared to its greyhound-like body; it has a big heart and lungs and wide nasal passages. It is the fastest land animal, timed running at speeds of up to 114km/h.

While the lion and the leopard rely on getting close to their intended prey before breaking cover, the cheetah’s speed gives it an advantage in the more open savanna. Cheetahs are slightly taller than leopards but not as bulky, probably weighing between 40kg and 60kg. Although cheetahs are members of the cat family, they have dog-like non-retractable claws. This limits their tree-climbing ability but gives them a speed advantage when charging.

Differences between the Leopard and Cheetah

  1. The first difference between a leopard and cheetah is their coat. Cheetahs have spots on their fur while leopards have rosettes.
  2. Cheetahs have a tear line on their face that makes them easily distinguishable from leopards and other big cats.
  3. Cheetah is the fastest mammal on the Earth and its body is more streamlined. Small head, long legs, slender body, exposed shoulder blades, pumped chest and thin stomach, these properties make them exceptionally fast runners.
  4. On the other side, leopard has a more robust build, they are stronger than cheetahs. Leopards are shorter at the shoulder than cheetahs but are more muscular.
  5. Leopards have retractable claws like other big cats but cheetahs have non-retractable claws for better traction while chasing the prey. Leopards use claws only when needed while catching prey, climbing trees, fight, etc.
  6. Cheetahs have a flat and wide tail that acts as a rudder to balance and steer at high speeds while leopards have a more tubular tail.
  7. The cheetah is a diurnal species that means it is more active during the day while the leopard is a Nocturnal species that is more active at night.
  8. Cheetah prefers open lands as other bigger predators like lion and leopards can be spotted easily. On the other hand, the leopard spends most of its time on trees.

Which Animal is Amotekun?

Amotekun is the Yoruba word for Leopard. The leopard also called panther, is a large cat closely related to the lion, tiger, and jaguar and it is the second-biggest African cat with an average body mass of between 60kg and 70kg.


The Amotekun is a Yoruba word for the Leopard or Panther and not the Cheetah. Kindly share this if you find it educative and enlightening. We would love to hear your thoughts and opinion in the comment section below. Ciao!


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