Cheeta's role was to provide comic relief, convey messages between Tarzan and his allies, and occasionally lead Tarzan's other animal friends to the ape-man's rescue.
There are actually three main animal actors to portray Tarzan's Cheeta: Jiggs, Jiggs Jr. and Cheeta.
Jiggs was born in 1929. He originated the character of Cheeta in the 1930s Hollywood Tarzan movies. He was owned and trained by Tony and Jacqueline Gentry.
Jiggs appeared as Cheeta in the first two Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, Tarzan the Ape Man (1932) and Tarzan and His Mate (1934).
He also appeared in the Buster Crabbe serial Tarzan the Fearless (1933) and the Herman Brix serial The New Adventures of Tarzan (1935). Jiggs was cast in at least one additional film, Her Jungle Love (1938), starring Dorothy Lamour, which was his last picture.
Jiggs died on February 28, 1938 at age 9, of pneumonia, and was buried March 2, 1938 in the Los Angeles Pet Cemetery.
Jiggs, Jr. (also known as Jiggs II), was a male chimpanzee born about 1935, also owned and trained by Tony and Jacqueline Gentry. He also appeared in a number of Tarzan films, including Tarazan Has Son (1938). It is rumored that Jiggs Jr. went to the Baltimore Zoo when Tony Gentry went into the service in World War II, his ultimate fate is unknown.
The most famous is Cheeta, the animal star of at least 12 Tarzan films as well as the television series in the 1960s. Cheeta was born in Africa in 1932. He made his last film, Doctor Doolittle in 1967.
Cheeta holds the Guinness World Record as the world's oldest chimpanzee. Cheeta is now 77 years old and resides in Palm Springs, California.
Since 2004 there have been several unsuccessful campaigns to secure a star for Cheeta on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and as of 2009 filmmaker Matt Devlen is continuing the effort.