A small summary of the Leopard

Leopard ( Panthera pardus ) is one of the five extant species in the genus Panthera, a member of the Filidae. The common name ‘leopard’ is derived from the Old English word ‘leuparz’ used in the poem The Song of Roland that was written in the late 8th century. The leopard is a carnivore that prefers medium-sized prey with a body mass ranging from 10-40kg ( 22-88 lb ). Prey species for the leopard include Impalas, Gazelle, duiker, steenbok, bushbuck, warthog, blue wildebeest, nyala, and kudu.

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What are the characteristics of this magnificent cat?

The leopard’s skin color varies between individuals from pale yellowish to dark golden with dark spots grouped in rosettes. Its belly is whitish and its ringed tail is shorter than its body. Its pupils are round. Leopards living in arid regions are pale cream, yellowish to ochraceous and rufous in color; those living in forests and deep mountains are much darker and deep golden.

Spots fade toward the white underbelly and the insides and lower parts of the leg. Rosettes are circular in East African leopard populations and tend to be squarish in Southern African and larger in Asian leopard populations. The fur tends to be grayish in colder climates, and dark golden in rain forest habitats. The pattern of the rosettes is unique in each individual.

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The leopard’s fur is generally soft and thick, notably softer on the belly than on the back. It tends to grow longer in colder climates. The guard hairs protecting the basal hairs are short, 3-4mm ( 0.12 – 0.16in ) in face and head, and increase in length toward the flanks and the belly to about 25-30mm ( 0.98-1.18in ). Juveniles have wooly fur and appear dark due to the densely arranged spots.

Its white-tipped tail is about 60-100cm ( 24-39in ) long, white underneath, and with spots that form incomplete bands toward the tail’s end. The leopard’s rosettes differ from those of the jaguar which are darker and with smaller spots inside. The cheetah has small round spots without any rosettes.

tree

What is the size and weight of this big cat?

The leopard is sexually dimorphic, males are larger and heavier than females. It is muscular, with relatively short limbs and a broadhead. Males stand 60-70cm (24-28 in ) at the shoulder, while females are 57-64cm ( 22-25in ) tall. The head-and-body length is typically between 90 and 190cm ( 35 and 75in ). While males weigh 37-90kg (82-198 lb ), females weigh 28-60kg ( 62-132lb ). These measurements vary geographically.

Usually, leopards are larger in areas where they are at the top of the food chain, without competitive restriction from larger predators such as the lion and tiger. Alfred Edward Pease accounted to have seen leopards in North Africa nearly as large as Barbary lions. In 1913, an Algerian newspaper reported of a leopard killed that allegedly measured about 275cm ( 108 in ).

sunset

To compare, male lions measure 266-311cm ( 105-122in ) from head to the end of the tail. The maximum weight of a leopard is about 96kg ( 212 lb ), recorded in Southern Africa. It was matched by an Indian leopard killed in Himachal Pradesh in 2016 that measured 262cm ( 103 in ).

What is the distribution habitat of the leopard?

The leopard has the largest distribution of all wild cats, occurring widely in Africa as well as South and Southeast Asia, although populations are fragmented and declining. It is extinct in North Africa. It inhabits foremost savanna and rain forest, and areas where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain largely undisturbed. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is still numerous and surviving in marginal habitats where other large cats have disappeared.

There is considerable potential for human-leopard conflict due to leopards preying on livestock. In western and central Asia, it avoids deserts, areas with long snow cover, and proximity to urban centers. Those that live in the Indian subcontinent, the leopard is still relatively abundant, with greater numbers than those of other Panthera species.

eating in tree

In India, some leopard populations live quite close to human settlements and even in semi-developed areas. Although adaptable to human disturbances, leopards require healthy prey populations and appropriate vegetative cover for hunting for prolonged survival and thus rarely linger in heavily developed areas. Due to the leopard’s stealthiness, people often remain unaware that they live in nearby areas.

How can I best describe the behavior of a leopard?

The leopard is a solitary and territorial animal. Adults associate only in the mating season. Females continue to interact with their offspring even after weaning and have been observed sharing kills with their offspring when they can not obtain any prey. They produce a number of vocalizations, including growls, snarls, meows, and purrs.

The roaring sequence in leopards consists mainly of grunts and is also known called “sawing”, having been described as resembling the sound of sawing wood. Cubs are known to call their mother with an urr-urr sound. Leopards are active mainly from dusk till dawn and rest for most of the day and for some hours at night in thickets, among rocks or over tree branches. Leopards have been observed walking 1-25km ( 0.62-15.53 mi ) across their range at night; they may even wander up to 75km ( 47 mi ) if disturbed.

running

In some regions they are nocturnal. In western Africa forests, the leopard has been observed to be largely diurnal and hunting during twilight, when their prey is active, activity varies between seasons. Leopards can climb trees very skilfully, resting often on tree branches and descend from trees headfirst. They can run at over 58km/h ( 36mph ), leap over 6m ( 20ft ) horizontally, and jump up to 3m ( 9.8ft ) vertically.

Here are some interesting facts about the leopard:

  • Leopards are solitary animals meaning that they like to live alone.
  • A male leopard is called a leopard, while a female leopard is called a leopardess.
  • Leopards have rosettes ( rose-like markings ) patterns on their fur.
  • A leopard’s color and rosettes patterns go with their habitat.
  • Leopards that have paler coats tend to live more in desert habitats.
  • Leopards with more rounder rosettes live in East Africa and leopards with squarer rosettes live in South Africa.
  • The leopard is a great climber and swimmer.
  • Leopards hunt whatever they can catch. Some animals they eat are boars, deers, impalas, gazelles. Sometimes they will eat fish, birds, and rodents.
  • The leopard mostly stays away from humans but have attacked humans and dogs before.
  • After a leopard catches their prey, they will sometimes carry it back up the tree to hide it in the leaves. The leopards do this to keep it away from scavengers in between feedings.
  • The leopard cubs are born blind and only start to see in 10 days.
  • Leopards are a threatened species in Africa and endangered in other parts of the world.
  • There are 1000 Leopards in Kruger National Park
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