Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Leopard Facts

These sleek and powerful big cats are skilled hunters, found in Africa and Asia.  The leopard is 1.5m long and 70kg in weight.

How are leopards classified?

Leopard (c) M Dooley
The leopard's spotted coat acts as perfect camouflage

Living things can be organised into different groups.  Species that are alike are grouped together.  This is called classification.

Class:                    Mammals

Order:                   Carnivores

Family:                  Felidae

Species:                Panthera pardus (leopard)

The cat family has about 38 different species, ranging from the domestic cat to the tiger.  They are split into ‘big’ and ‘small cats’ and in general, big cats can roar, while small cats can purr continuously.

Big Cats are special

Intelligent and agile, big cats are ideally designed to hunt, with sharp teeth and claws, strong jaws, powerful bodies, excellent eyesight, acute hearing and a good sense of smell.  Their fur coats are camouflaged to blend into their backgrounds.

Distribution

Leopards have the widest range of any species of cat in Africa and Asia.

Habitat

Leopards are superb climbers and their spotted coat ensures they are well-hidden amongst leaves and bushes.

Diet

All big cats are carnivores, or meat-eaters, at the top of their ‘food chains’.  Leopards catch a wide variety of food and often drag their kill into trees out of reach of other predators.

Adaptations

Big cats have flexible bodies designed for running, jumping and climbing.  Their intestines are short as they only digest meat, not vegetable matter.  Their sharp teeth are scissor-like to tear into flesh.  Most big cats hunt at night and can see six times as well as a human in the dark.  They have a larger field of vision, but cannot see colours as well as people can.

Behaviour

Big cats must defend their home-range or ‘territory’ from others.  Smell is the most important form of communication and big cats spray urine and rub their scent on trees and bushes around their territory, as well as leaving scratch marks, to warn others to keep away.

Society

Leopards are solitary creatures, living and hunting alone.  When young, their mothers teach them the skills needed to survive on their own.

Reproduction

After mating, the female leopard gives birth and rears cubs alone.  Cubs are helpless and rely on their mothers’ milk.  As they become weaned, they are dependent on the meat their mothers catch, before learning how to hunt for themselves.

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