Large cats have always fascinated human beings, and this particular species isn’t any different. In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about leopards.
Interesting facts about leopards
1. Leopards are part of the cat family
Leopards are large cats in the Felidae family. This family includes all types of cats such as lions, cougars, domestic cats and many more.
The leopard belongs to the genus “Panthera,” of which only 5 extant species exist in the world. These 5 species that still walk around on the planet today are leopards, snow leopards, tigers, lions, and jaguars.
2. They have a huge range
The leopard has the largest range of all types of wild cats in the world. They mainly live in Africa, the Caucasus, and Asia today.
There are also several countries where the leopard used to live but has been extirpated such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Syria, Libya, Tunisia and most likely in Morocco.
3. The animal’s name is derived from Latin and Ancient Greek
The English name leopard comes from the old French “leupart” or “liepart,” which is in return derived from the Latin word “leopardus” and the Ancient Greek “leopardos.”
When it comes to the name of the genus of large cats to which the leopard belongs, “Panthera,” this refers to a Latin word that describes a hunting net for catching wild beasts.
4. What does a leopard look like?
The leopard can be recognized by its pale yellowish to dark golden skin. It is covered in groups of rosettes, a type of spot that resembles a rose.
The belly of the leopard is white and the fur on its belly is much softer than any other part of its body. The color scheme of the leopard can vary depending on where they live.
This is also the case for the rosettes, with Asian leopard’s rosettes being larger than for instance African leopard’s ones.
5. How do leopards hunt?
Leopards are for the most part nocturnal animals, which means they also mostly hunt at night or from dusk till dawn.
They mostly rely on their senses and creep up on prey to exploit their extreme sprinting ability to catch it. When they are able to catch the prey they kill it by suffocating it as they hold a tight grip on the neck.
6. Leopards have a broad diet
Leopards, who are carnivores, definitely aren’t picky when it comes to food. They are able to catch just about any type of prey, including animals as large as giraffes as heavy as a 550 kg (1,210 lb).
They are very adaptive animals when it comes to prey, being able to switch from eating large deer to small bamboo rats if that’s all that’s available.
The average consumption rate is 3.5 kg (7.7 lb) for males and about 2.8 kg (6.2 lb) for females.
Leopards are for the most part loners and don’t really mingle with their peers. Adult leopards only really come together to mate and spend their life solitary otherwise.
They are, however, territorial animals. This means that they will defend their land if needed. They aren’t really aggressive animals otherwise and fights rarely occur.
8. They have plenty of enemies as well
In many parts of the world, leopards share their habitat with other large predators such as the tiger, lion, cheetah, spotted hyena, striped hyena, brown hyena, African wild dog, dhole, and up to five bear species.
That’s a lot of competition to deal with sometimes!
Apart from having their food stolen by annoying hyenas, it sometimes happens that they are attacked by larger cats such as lions or tigers, and sometimes, this doesn’t end well for the leopard.
9. Leopards can mate all year long
In some parts of the world, leopards only mate for a few months a year. This is the case for example in Siberia.
In other parts of the world, leopards may mate all year round, even though the estrous cycle of the female lasts only about 46 days.
10. Here are some baby leopard facts
The gestation period of leopards is about 90 to 105 days, and about 2 to 4 cubs are born at the same time.
Here are some other baby leopard facts:
- Cubs are born with their eyes closed.
- Baby leopards can only start to open their eyes 4 to 9 days after being born.
- The mortality rate of cubs during the first year can reach 50%.
- The fur of cubs is longer and thicker than the fur of adults.
- The young leopards start hunting with their mother at 3 months old.
- The young can fend for themselves at one year old.
- Leopard young stay with their mother for 18 to 24 months.
11. How long do leopards live?
The average lifespan of leopards is very similar to the lifespan of domesticated cats, namely 12 to 17 years.
The oldest ever age of a leopard that has been verified was a female leopard named Roxanne which reached the age of 24!
One of the most interesting facts about leopards is that the second oldest female leopard (named Bertie) also reached the age of 24, and was living together with the oldest recorded male leopard named Cezar in the Warsaw Zoo, who reached the age of 23.
12. Are leopards dangerous to humans?
Leopards have always been known to humans. In Greek mythology, for example, the leopard was a symbol of the god Dionysus.
They usually avoid contact with human beings though, but if they find themselves hungry, they are very likely to attack human beings for prey. So yes, leopards can be very dangerous!
13. The Panar Leopard was a ferocious killer
There have been several known leopards who have been described as “man-eaters.” This means leopards who purposely went out on a killing spree to devour human beings.
One of the most notorious of these man-eaters lived in the early 20th century in the region of Panar, in India. Therefore it was dubbed as the “Panar Leopard.”
It’s estimated that this leopard was responsible for the death of over 400 people before it was eventually killed by famous hunter Jim Corbett in 1910.
14. Are leopards endangered?
Wild leopards only inhabit about 25% of their original global range right now. This means that they used to be a lot more common in the wild than they are today.
On the “Red List of Threatened Species,” leopards are listed as vulnerable, which means they are in need of protection to retain their population in particular areas.
Unfortunately, leopards are illegally hunted in many places to be used for either medicinal practices or to use their skin as decoration.
15. They don’t really like tourists
Many countries offer wildlife safaris with tourists joining in the hope of spotting wild leopards in their natural habitat.
Many tourists may leave disappointed if that’s their goal because leopard sightings are very rare. They tend to hide from humans and are pretty good at camouflaging themselves.
In a study conducted in a Natural Park in Sri Lanka, leopards were reportedly the least seen animals in the park, even though their population was one of the highest.
Want to see a leopard in the wild?
Then you need to be a bit lucky, that’s for sure!
Quick facts about leopards
16. The Romans called a net to catch wild beasts a “Panthera,” the name of the genus that the leopard belongs to. The Ancient Romans often used leopards and other wild cats during their cruel games in for example the Colosseum.
17. The leopard and the jaguar are very similar in appearance. The only differences are that the leopards are usually smaller and less muscular and that the rosettes of the jaguar are darker and have smaller spots inside.
18. Both the black leopard and the black jaguar are called “Black Panthers.” Both are melanistic which means they have black pigments in the skin.
19. Leopards are relatively muscular and males can stand up to 70 centimeters (28 in) tall and have a length of nearly 2 meters (40in). Sizes can vary greatly though depending on where they live and whether or not they have natural enemies.
20. Leopards are sexually dimorphic, which means the males and females have clear differences apart from their sexual organs. In the case of leopards, females are much smaller than males.
21. Leopards are great tree climbers. They use their climbing ability sometimes to protect the prey they just killed from hyenas or other leeching predators.
22. When leopards live in the same area of larger cats such as tigers, resource partitioning takes place. This means that tigers will hunt the larger prey and leopards, the smaller cat of the two, will settle for smaller prey.
23. In parts of the globe that resource partitioning takes place, the leopards tend to be smaller in size and weigh less.
24. Once upon a time in England, leopards were being domesticated. Thye used to live in a menagerie of the Tower of London in the 13th century, and they were owned by King John and King Henry III.
25. Leopards are some of the fastest animals on the planet as they can reach speeds of up to 58 kilometers per hour (36 mi/h)!
26. With these type of speeds, you would assume that they can jump pretty far as well, right? You are right as they can jump up to 6 meters (20 ft) far.
27. Just like domestic cats, leopards can make several sounds to communicate with each other. These range from weird sounding coughs to let other leopards know they are entering their territory or purring like a little kitten to let the world know they are happy.
28. Leopard subspecies
There are 8 official leopard subspecies. These include:
- The African leopard – Most widespread leopard living in sub-Saharan Africa.
- The Indian leopard – Living in the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, and Tibet.
- The Javan leopard – An endangered leopard living in Java, Indonesia.
- The Arabian leopard – Living in the Arabian peninsula.
- The Persian/Anatolian leopard – Lives in the area of ancient Mesopotamia.
- The Amur leopard – Lives in the Russian far east and Northern China.
- The Indochinese leopard – Lives in parts of southeast Asia and southern China.
- The Sri Lankan leopard – Native to Sri Lanka.
This concludes the ultimate list of facts about leopards, one of the most fascinating big cats in the world!