Leopard

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Panthera pardus

A powerfully built, tawny-yellow, cat with black rosette markings on its body and black spots on its legs. Although common, the leopard is a very elusive creature.

Characteristics

Distribution
Leopards are found in a wide variety of habitats throughout Africa including forests, deserts, mountains and plains. Beyond Africa the leopard is found in the Middle East and Asia.

Social structure
Leopards are both solitary and territorial. Male leopards’ home ranges may overlap with the territories of several females, yet they will avoid one other. The only exception in which male and female leopards ‘hang out’ is when females are in estrus. During estrus, a male will spend up to a week with a female.

Serious fights may occur when individuals come into contact with one another. A single leopard will seldom stay in one place in the home range for long periods, and they move frequently.
Home ranges are marked with urine, tree-clawing and communication (leopards use a rasping cough to announce their presence).

Range differentiation
Leopards’ characteristic spots (also known as rosettes) occur in slight variations across geographic ranges. There is, however, a wide difference in coat colour and shades depending on the habitat. Leopards found in forests, for example, will have a darker shade than the desert leopards.

Habitat
Leopards are found in a wide variety of habitats throughout Africa including forests, deserts, mountains and plains.

Feeding
A leopard’s diet is varied and can range from insects to antelope. There is a definite regional preference in diet. In some areas leopards will feed mainly on antelope while elsewhere hyrax might be the preferred diet.

Baboons are an important part of a leopard’s diet in many parts of Africa. Leopards also regularly scavenge; this fact makes them easy prey for trophy hunters.

The traditional method of hunting leopard is to put out a bait (usually hanging from a tree) to attract an animal to a designated place.

Leopards will often pull a kill into a tree to keep it away from lions and hyenas. They will feed off a kill for a number of days. Leopards will also eat rotting carrion.

Breeding
Lions are revered for their mating behaviour but leopards exceed them in both noise and physical prowess. With mating leopards there is much growling, spitting and clawing.

Between one and three cubs will be born to a single female after a three month gestation period. The cubs are then hidden for about two months; the hiding place is frequently changed during this time to protect the cubs from predators such as hyenas. Baboons will also kill a leopard cub if they come across it.

Distinctive spots of the leopard

An individual leopard can be identified by the rosettes and spots on its coat.

Leopard pull their prey into trees

Leopard will pull their kills into trees to keep out of reach of lions and hyenas.
Leopard preys on its favorite prey – the baboon

Baboons are the favoured prey species of leopards in many parts of Africa.

Mating in Leopards
Mating leopards are a combination of noise and violence.