Range of the leopard: former (red), uncertain (yellow), highly
fragmented (light green), and present (dark green)
Felis pardus Linnaeus, 1758
The leopard (
Panthera pardus) /ˈlɛpərd/ is one of the five species
in the genus Panthera, a member of the Felidae. The leopard occurs
in a wide range in sub-Saharan
Africa and parts of
Asia and is listed
as Vulnerable on the
IUCN Red List
IUCN Red List because leopard populations are
threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, and are declining in
large parts of the global range. In Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait,
Tunisia and most likely in Morocco, leopard populations
have already been extirpated. Contemporary records suggest that the
leopard occurs in only 25% of its historical global range.
Leopards are hunted illegally, and their body parts are smuggled in
the wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration.
Compared to other wild cats, the leopard has relatively short legs and
a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the
jaguar, but generally has a smaller, lighter physique. Its fur is
marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard's
rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have
central spots as the jaguar's do. Both leopards and jaguars that are
melanistic are known as black panthers. The leopard is distinguished
by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad
diet, and strength (which it uses to move heavy carcasses into trees),
as well as its ability to adapt to various habitats ranging from
rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas, and its
ability to run at speeds of up to 58 kilometres per hour
Fossil records suggest that in the Late
Pleistocene it occurred in
Europe and Japan.
3 Evolution and genetics
4.1 Variant colouration
5 Distribution and habitat
6 Ecology and behaviour
6.1 Social spacing
6.2 Hunting and diet
6.3 Enemies and competitors
6.4 Reproduction and life cycle
7 Leopards and humans
9 Further reading
10 External links
The common name "leopard" /ˈlɛ.pərd/ is a Greek compound of
λέων leōn ("lion") and πάρδος pardos ("male panther"). The
name reflects the fact that in antiquity, a leopard was believed to be
a hybrid of a lion and a panther. The Greek word is related to
Sanskrit पृदाकु pṛdāku ("snake", "tiger" or "panther"),
and probably derives from a Mediterranean language, such as
Egyptian. The name was first used in the 13th century.
Other vernacular names for the leopard include graupanther, panther
and several regional names such as tendwa in India. The term
"black panther" refers to leopards with melanistic genes. A term
for the leopard used in
Old English and later, but now very uncommon,
The scientific name of the leopard is
Panthera pardus. The generic
Panthera derives from Latin via Greek πάνθηρ
(pánthēr). The term "panther", whose first recorded use dates
back to the 13th century AD, generally refers to the leopard, and less
often to the cougar and the jaguar. Alternative origins suggested
Panthera include an Indo-Iranian word meaning "white-yellow" or
"pale". In Sanskrit, this could have been derived from
पाण्डर pāṇḍara ("tiger"), which in turn comes from
पुण्डरीक puṇḍárīka (with the same
meaning). The specific name pardus is derived from the Greek
πάρδος (pardos) ("male panther").
Two cladograms proposed for Panthera. The upper cladogram is based on
the 2006 and 2009 studies, while the other is based on the
2010 and 2011 studies.
The leopard is one of the five extant species of the genus Panthera,
which also includes the jaguar (P. onca), the lion (P. leo), the snow
leopard (P. uncia) and the tiger (P. tigris). This genus, along with
Neofelis forms the subfamily Pantherinae.
The leopard was first described by Swedish zoologist
Carl Linnaeus in
the 10th edition of Systema Naturae. Linnaeus named the leopard Felis
pardus and placed it in the genus
Felis along with the domestic cat,
the jaguar, the Eurasian lynx, the lion, the ocelot and the tiger.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, most naturalists and taxonomists
followed his example. In 1816,
Lorenz Oken proposed a definition of
the genus Panthera, with a subgenus
Panthera using F. pardus as a type
species. Oken's classification was not widely accepted, and
Leopardus was used until the early 20th century. In 1916, British
Reginald Innes Pocock
Reginald Innes Pocock accorded
Panthera generic rank based
Panthera pardus as the type species.
Map of approximate distribution of leopard subspecies
Following Linnaeus's first description, 27 leopard subspecies were
described by naturalists between 1794 and 1956. Since 1996, only eight
subspecies have been considered valid on the basis of mitochondrial
analysis. Later analysis revealed a ninth valid subspecies, the
The nine subspecies recognised by the International Union for
Conservation of Nature (IUCN) are summarised in the following
table. Since 2017, the
Cat Classification Task Force of the
Cat Specialist Group recognizes only eight subspecies and subsumed P.
p. ciscaucasica to P. p. tulliana, and P. p. japonensis to P. p.
African leopard (P. p. pardus) (Linnaeus, 1758), syn. P. p. panthera
(Schreber, 1777), P. p. leopardus (Schreber, 1777), P. p. melanotica
(Gunther, 1885), P. p. suahelicus (Neumann, 1900), P. p. nanopardus
(Thomas, 1904), P. p. ruwenzorii (Camerano, 1906), P. p. chui (Heller,
1913), P. p. reichenowi (Cabrera, 1918), P. p. antinorii (de Beaux,
1923), P. p. iturensis (Allen, 1924), P. p. adusta Pocock, 1927, P. p.
shortridgei Pocock, 1932, P. p. adersi Pocock, 1932
It lives in sub-Saharan
Africa and is the most widespread leopard
North Africa: extinct in Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia; a relict
Morocco and southeastern Egypt
West Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory
Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra
East Africa: Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania,
Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Rwanda, Uganda
Central Africa: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic
Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Republic of the Congo,
Southern Africa: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South
Zambia and Zimbabwe
Indian leopard (P. p. fusca) (Meyer, 1794), syn. P. p. pernigra
(Hodgson, 1863), P. p. millardi Pocock, 1930
It is native to the Indian subcontinent: India, Nepal, Bhutan,
Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Javan leopard (P. p. melas) (G. Cuvier, 1809)
It is the only subspecies native to
Indonesia and lives on Java. It is
Arabian leopard (P. p. nimr) (Hemprich and Ehrenberg, 1833), syn. P.
p. jarvisi Pocock, 1932
It is the smallest leopard subspecies; adult females weigh about
18 kg (40 lb). It is native to the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi
Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Jordan,
Lebanon and Syria. It is considered extinct in the Sinai
Anatolian leopard (P. p. tulliana) (Valenciennes, 1856), syn. Persian
leopard (P. p. ciscaucasica) (Satunin, 1914), P. p. saxicolor
Pocock, 1927, P. p. sindica Pocock, 1930, P. p. dathei Zukowsky, 1964
Leopard populations persist in eastern Turkey, the Caucasus, Georgia,
Armenia, southern Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Iraq and northern Iran.
In southwestern Turkey, the leopard is extinct. The Balochistan
leopard possibly evolved in southern Iran, southern
southwestern Pakistan, being separated from the northern population by
Dasht-e Kavir and
Dasht-e Lut deserts.
Amur leopard (P. p. orientalis) (Schlegel, 1857) syn. North-Chinese
leopard (P. p. japonensis) (Gray, 1862)
It is native to central and northern China, and the Russian Far
East. It is considered to be extinct in the Korean peninsula.
Populations are rather small.
Indochinese leopard (P. p. delacouri) Pocock, 1930
It inhabits mainland Southeast Asia, including Myanmar, Thailand,
Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos,
Vietnam and South China.
Sri Lankan leopard
Sri Lankan leopard (P. p. kotiya) Deraniyagala, 1956
It is native to Sri Lanka.
Evolution and genetics
The last common ancestor of the
Neofelis species is
believed to have occurred about 6.37 million years ago. The clouded
leopard was the first to diverge from the rest of the Panthera
lineage, followed by the snow leopard. The genus
Panthera is believed
to have emerged in Asia, from where they subsequently emigrated to
Africa. The tiger-snow leopard clade diverged from the rest of
Panthera around 2.9 million years ago. Johnson and colleagues
suggest that the leopard diverged next, and followed by the
The diploid number of chromosomes in the leopard is 38, the same as in
any other felid, save for the ocelot and the margay, whose diploid
number of chromosomes is 36. The chromosomes include four
acrocentric, five metacentric, seven submetacentric and two
The leopard is part of the
Panthera lineage, one of the eight lineages
of Felidae. This lineage comprises the species of
Neofelis. The clouded leopard diverged first from the lineage,
followed by a clade consisting of the tiger and the snow leopard.
Subsequent branching began two to three million years ago, but the
details of this are disputed.
Results of phylogenetic studies based on nDNA and mtDNA analysis
showed that the leopard is a sister taxon to a clade within Panthera
consisting of the lion and the jaguar. However, results of a
different phylogenetic study revealed a swapping between the leopard
and the jaguar in the cladogram. Results of a 2001
phylogenetic analysis of chemical secretions amongst cats also
suggested that the leopard is closely related to the lion.
Fossils of ancestors of the leopard have been found in
East Africa and
South Asia, dating back to the
Pleistocene between 2 and 3.5 million
years ago. The modern leopard is suggested to have evolved in Africa
0.5 to 0.8 million years ago and to have radiated across
Asia 0.2 to
0.3 million years ago.
In Europe, the leopard is known at least since the Pleistocene. Fossil
bones and teeth dating from the
Pliocene were found in Perrier in
France, northeast of London, and in
Valdarno (Italy). Similar fossils
dating back to the
Pleistocene were excavated mostly in loess and
caves at 40 sites in the continent - from near Lisbon, near Gibraltar,
Santander Province in northern
Spain to several sites in France,
Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany, in the north up to
England, in the east to
Přerov in the Czech Republic, and the Baranya
in southern Hungary, and in Biśnik Cave in south-central
Pleistocene leopards of
Europe can be divided into
four subsequent subspecies. The first European leopard subspecies P.
p. begoueni is known from the beginning of the early
was replaced about 0.6 million years ago by P. p. sickenbergi, which
in turn was replaced by P. p. antiqua around 0.3 million years ago.
The most recent form, the
European Ice Age leopard
European Ice Age leopard (P. p. spelaea),
appeared at the beginning of the Late
Pleistocene and survived until
about 24,000 years ago in several parts of Europe.
Pleistocene fossils have also been excavated in the Japanese
Crossbreeding between the leopard and the other members of the
Panthera has been documented. In 1953, a lioness and a male leopard
were mated in the Hanshin Park in Nishinomiya, Japan. The first litter
from this pairing was born on 2 November 1959, consisting of a male
and a female. Another litter was born in 1961, in which all the
offspring were spotted and bigger than a juvenile leopard. The hybrid
came to be known as "leopon". Unsuccessful attempts were made to mate
a leopon with a tigress.
Although lions and leopards may come into contact in sub-Saharan
Africa, they are generally not known to interbreed naturally. However,
there have been anecdotal reports of felids larger than the cheetah
but smaller than the lion, with a lion-like face, from the Central
African Republic, Kenya,
Rwanda and Uganda. This animal, known as the
marozi and by several other names, is covered with grayish spots or
rosettes on the back, the flanks and the legs. However, there have
been no confirmed sightings of the marozi since the 1930s.
A pumapard is a hybrid animal resulting from a mating between a
leopard and a puma (a member of the genus Puma, not the genus
Panthera). Three sets of these hybrids were bred in the late 1890s and
early 1900s by
Carl Hagenbeck at his animal park in Hamburg, Germany.
While most of these animals did not reach adulthood, one of these was
purchased in 1898 by the Berlin Zoo. A similar hybrid in the Berlin
Zoo purchased from Hagenbeck was a cross between a male leopard and a
female puma. A specimen in the Hamburg Zoo (in the photo at right) was
the reverse pairing, fathered by a puma bred to an Indian leopardess.
The pumapard is characterised by a long body like the puma's, but with
shorter legs. The hybrid is in general a dwarf, smaller than either
parent. The coat is variously described as sandy, tawny or greyish
with brown, chestnut or faded rosettes.
African leopard at
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
The leopard's skin colour varies by climate and habitat from pale
yellow to yellowish brown or golden. Leopards living in forests are
darker than those in arid habitats. Spots fade toward the white
underbelly and the insides and lower parts of the legs. Rosettes are
most prominent on the back, flanks and hindquarters. The pattern
of the rosettes is unique in each individual. Rosettes are
circular in East
African leopard populations, and tend to be squarish
in Southern African and larger in Asian populations. The fur tends to
be grayish tones in colder climates, and to a darker golden hue in
Its white-tipped tail is about 60–100 centimetres (24–39 in)
long, white underneath and with spots that form incomplete bands
toward the tails's end. Its 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 (3–4 millimetres (0.12–0.16 in)) in face and
head, and increase in length toward the flanks and the belly to about
25–30 millimetres (0.98–1.18 in). Juveniles have woolly fur,
and appear dark due to the densely arranged spots.
The leopard is sexually dimorphic, males are larger and heavier than
females. It is also muscular, with relatively short limbs and a
broad head. Males stand 60–70 cm (24–28 in) at the
shoulder, while females are 57–64 cm (22–25 in) tall.
The head-and-body length is typically between 90 and 190 cm (35
and 75 in). While males weigh 37–90 kg (82–198 lb),
females weigh 28–60 kg (62–132 lb). These
measurements vary geographically. Usually, leopards are larger in
areas where they are at the top of the food chain, with no competitive
restriction from larger predators such as the lion and tiger. The
maximum weight of a leopard is about 96 kg (212 lb),
recorded in Southern Africa, and the longest is 262 cm
(103 in), which was matched by an
Indian leopard that was
killed in Himachal Pradesh, in 2016.
The leopard is often confused with the cheetah; however, the cheetah
is marked with small round spots instead of the larger rosettes.
Moreover, the leopard lacks the facial tear streaks characteristic of
the cheetah. Other similar species are the clouded leopard and
jaguar. The clouded leopard can be told apart by the diffuse "clouds"
of spots compared to the smaller and distinct rosettes of the leopard,
longer legs and thinner tail. The jaguar has rosettes that
typically have spots within them, while those of leopards often do
not. Moreover, the jaguar has larger and rounder foot pads and a
Melanistic leopard or black panther
Main article: Black panther
Melanistic leopards are also called black panthers. Pseudomelanism
(abundism) also occurs in leopards.
Melanism in leopards is
inherited as a trait relatively recessive to the spotted form.
Interbreeding in melanistic leopards produces a significantly smaller
litter size than is produced by normal pairings.
The black panther is common in the equatorial rainforest of the Malay
Peninsula and the tropical rainforest on the slopes of some African
mountains such as Mount Kenya. Between January 1996 and March
2009, Indochinese leopards were photographed at 16 sites in the Malay
Peninsula in a sampling effort of more than 1000 camera trap nights.
Of the 445 photographs of melanistic leopards, 410 came from study
sites south of the Kra Isthmus, where the non-melanistic morph was
never photographed. This data suggests the near fixation of the dark
allele in the region. The expected time for the fixation of this
recessive allele due to genetic drift alone ranged from about 1,100
years to about 100,000 years. Pseudomelanism has also been
reported in leopards.
Leopards exhibiting erythrism have been very rarely reported. This
form is known as the 'strawberry' leopard due to its coloration,
caused by a little-understood genetic condition that causes either an
overproduction of red pigments or an underproduction of dark
pigments. A review of the literature showed that there are five
historic records from India, and a further seven records in the past
two decades from South Africa, with the first photographed in South
Africa's Madikwe Game Reserve.
Distribution and habitat
Leopards on the
Magerius Mosaic from modern Tunisia. Numerous Roman
mosaics from North African sites depict fauna now found only in
A leopard and her cub on the tree in the
The leopard has the largest distribution of all wild cats, occurring
Africa as well as eastern and southern Asia, although
populations have shown a declining trend, and are fragmented
outside of sub-Saharan Africa. Within sub-Saharan Africa, the species
is still numerous and even thriving in marginal habitats where other
large cats have disappeared, although there is considerable potential
for human-leopard conflict due to leopards predating livestock.
North Africa may be extinct. Data on their
Asia are not consistent. Populations in southwest and
Asia are small and fragmented; in the northeast, they are
critically endangered. In the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and
China, leopards are still relatively abundant. Of the species as a
whole, its numbers are greater than those of other
all of which face more acute conservation concerns.
Leopards are exceptionally adaptable, although associated primarily
with savanna and rainforest. Populations thrive anywhere in the
species range where grasslands, woodlands, and riverine forests remain
largely undisturbed. In the Russian Far East, they inhabit temperate
forests where winter temperatures reach a low of −25 °C
(−13 °F). They are equally adept surviving in some of the
world's most humid rainforests and even semi-arid desert edges.
Leopards in west and central
Asia avoid deserts and areas with long
snow cover and areas close to urban centres. In India, leopard
populations sometimes live quite close to human settlements and even
in semi-developed areas. Although occasionally 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 superlative stealthiness, people often remain unaware that
big cats live in nearby areas.
Ecology and behaviour
Leopard resting on a tree
Leopards, like lions and tigers, tend to be nocturnal (active
mainly at night). However, leopards in western African forests
have been observed to be largely diurnal and hunt during twilight,
when their prey animals are active; activity patterns may even vary by
season. Leopards generally 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
1–25 kilometres (0.62–15.53 mi) across their range at night;
they may even wander up to 75 kilometres (47 mi) if
Leopards are known for their ability to climb and have been observed
resting on tree branches during the day, dragging their kills up trees
and hanging them there, and descending from trees headfirst. They
are powerful swimmers, although are not as disposed to swimming as
some other big cats, such as the tiger. They are very agile, and can
run at over 58 kilometres per hour (36 mph), leap over 6 metres
(20 ft) horizontally, and jump up to 3 metres (9.8 ft)
Leopard visual communication
Female showing white spots on the back of the ears (ocelli) used to
communicate with other leopards.
Female leopard showing the white spot on the tail used for
communicating with cubs while hunting or in long grass.
The leopard is solitary and territorial, as are several other felids;
individuals associate appreciably only in the mating season, though
mothers may continue to interact with their offspring even after
weaning. Mothers have been observed sharing kills with their offspring
when they can not obtain any meal. In Kruger National Park, most
leopards tend to keep 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) apart. Fathers
may interact with their partners and cubs at times and exceptionally
this can extend beyond to two generations. Aggressive
encounters are rare, typically limited to defending territories from
intruders. In a South African reserve, a male was wounded in a
male–male territorial battle over a carcass. A few instances of
cannibalism have been reported.
Leopards communicate with each other in tall grass using white spots
on their ears and tails. They also produce a number of
vocalisations, 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 a
Males occupy territories that often overlap with a few smaller female
territories, probably as a strategy to enhance access to females. A
radio-collar analysis in the
Ivory Coast found a female home range
completely enclosed within a male's. Female live with their cubs
in territories that overlap extensively – probably due to the
association between mothers and their offspring. There may be a few
other fluctuating territories, belonging to young individuals. It is
not clear if male territories tend to overlap among themselves as much
as those of females do. Individuals will try to drive away intruders
of the same sex.
A study of leopards in the Namibian farmlands showed that the size of
territories was not significantly affected by sex, rainfall patterns
or season; it concluded that the higher the prey availability in an
area, the greater the population density of leopards and the smaller
the size of territories, but territories tend to expand if there is
human interference (which has been notably high in the study
area). Territorial sizes vary geographically; they can be as small
as 33–38 square kilometres (13–15 sq mi) for males and
14–16 square kilometres (5.4–6.2 sq mi) for females in
forests and rocky terrain (such as in the
Serengeti or Kruger National
Park), or as large as 451 square kilometres
(174 sq mi) for males and 188 square kilometres
(73 sq mi) for females in northeastern Namibia (they
might be even larger in deserts and montane areas). Territories
recorded in Nepal, 48 square kilometres (19 sq mi) for males
and 5–7 square kilometres (1.9–2.7 sq mi) for females,
are smaller than those generally observed in Africa.
Hunting and diet
Stages of leopard hunting prey
Killing young bushbuck
Caching kill in a tree
The leopard depends mainly on its acute sense of hearing and vision
for hunting. It primarily hunts at night in most areas. In
western African forests and Tsavo National Park, leopards have been
also observed hunting by day.
The leopard is a carnivore that prefers medium-sized prey with a body
mass ranging from 10–40 kg (22–88 lb). Prey species in
this weight range tend to occur in dense habitat and to form small
Species that prefer open areas and developed significant
anti-predator strategies are less preferred. More than 100 prey
species were recorded. Impala, Thomson's gazelle, duiker, steenbok,
bushbuck, warthog, water chevrotain, blue wildebeest, sitatunga,
Bates's pygmy antelope, aardvark, nyala, and kudu are frequently taken
in Africa, and chital, muntjac, sambar, four-horned antelope, deer,
Nilgiri tahr, gaur and wild boar in Asia.
Primate prey species preyed
upon include Colobus, Mangabey, Cercopithecus, langur, and less
frequently also gorilla and baboon. Small mammals preyed upon include
black-backed jackal, Cape fox, African civet, genets, hares,
porcupine, rock hyrax Prey as heavy as a 550 kg
(1,210 lb) giraffe is hunted if larger carnivores such as lions
or tigers are absent. The largest prey killed by a leopard was
reportedly a male eland weighing 900 kg (2,000 lb).
The leopard stalks the prey and tries to approach as close as
possible, typically within 5 m (16 ft) to the target, and
finally pounces on it and kills it by suffocation. It kills small prey
with a bite on the back of the neck, but holds larger animals by the
throat and strangles them. It is able to take large prey due
to its massive skull and powerful jaw muscles, and is therefore strong
enough to drag carcasses heavier than itself up into trees; an
individual was seen to haul a young giraffe, weighing nearly
125 kg (276 lb), up 5.7 m (19 ft) into a tree.
Kills are cached up to 2 km (6,600 ft) apart. Small prey
is eaten immediately, while larger carcasses are dragged over several
hundred metres and safely cached in trees, bushes or even caves to be
consumed later. The way the kill is stored depends on local topography
and individual preferences; while trees are preferred in Kruger
National Park, bushes are preferred in the plain terrain of the
Analysis of leopard scat in
Taï National Park
Taï National Park revealed that primates
except chimpanzee and potto are primary leopard prey during the
day. In a reserved forest of southern India, species preyed upon
by leopard, dhole and striped hyena overlapped considerably.
A study at
Wolong Reserve in
China demonstrated variation in the
leopards' diet over time; over the course of seven years, the
vegetative cover receded, and leopards opportunistically shifted from
primarily consuming tufted deer to pursuing bamboo rats and other
smaller prey. A study estimated average daily consumption rates at
3.5 kg (7.7 lb) for males and 2.8 kg (6.2 lb) for
females. A study in the southern
Kalahari showed that leopards met
their water requirements by the bodily fluids of prey and succulent
plants; they drink water every two to three days, and feed
infrequently on moisture-rich plants such as gemsbok cucumbers
(Acanthosicyos naudinianus), tsamma melon (Citrullus lanatus) and
Kalahari sour grass (
Schmidtia kalahariensis). A few instances of
cannibalism have been reported.
Predation on bear cubs in
Asia has been reported. Sub-adult giant
pandas weighing up to 50 kg (110 lb) may also be vulnerable
to predation by leopards.
Enemies and competitors
Leopards must compete for food and shelter with other large predators
such as tigers, lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, striped hyenas, brown
hyenas, up to five species of bear and both African and Asiatic wild
dogs. These animals may steal the leopard's kill, devour its young or
even kill adult leopards. Leopards co-exist alongside these other
large predators by hunting for different types of prey and by avoiding
areas frequented by them. Leopards may also retreat up a tree in the
face of direct aggression from other large carnivores but leopards
have been seen to either kill or prey on competitors such as
black-backed jackal, caracal, African wild cat and the cubs of lions,
cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs.
Lioness stealing a leopard kill
Resource partitioning occurs where leopards share their range with
tigers. Leopards tend to take smaller prey, usually less than
75 kg (165 lb), where tigers are present. In areas where
the leopard is sympatric with the tiger, coexistence is reportedly not
the general rule, with leopards being few where tigers are
numerous. The mean leopard density decreased significantly (from
9.76 to 2.07 animals per 100 km2) when the mean density of tigers
increased (from 3.31 animals/100km2 to 5.81 animals/100km2) from
2004–5 to 2007–8 in the
Rajaji National Park
Rajaji National Park in
the relocation of pastoralists out of the park. There, the two
species have high dietary overlap, and an increase in the tiger
population resulted in a sharp decrease in the leopard population and
a shift in the leopard diet to small prey (from 9% to 36%) and
domestic prey (from 6.8% to 31.8%). In Nepal's Chitwan National
Bengal tiger coexists with the
Indian leopard because there
is a large prey biomass, a large proportion of prey is of smaller
size, and dense vegetation exists. Here leopards killed prey ranging
from less than 25 kg (55 lb) to 100 kg (220 lb) in
weight with most kills in the 25–50 kg (55–110 lb)
range; tigers killed more prey in the 50–100 kg
(110–220 lb) range. There were also differences in the
microhabitat preferences of the individual tiger and leopard followed
over five months (December to April); the tiger used roads and (except
in February) forested areas more frequently, while the leopard used
recently burned areas and open areas more frequently. Usually
when a tiger began to kill baits at sites formerly frequented by
leopards, the leopards would no longer come and hunt there. In
the tropical forests of India's Nagarhole National Park, tigers
selected prey weighing more than 176 kg (388 lb), whereas
leopards selected prey in the 30–175 kg (66–386 lb)
range. In tropical forest they do not always avoid the larger
cats by hunting at different times. With relatively abundant prey and
differences in the size of prey selected, tigers and leopards seem to
successfully coexist without competitive exclusion or inter-species
dominance hierarchies that may be more common to the leopard's
co-existence with the lion in savanna habitats. In areas with
high tiger populations, such as in the central parts of India's Kanha
National Park, leopards are not permanent residents, but transients.
They were common near villages at the periphery of the park and
outside the park.
In the mid 20th century, Amur leopards were absent or very rarely
encountered in the Primorye region of the
Russian Far East
Russian Far East at places
where Siberian tigers roamed. Surveys conducted at the beginning
of the 21st century revealed that the range of both species overlaps
in this region, especially in protected areas where ungulate densities
are high and human disturbance is low.
Occasionally, Nile crocodiles prey on leopards of any age. One large
adult leopard was grabbed and consumed by a large crocodile while
attempting to hunt along a bank in Kruger National
Park. Mugger crocodiles have reportedly killed an adult
leopard in India. Lions are occasionally successful in climbing
trees and fetching leopard kills. Leopards are also known to kill
or prey on lion cubs. In the
Kalahari desert, leopards frequently
lose kills to the brown hyena, if the leopard is unable to move the
kill into a tree. Single brown hyenas have been observed charging at
and displacing male leopards from kills. Burmese pythons
have reportedly preyed on leopards, and an adult leopard was recovered
from the stomach of a 5.5 m (18 ft) specimen.
Two cases of leopards killing cheetahs have been reported in
In some areas of Africa, troops of large baboon species (potential
leopard prey themselves) will kill and sometimes eat leopard young if
they discover them.
George Schaller wrote that he had seen
carcasses of a leopard and gorilla, and that both had wounds.
Reproduction and life cycle
Depending on the region, leopards may mate all year round. In
Manchuria and Siberia, they mate during January and February. The
estrous cycle lasts about 46 days and the female usually is in
heat for 6–7 days. Gestation lasts for 90 to 105
days. Cubs are usually born in a litter of 2–4 cubs.
Mortality of cubs is estimated at 41–50% during the first year.
Females give birth in a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow tree, or
thicket to make a den. Cubs are born with closed eyes, which open four
to nine days after birth. The fur of the young tends to be longer
and thicker than that of adults. Their pelage is also more gray in
colour with less defined spots. Around three months of age, the young
begin to follow the mother on hunts. At one year of age, leopard young
can probably fend for themselves, but remain with the mother for
The average typical life span of a leopard is between 12 and 17
years. The oldest recorded spotted leopard was a female named
Roxanne living in captivity at McCarthy's Wildlife Sanctuary in The
Acreage, Palm Beach County, Florida. She died August 8, 2014 at the
age of 24 years, 2 months and 13 days. This has been verified by the
Guinness World Records. Previously, the oldest recorded leopard
was a female named Bertie living in captivity in Warsaw Zoo. She died
in December 2010 at the age of 24. The oldest recorded male
leopard was Cezar, who reached the age of 23. He also lived at Warsaw
Zoo and was Bertie's lifelong companion.
Leopards and humans
Benin water vassel shaped in the form of a leopard
Leopards have been known to humans throughout history, and have
featured in the art, mythology, and folklore of many countries where
they have historically occurred, such as ancient Greece, Persia, and
Rome, as well as some where they have not existed for several
millennia, such as England. The modern use of the leopard as an emblem
for sport or a coat of arms is much more restricted to Africa, though
numerous products worldwide have used the name. During the Benin
Empire, the leopard was commonly represented on engravings and
sculptures and was used to symbolise the power of the king or oba;
since the leopard was considered the king of the forest. Leopards were
also kept and paraded as mascots, totems and sacrifices to
deities. As a result of their association with kings in Africa,
the leopard's pelt is often seen today as a symbol of aristocratic
rank, chiefs using it as a part of their traditional regalia.
Three leopards (loggerheads) on the flag of Shropshire, England.
The lion passant guardant or leopard is a frequently used charge in
heraldry, most commonly appearing in groups of three. The
heraldic leopard lacks spots and sports a mane, making it visually
almost identical to the heraldic lion, and the two are often used
interchangeably. These traditional lions passant guardant appear in
the coat of arms of
England and many of its former colonies; more
modern naturalistic (leopard-like) depictions appear on the coat of
arms of several African nations including Benin, Malawi, Somalia, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon, which uses a black
Leopard domestication has also been recorded—several leopards were
kept in a menagerie established by King John at the Tower of
the 13th century; around 1235, three of these animals were given to
Henry III by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.
A female leopard in the Sabi Sands of
South Africa near a game vehicle
In protected areas of several countries, wildlife touring programs and
safari ventures offer sightings of leopards in their natural habitat.
While luxury establishments may boast the fact that wild animals can
be seen at close range on a daily basis, the leopard's camouflage and
propensity to hide and stalk prey typically make leopard sightings
rare. In Sri Lanka's Yala National Park, leopards have been
ranked by visitors to be among the least visible of all animals in the
park despite their high concentration in the reserve.
In South Africa, safaris are offered in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve. In
Sri Lanka, wildlife tours are available in the Yala and Wilpattu
National Parks. In India, safaris are offered in the Madhya Pradesh
Uttarakhand national parks as well as in the
Pali district of
The Panar Leopard, shot by
Jim Corbett in 1910 after allegedly killing
Most leopards avoid people, but humans may occasionally be targeted as
prey. Most healthy leopards prefer wild prey to humans, but injured,
sickly, or struggling cats or those with a shortage of regular prey
may resort to hunting humans and become habituated to it. Although
usually slightly smaller than a human, an adult leopard is much more
powerful and easily capable of killing one. Two extreme cases occurred
in India: the first leopard, "the
Leopard of Rudraprayag", killed more
than 125 people; the second, the "Panar Leopard", was believed to have
killed more than 400. Both were killed by the renowned hunter and
conservationist Jim Corbett. Man-eating leopards are considered
bold and difficult to track by feline standards and may enter human
settlements for prey, more so than lions and tigers. Author and
big game hunter Kenneth Anderson had first-hand experience with many
man-eating leopards, and described them as far more threatening than
Although examples of such animals are comparatively rare, when they do
occur they depict the panther [leopard] as an engine of destruction
quite equal to his far larger cousin, the tiger. Because of his
smaller size he can conceal himself in places impossible to a tiger,
his need for water is far less, and in veritable demoniac cunning and
daring, coupled with the uncanny sense of self-preservation and
stealthy disappearance when danger threatens, he has no equal.
— Kenneth Anderson, Nine Man-Eaters and One Rogue, Chapter II "The
Spotted Devil of Gummalapur"
There is something very terrifying in the angry grunt of a charging
leopard, and I have seen a line of elephants that were staunch to a
tiger, turn and stampede from a charging leopard.
— Jim Corbett, The Temple
Tiger and More Man-Eaters of Kumaon,
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Asia Life Sciences. Supplement
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Animal Files: Leopard
African palm civet
African palm civet (N. binotata)
Marsh mongoose (A. paludinosus)
Bushy-tailed mongoose (B. crassicauda)
Jackson's mongoose (B. jacksoni)
Black-footed mongoose (B. nigripes)
Alexander's kusimanse (C. alexandri)
Angolan kusimanse (C. ansorgei)
Common kusimanse (C. obscurus)
Flat-headed kusimanse (C. platycephalus)
Yellow mongoose (C. penicillata)
Pousargues's mongoose (D. dybowskii)
Angolan slender mongoose
Angolan slender mongoose (G. flavescens)
Black mongoose (G. nigrata)
Somalian slender mongoose
Somalian slender mongoose (G. ochracea)
Cape gray mongoose
Cape gray mongoose (G. pulverulenta)
Slender mongoose (G. sanguinea)
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose
Ethiopian dwarf mongoose (H. hirtula)
Common dwarf mongoose
Common dwarf mongoose (H. parvula)
Short-tailed mongoose (H. brachyurus)
Indian gray mongoose
Indian gray mongoose (H. edwardsii)
Indian brown mongoose
Indian brown mongoose (H. fuscus)
Egyptian mongoose (H. ichneumon)
Small Asian mongoose
Small Asian mongoose (H. javanicus)
Long-nosed mongoose (H. naso)
Collared mongoose (H. semitorquatus)
Ruddy mongoose (H. smithii)
Crab-eating mongoose (H. urva)
Stripe-necked mongoose (H. vitticollis)
White-tailed mongoose (I. albicauda)
Liberian mongoose (L. kuhni)
Gambian mongoose (M. gambianus)
Banded mongoose (M. mungo)
Selous' mongoose (P. selousi)
Meller's mongoose (R. melleri)
Meerkat (S. suricatta)
Spotted hyena (C. crocuta)
Brown hyena (H. brunnea)
Striped hyena (H. hyaena)
Aardwolf (P. cristatus)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Small family listed below
Cheetah (A. jubatus)
Caracal (C. caracal)
African golden cat
African golden cat (C. aurata)
Bay cat (C. badia)
Asian golden cat
Asian golden cat (C. temminckii)
European wildcat (F. silvestris)
African wildcat (F. lybica)
Jungle cat (F. chaus)
Black-footed cat (F. nigripes)
Sand cat (F. margarita)
Chinese mountain cat
Chinese mountain cat (F. bieti)
Domestic cat (F. catus)
Ocelot (L. pardalis)
Margay (L. wiedii)
Pampas cat (L. colocola)
Geoffroy's cat (L. geoffroyi)
Kodkod (L. guigna)
Andean mountain cat
Andean mountain cat (L. jacobita)
Oncilla (L. tigrinus)
Southern tigrina (L. guttulus)
Serval (L. serval)
Canadian lynx (L. canadensis)
Eurasian lynx (L. lynx)
Iberian lynx (L. pardinus)
Bobcat (L. rufus)
Pallas's cat (O. manul)
Marbled cat (P. marmorata)
Fishing cat (P. viverrinus)
Leopard cat (P. bengalensis)
Sundaland leopard cat (P. javanensis)
Flat-headed cat (P. planiceps)
Rusty-spotted cat (P. rubiginosus)
Cougar (P. concolor)
Jaguarundi (H. yagouaroundi)
Lion (P. leo)
Jaguar (P. onca)
Leopard (P. pardus)
Tiger (P. tigris)
Snow leopard (P. uncia)
Clouded leopard (N. nebulosa)
Sunda clouded leopard
Sunda clouded leopard (N. diardi)
Viverridae (includes Civets)
Binturong (A. binturong)
Small-toothed palm civet
Small-toothed palm civet (A. trivirgata)
Sulawesi palm civet
Sulawesi palm civet (M. musschenbroekii)
Masked palm civet
Masked palm civet (P. larvata)
Golden wet-zone palm civet (P. aureus)
Asian palm civet
Asian palm civet (P. hermaphroditus)
Jerdon's palm civet (P. jerdoni)
Golden palm civet
Golden palm civet (P. zeylonensis)
Owston's palm civet
Owston's palm civet (C. owstoni)
Otter civet (C. bennettii)
Hose's palm civet
Hose's palm civet (D. hosei)
Banded palm civet
Banded palm civet (H. derbyanus)
Banded linsang (P. linsang)
Spotted linsang (P. pardicolor)
African civet (C. civetta)
Abyssinian genet (G. abyssinica)
Angolan genet (G. angolensis)
Bourlon's genet (G. bourloni)
Crested servaline genet
Crested servaline genet (G. cristata)
Common genet (G. genetta)
Johnston's genet (G. johnstoni)
Rusty-spotted genet (G. maculata)
Pardine genet (G. pardina)
Aquatic genet (G. piscivora)
King genet (G. poensis)
Servaline genet (G. servalina)
Haussa genet (G. thierryi)
Cape genet (G. tigrina)
Giant forest genet
Giant forest genet (G. victoriae)
African linsang (P. richardsonii)
Leighton's linsang (P. leightoni)
Malabar large-spotted civet
Malabar large-spotted civet (V. civettina)
Large-spotted civet (V. megaspila)
Malayan civet (V. tangalunga)
Large Indian civet
Large Indian civet (V. zibetha)
Small Indian civet
Small Indian civet (V. indica)
Fossa (C. ferox)
Eastern falanouc (E. goudotii)
Western falanouc (E. major)
Malagasy civet (F. fossana)
Ring-tailed mongoose (G. elegans)
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose
Broad-striped Malagasy mongoose (G. fasciata)
Grandidier's mongoose (G. grandidieri)
Narrow-striped mongoose (M. decemlineata)
Brown-tailed mongoose (S. concolor)
Durrell's vontsira (S. durrelli)
Caniformia (cont. below)
Giant panda (A. melanoleuca)
Sun bear (H. malayanus)
Sloth bear (M. ursinus)
Spectacled bear (T. ornatus)
American black bear
American black bear (U. americanus)
Brown bear (U. arctos)
Polar bear (U. maritimus)
Asian black bear
Asian black bear (U. thibetanus)
Molina's hog-nosed skunk
Molina's hog-nosed skunk (C. chinga)
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk
Humboldt's hog-nosed skunk (C. humboldtii)
American hog-nosed skunk
American hog-nosed skunk (C. leuconotus)
Striped hog-nosed skunk
Striped hog-nosed skunk (C. semistriatus)
Hooded skunk (M. macroura)
Striped skunk (M. mephitis)
Sunda stink badger
Sunda stink badger (M. javanensis)
Palawan stink badger
Palawan stink badger (M. marchei)
Southern spotted skunk
Southern spotted skunk (S. angustifrons)
Western spotted skunk
Western spotted skunk (S. gracilis)
Eastern spotted skunk
Eastern spotted skunk (S. putorius)
Pygmy spotted skunk
Pygmy spotted skunk (S. pygmaea)
Eastern lowland olingo
Eastern lowland olingo (B. alleni)
Northern olingo (B. gabbii)
Western lowland olingo
Western lowland olingo (B. medius)
Olinguito (B. neblina)
Ring-tailed cat (B. astutus)
Cacomistle (B. sumichrasti)
White-nosed coati (N. narica)
South American coati
South American coati (N. nasua)
Western mountain coati (N. olivacea)
Eastern mountain coati (N. meridensis)
Kinkajou (P. flavus)
Crab-eating raccoon (P. cancrivorus)
Raccoon (P. lotor)
Cozumel raccoon (P. pygmaeus)
Red panda (A. fulgens)
Caniformia (cont. above)
(includes fur seals
and sea lions)
South American fur seal
South American fur seal (A. australis)
Australasian fur seal (A. forsteri)
Galápagos fur seal
Galápagos fur seal (A. galapagoensis)
Antarctic fur seal
Antarctic fur seal (A. gazella)
Juan Fernández fur seal
Juan Fernández fur seal (A. philippii)
Brown fur seal
Brown fur seal (A. pusillus)
Guadalupe fur seal
Guadalupe fur seal (A. townsendi)
Subantarctic fur seal
Subantarctic fur seal (A. tropicalis)
Northern fur seal
Northern fur seal (C. ursinus)
Steller sea lion
Steller sea lion (E. jubatus)
Australian sea lion
Australian sea lion (N. cinerea)
South American sea lion
South American sea lion (O. flavescens)
New Zealand sea lion
New Zealand sea lion (P. hookeri)
California sea lion
California sea lion (Z. californianus)
Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion (Z. wollebaeki)
Walrus (O. rosmarus)
Hooded seal (C. cristata)
Bearded seal (E. barbatus)
Gray seal (H. grypus)
Ribbon seal (H. fasciata)
Leopard seal (H. leptonyx)
Weddell seal (L. weddellii)
Crabeater seal (L. carcinophagus)
Northern elephant seal
Northern elephant seal (M. angustirostris)
Southern elephant seal
Southern elephant seal (M. leonina)
Mediterranean monk seal
Mediterranean monk seal (M. monachus)
Hawaiian monk seal
Hawaiian monk seal (M. schauinslandi)
Ross seal (O. rossi)
Harp seal (P. groenlandicus)
Spotted seal (P. largha)
Harbor seal (P. vitulina)
Caspian seal (P. caspica)
Ringed seal (P. hispida)
Baikal seal (P. sibirica)
Large family listed below
Large family listed below
Canidae (includes dogs)
Short-eared dog (A. microtis)
Side-striped jackal (C. adustus)
African golden wolf
African golden wolf (C. anthus)
Golden jackal (C. aureus)
Coyote (C. latrans)
Gray wolf (C. lupus)
Black-backed jackal (C. mesomelas)
Red wolf (C. rufus)
Ethiopian wolf (C. simensis)
Crab-eating fox (C. thous)
Maned wolf (C. brachyurus)
Dhole (C. alpinus)
Culpeo (L. culpaeus)
Darwin's fox (L. fulvipes)
South American gray fox
South American gray fox (L. griseus)
Pampas fox (L. gymnocercus)
Sechuran fox (L. sechurae)
Hoary fox (L. vetulus)
African wild dog
African wild dog (L. pictus)
Raccoon dog (N. procyonoides)
Bat-eared fox (O. megalotis)
Bush dog (S. venaticus)
Gray fox (U. cinereoargenteus)
Island fox (U. littoralis)
Bengal fox (V. bengalensis)
Blanford's fox (V. cana)
Cape fox (V. chama)
Corsac fox (V. corsac)
Tibetan sand fox
Tibetan sand fox (V. ferrilata)
Arctic fox (V. lagopus)
Kit fox (V. macrotis)
Pale fox (V. pallida)
Rüppell's fox (V. rueppelli)
Swift fox (V. velox)
Red fox (V. vulpes)
Fennec fox (V. zerda)
African clawless otter
African clawless otter (A. capensis)
Oriental small-clawed otter
Oriental small-clawed otter (A. cinerea)
Sea otter (E. lutris)
Spotted-necked otter (H. maculicollis)
North American river otter
North American river otter (L. canadensis)
Marine otter (L. felina)
Neotropical otter (L. longicaudis)
Southern river otter
Southern river otter (L. provocax)
Eurasian otter (L. lutra)
Hairy-nosed otter (L. sumatrana)
Smooth-coated otter (L. perspicillata)
Giant otter (P. brasiliensis)
Hog badger (A. collaris)
Tayra (E. barbara)
Lesser grison (G. cuja)
Greater grison (G. vittata)
Wolverine (G. gulo)
Saharan striped polecat
Saharan striped polecat (I. libyca)
Striped polecat (I. striatus)
Patagonian weasel (L. patagonicus)
American marten (M. americana)
Yellow-throated marten (M. flavigula)
Beech marten (M. foina)
Nilgiri marten (M. gwatkinsii)
European pine marten
European pine marten (M. martes)
Japanese marten (M. melampus)
Sable (M. zibellina)
Fisher (P. pennanti)
Japanese badger (M. anakuma)
Asian badger (M. leucurus)
European badger (M. meles)
Honey badger (M. capensis)
Bornean ferret-badger (M. everetti)
Chinese ferret-badger (M. moschata)
Javan ferret-badger (M. orientalis)
Burmese ferret-badger (M. personata)
(Weasels and Ferrets)
Amazon weasel (M. africana)
Mountain weasel (M. altaica)
Stoat (M. erminea)
Steppe polecat (M. eversmannii)
Colombian weasel (M. felipei)
Long-tailed weasel (M. frenata)
Japanese weasel (M. itatsi)
Yellow-bellied weasel (M. kathiah)
European mink (M. lutreola)
Indonesian mountain weasel
Indonesian mountain weasel (M. lutreolina)
Black-footed ferret (M. nigripes)
Least weasel (M. nivalis)
Malayan weasel (M. nudipes)
European polecat (M. putorius)
Siberian weasel (M. sibirica)
Back-striped weasel (M. strigidorsa)
Egyptian weasel (M. subpalmata)
American mink (N. vison)
African striped weasel
African striped weasel (P. albinucha)
American badger (T. taxus)
Marbled polecat (V. peregusna)