cats have an elongate and muscular body. Their paws are broad and their ears
are short. In tropical regions their coats tend to be shorter and sleeker,
whereas in colder climates their fur is longer and denser. The coloration
varies from the color of straw to grayish to even chesnut. The backs of the
ears are black except for a spot either located centrally or near the tips.
These appear to other animals as eyes. The throat, chest, belly, and the
insides of the limbs are white. The rest of the head, throat, chest, and
limbs all have small black spots. The belly has larger black spots, almost
like blotches. Region and habitat have an affect on the appearance of P.
In Africa, leopards living in hilly areas tend to be larger than those
living in lowlands. There is a tendency to melanism (black coloration) in
this species. This characteristic is more frequent in densely forested areas
where being darker is probably beneficial in remaining unseen as compared to
open areas. Whether spotted or black, leopards' coloration is extremely
effective. Scientists have been unable to spot these cats just a few yards
away even knowing that they were present. Leopards have been recorded as
long as 2.92 meters but that is extreme, 1.37-1.67 is more common.
Pantera pardus could at one time be found from British Isles to Japan and
throughout most of Asia. Today they can still be found in Africa, except for
the true deserts of Sahara and Kalahari, and some parts of Asia such as Sri
Lanka. Leopards are more common in Eastern and Central Africa. Conversely,
they are rare in Western and Northern Africa and most of Asia (Nowak, 1997;
Leopards are famous for their ability to go undetected. They may live
practically among humans and still be tough to spot. They are graceful and
stealthy. Amongst the big cats they are probably the most accomplished
stalkers. They are good, agile climbers and can descend from a tree
headfirst. Along with climbing, they are strong swimmers but not as fond of
water as tigers; for example, leopards will not lay in water. They are
mainly nocturnal but can be seen at any time of day and will even hunt
during daytime on overcast days.
In regions where they are hunted, nocturnal behavior is more common. These
cats are solitary, avoiding one another. However, 3 or 4 are sometimes seen
together. Hearing and eyesight are the strongest of these cats' senses and
are extremely acute. Olfaction is relied upon as well, but not for hunting.
When making a threat, leopards stretch their backs, depress their rib cages
between their shoulder blades so they stick out, and lower their heads
(similar to domestic cats). During the day they may lie in bush, on rocks,
or in a tree with their tails hanging below the treetops and giving them
The diet of these big cats is surprisingly varied. Prey for this species
includes: wildebeest, impalas, reed-bucks, Thomson's gazelles, jackals,
baboons, and storks. These are the most common food sources with Thomson's
gazelles and reed-bucks making up the majority. However, other prey are
included in leopards' diet. At times they seem to show a preference for
canines, even attempting in the past to snatch dogs right from the feet of
They will eat fish and domestic stock such as goats. They will even eat
carrion, scavenging tiger kills. These cats are capable of sneaking right up
next to the prey before being spotted, almost appearing from nowhere. Bite
marks occur on the nape of the neck and the throat. The bite on the back of
the neck often occurs when animals are attacked from behind.
Leopards live 21-23 years in captivity. In the wild, life span is not
exactly known. It can be approximated from reports of "man-eaters"
(see negative effects), which are easier to follow; from the beginnings of
their attacks until the end, life span in the wild can be estimated around
to be 7-9 years .
Expected Lifespan In Wild: 7 to 9 years
Expected Lifespan In Captivity: 21 to 23 years
Economic Importance for Humans
The skins of these cats have been sought after throughout history. There is
still a market for them today, although much of the hunting is illegal.
Produces - Fur, leather or wool.
When living near populated areas these cats will attack and kill domestic
stock such as goats and pigs. Where this prey is provided leopards will
achieve unusually high densities and the problem persists. They will also
attack and kill humans. One particular leopard in India, known as "Kahani
man-eater" killed over 200 people although this behavior is not the
The status of P. pardus ranges from endangered to critically endangered to
threatened depending on the geographic region. Even though these cats are
highly adaptable, they still face many problems. These include habitat
destruction, being hunted as trophies and for their fur, and persecution as
killers. Illegal hunting of leopards for their fur became so common in the
1960s that as many as 50,000 skins were marked annually.
Leopard Found in India