Leopard | Exploring the World of Wildlife: facts about the Leopard

Today we are going to talk about the wild cats of the panther family, the leopard. By the way, the word ‘leopard’ comes from a combination of the Greek words leon and pardus.

Graceful, swift, strong, intelligent — that’s what they are, leopards. These huge spotted cats living in hot countries are the perfect predators.

With its growling and purring, the leopard resembles a domestic cat. This exotic carnivore has beautiful eyes and an unusual skin colour, and its ankles have strong muscles that make the animal’s legs strong. Today I will tell you some interesting facts about leopards.

Fact number one.

Male leopards weigh between sixty and seventy-five kilograms and females weigh between thirty-two and sixty-five kilograms.  The average height of a leopard to the shoulders is about seventy centimetres. And the body length of leopards ranges from one hundred to one hundred and fifty centimetres. In the wild, leopards live from twelve to fifteen years, in zoos they live to be twenty-three.

Fact number two.

Leopards have a muscular and muscular body, elongated and flanked, designed to run fast and hold their prey firmly. At the same time it is light, slender and very flexible, so leopards are considered very graceful animals. The tail is more than half the length of the body. Although the limbs of the leopard are short, they are muscular and quite strong. The limbs are armed with light claws, with a strong curve that allows these predators to climb trees. The head is small compared to the body, but round, the forehead convex, and the muzzle elongated, but moderately so. The ears are wide, small and rounded. Eyes also small, but rounded. Paws are strong and coloured black, white or a mix of similar shades.

Fact number three.

In addition to strong paws, leopards also have a fairly strong neck. This allows them to grab and drag their prey, which is almost twice their size and weight. If a leopard catches and kills its prey, it tries to drag the carcass up into a tree to eat it, lest other predators — lions or hyenas — drag it away. Despite its relatively small size, the leopard is able to hunt animals three times its own weight. In one case it has dragged a 100-20 kg baby giraffe up to a height of five and a half meters.

Fact number four.

Leopards can adapt to almost any habitat, from deserts to dense forests. Perhaps it is this quality that has allowed them to spread so widely across the most diverse regions of the planet. There are currently nine subspecies of the leopard, depending on where they live. The African leopard lives within the African continent, not only in the humid jungle, but also in mountainous areas, savannahs and semi-deserts. These predators are not found in large deserts and arid areas.

Fact number five.

Leopards, like all members of the genus Panthera, are typical predators whose diet is based on ungulates, represented by antelope, roe deer and deer. In the absence of the main components of their diet, these carnivores easily switch to feeding on rodents, birds, monkeys and reptiles. There are cases when leopards attack domestic animals. This predator easily handles wolves and foxes. Leopards often feed on carrion and may steal prey from other predators. They prefer to hunt alone, waiting for prey in cover.

Fact number six.

Leopards have different colours depending on where they live. Desert leopards have sand-coloured coats. Leopards that live in harsh cold conditions have long, greyish coats, while tropical leopards have golden coats. The spots on the fur of leopards can be round or square and help the animal hide in the environment while remaining less visible. Each leopard has a unique pattern, no two leopards are exactly alike, no two people have the same fingerprints.

Fact number seven.

The gestation period for a female leopard is about three months. One litter usually contains two to three cubs. At birth, each cub weighs about five to six hundred grams. The cubs are helpless, blind and almost hairless. The female starts giving the kittens meat at six to seven weeks of age, although the cubs continue to suckle her milk for about three more months. Between the ages of twelve and eighteen, they leave their mother and begin leading an independent life. At two or three years of age, they are ready to give birth to their own offspring.

Fact number eight.

Agile, stealthy and strong leopards have few enemies. Their food rivals are lion, hyena and tiger, which can steal their prey which they hide in the trees. In recent years the leopard population has steadily declined. The main threat to them has been human activities — hunting, destruction of natural habitats, reduction of food resources. In the past they were hunted for their valuable and beautiful skins, now they are mainly hunted for their medicine.

Fact number nine.

Leopards are hunted to sell them to zoos and circuses. Naturally, if their habitat is properly organised, the animals do well in captivity. One may safely say that keeping animals in captivity is a factor in their future conservation, but it is unlikely that these predators will be able to feed themselves. It is much easier to create conditions for protecting such animals in the wild.

Fact number ten.

Leopards are ‘nocturnal, solitary hunters’. They never come out to hunt during the day. They only come to the waterhole at dusk.

August 4th is International Smoky Leopard Day. This day is celebrated to raise awareness of one of the most beautiful and endangered animal species, the smoky leopard, in an effort to increase its numbers both in captivity and in the wild.

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