A leopard may not be able to change its spots but its spots vary from region to region. The snowy leopard of Russia has thick golden fur and large spots while the African leopard varies in color from gray to deep gold with small spots.
The most widespread big cat
The leopard is the smallest of the “big cats” (the other 3 are the tiger, lion and jaguar). The leopard once inhabited terrain as diverse as semi-arid savannahs, snowy mountain peaks and jungles from the Far East to Africa.
Leopards act like domestic cats
Leopards display many of the same behaviours as domestic cats. They purr when content. They mark their territory with urine or by clawing trees. They let out a rasping warning sound when another cat invades their territory.
Leopards are solitary creatures
Leopards are mostly solitary, circling their marked territory and avoiding one another accept when mating. A male’s range is much larger than a female’s but usually overlaps. The male will accompany a female for a few weeks when she’s on heat.
The female will give birth to 2 to 3 cubs at a time. She gives up her own wandering ways for a few months, hiding her cubs while she goes out on the prowl for dinner. She will suckle the cubs for around 3 months.
Leopards stalk their prey by keeping a low profile and slinking silently through the grass until close enough to launch a surprise attack. They’ll commonly hunt warthogs, monkeys and baboons or babies of large species like antelopes or buffalos.
Leopards can signal they are off-duty
When not hunting, a leopard can move through a herd of antelope without disturbing them by flipping its tail over its back and revealing the white underside. This signals to the antelope that the leopard is not hunting them.
Leopards hide their dinner
Leopards have strong muscular limbs and retractable claws that allow them to climb trees. They sometimes hide their meat high in trees where bigger cats, such as lions, can’t get it.
Many subspecies of leopard are extinct
Almost all leopards outside of Sub-Saharan Africa are extinct or possibly extinct. There were once 7 different subspecies of leopard. The African leopard is considered “near threatened”, however, a recent boom in wildlife tourism has helped with conservation.
Where to see them in the wild
The best way to see leopards is to see them in their natural habitats. Many safari lodges in Africa have game drives several times a day that allows visitors to experience these animals up close. Some of our recommendations for Safari lodges include Lion Sands Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, Kings Camp Private Game Reserve, and Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve, all in South Africa and Singita Serengeti and Sayari Camp in Tanzania.