Wildlife

Big Cat Week: More to Leopards than their Spots

Photograph by Steve Winter

Most leopards are light colored and have dark spots on their fur. These spots are called “rosettes” because their shape is similar to that of a rose. There are also black leopards, whose spots are hard to see because their dark fur.

 

Photograph by Steve Winter

Leopards can be found in various places around the world – they live in Sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India and China.

 

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

Leopards are fast felines and can run at up to 36 mph. They’re also super springy, and can leap 19.6 feet forward through the air – that’s the length of three adults lying head to toe.

 

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

Leopards are very solitary and spend most of their time alone. They each have their own territory, and leave scratches on trees, urine scent marks and poop to warn other leopards to stay away. Males and females will cross territories, but only to mate.

 

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

These big cats have a varied diet and enjoy different kinds of grub. They eat bugs, fish, antelope, monkeys, rodents, deer…in fact, pretty much any prey that is available.

 

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

Leopards are skilled climbers, and like to rest in the branches of trees during the day. They are also strong, and can carry their heavy prey up into the trees so that pesky scavengers, such as hyenas, don’t steal their meal.

 

Photograph by Michael Nichols

As nocturnal animals, leopards are active at night when they venture out in search for food. They spend their days mostly resting, camouflaged in the trees or hiding in caves.

 

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

When it comes to hunting for food, these big cats know their stuff. When stalking a potential meal, a leopard approaches with legs bent and head low, so as not to be seen. It then persues its prey carefully and quietly, until within striking range. The leopard dashes forward and takes down its victim with a bite to the throat or neck. Small prey, such as small birds or mice, will receive a fatal blow from the feline’s paw.

 

Photograph by Chris Johns

Female leopards give birth any time of the year – when they do, they usually give birth to two or three cubs. Mothers stay with their cubs until they are about 2 years old (when they are old enough to hunt and take care of themselves).

 

Photograph by Steve Winter

Leopards communicate with each other through distinctive calls. For instance, when one male wants make another aware of his presence, he’ll make a hoarse, raspy cough. They also growl when angry and, like domestic cats, purr when happy and relaxed.

 

Source: National Geographic Kids

Rolf recently joined National Geographic Society's Digital department, as Photo Editor/Digital. His career has been mostly in commercial photo art directing and re-focusing his work into conservation is fulfillment of a longtime goal.

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