The magnificent, gentle and elusive snow leopard has hauntingly pale eyes, exotic markings and a stunningly thick rope-like tail. This is probably the most beautiful of all the wild cat species other than the clouded leopard. The tail is very noticeable. Its circumference is greater than that of a man’s forearm. It is also extremely long, being up to 90% of the length of the cat (head and body combined).
The tail can almost double the length of the cat. Its length and weight assist in keeping balance, particularly when chasing prey, on the 40% rocky slopes high up in the snowy mountains that are its habitat. Another feature that has evolved to deal effectively with high altitude living are the massive “snowshoe” paws. They serve to grip the rocky surface and to assist is traversing snowy ground. The front paws are larger than the hind paws. They are more important for gripping etc.
The snow leopard is a stocky animal. The body is long and relatively low to the ground. Perhaps this configuration is also designed for balance on difficult and dangerous terrain as it provides a low center of gravity…continued below the photograph.
An important part of a snow leopard description must be the interesting appearance of the face and head. The forehead is high and domed housing enlarged nasal cavities which it is believed allows the snow leopard to breath more efficiently at high altitude. I speculate that the reason why this wildcat eats lots of vegetation, more than any other wild cat, is because it improves oxygen transportation through the blood stream.
The muzzle is short and the ears are short also, and set wide apart. The photograph top right in the montage shows the pale, off-white, greyish-green colour of the eyes. The background colour of the fur is a “smoky grey” or a light beige on the flanks and upper parts merging to off-white on the undersides. The pattern is made up of dark rosettes with spots around the face. On the back the spots merge to form two lines that extend from neck to start of tail. The fur is long – up to 12 centimeters in length on the belly in winter.
Snow leopard description – References: The montage image is made up of photographs on Flickr by photographers who have kindly licensed their photographs under a creative commons license that allows
for the photographs to be cropped and combined. Thank you very much. The source material
for the words comes from the respected book, Wild Cats Of The World, page 379 (snow leopard description) by Mel and Fiona Sunquist. See the Amazon advert left of this text. ISBN-13: 978-0-226-77999-7