The leopard is a large species of wild cat that lives on its own. “Species” means a certain type or sort of wild cat that is different to the others. It is important to make sure that kids don’t get the leopard mixed up with other wild cats that have names that are almost the same. There is a small wild cat called the “leopard cat”, living in Asia, which is a completely different cat. Also there is medium sized wild cat called the “clouded leopard”. This, too, is a different cat. Sometimes the leopard is called the “common leopard” to make sure people know that they are talking about this large wild cat, which by the way, can roar.
Because it can roar it is part of a group of four cats that are called the “big cats”. The other three are the tiger, lion and jaguar. The leopard is the smallest in this group and the world’s 5th largest cat. It is the largest spotted cat in Africa and Asia.
The leopard looks like a jaguar. But the jaguar lives in a different part of the world to the leopard. You can see in the picture that the leopard lives over a huge part of the world. The leopard lives in more parts of the world than any other wild cat. You can see from the map in the picture that the places it lives in go from Africa to the east coast of Russia. By the way, the jaguar lives in the other half of the world, from Mexico to South America. Jaguars are normally bigger than leopards and their head is wider. Jaguars have bigger spots than leopards. These spots are called “rosettes” because they are like donuts (doughnuts) with small spots inside.
The leopard does not like to live near humans. Sometimes the leopard is forced to be near people. Also it has to keep away from animals that can attack and kill it. Lions can kill leopards and so can hyenas. These animals steal the leopard’s prey.
A single leopards needs large areas to live in that he can call home. This area can be as big as the whole of New York city in America (321 square miles). Leopards like forests. But they can live in many different types of place.
The picture on this page is a very good one. The leopard is famous for its spots, which are actually hollowed out like donuts (doughnuts). The undersides are white. Sometimes the spots join up to make a band.
Normally, from their head to the end of their body is about 1 to 1.5 meters (1.5 meters is about 5 feet). They weigh between about 70 and 160 pounds, usually. Some cats will be larger. This is about the average weight of a woman in America. This is a strong cat with quite short legs.
Animals that the leopard and other wild cats chase, kill and eat are called “prey”. As this cat lives in a lot of different places in the world it gets the chance to chase a lot of different sorts of prey. Also it can’t be too picky about it eats. It is hard surviving in world full of people.
So, the leopard attacks and eats whatever it can catch and it will try and catch animals that are easiest to catch first. Normally, this cat feeds on medium sized animals that weigh between 5 kilograms and 45 kilograms (11 pounds to 100 pounds). In Africa, in a large park called the Kruger National Park its prey is often the impala. The picture shows this animal. Smaller animals in Africa that it might eat are porcupines and hares.
Leopards catch prey by getting as close as they can to the animal and then attacking hard and fast. Large animals are killed by biting the throat so it can’t breath. Small prey are killed by a bite the back of the neck. This is typical of wild cats.
The mother leopard is pregnant for 96 days. She usually gives birth to one, two or three cubs in a den (a safe place like a cave). The cub is grown up when it is 18 months old. If they live in Africa they might live for 12 years.
The truth is we don’t know how many leopards there are in the world. The number of leopards is getting less and less though because there are more and more people in the world.
I must mention the Amur leopard. This is called a “subspecies” of leopard. This means a certain type of common leopard. It lives in Russia in a place called the Amur region. It is very rare indeed. There are only about 40 left in whole world.