Can a cheetah breed with a leopard?

There is some interest as to whether the cheetah can breed with any one of the big cats namely either the tiger, lion, jaguar and leopard. With these sorts of questions you have to go to Sarah Hartwell’s website which is because she is the scientist and expert and more importantly she knows the history of these exotic hybrids. Sarah has even named a cheetah-leopard hybrid a cheetapard. A bit of a mouthful I have to say.

Cheetah and leopard
Cheetah and leopard. Collage: PoC. Original images: Wikipedia.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

You might know that the cheetah falls in between the small cats and the big cats and is a relatively retiring, pleasant wild cat species which is why you see them hunting with people throughout history and semi-domesticated. I suppose this is why people might imagine that they could be mated with a leopard as there is a fascination about creating these sorts exotic cats. We see lots of ligers and tigons for example (crossbreeding lions and tigers).

The leopard and cheetah do occupy the same territory in parts of the world but the cheetah hunts during the day and night i.e. is diurnal, while the leopard is nocturnal. Leopards like to avoid people. And the leopard and cheetah also avoid each other. Notwithstanding that, the leopard will attack a cheetah.

There are some reports of such a hybrid being created and the rather strange looking King Cheetah with its dark blotches was once thought to be such a hybrid. However, they are in fact an example of a spontaneous genetic mutation.

Leopards and cheetahs can meet in captivity and can be reared together in captivity. Sarah Hartwell is rather ambivalent on whether a mating would be successful. She says that the cats are “genetically similar enough to produce hybrids”. They also have similar gestation periods. However, some experts say that mating between these cats is not viable because of the cheetah’s “extremely specialised form”. Taxonomically, they are classified under their own genus, Acinonyx. They are the only animal in this genus.

There are other barriers to such a hybrid. The female cheetah is a relatively lightweight cat and it has been suggested by Sarah that they would be unlikely to “carry large hybrid cubs to term”. There also may be problems with delivery of the offspring. The possibility of growth displasia is also mooted.

My research indicates that there are no hybrids cats from the mating of a cheetah and a leopard. None exists to the best of my knowledge and based upon my research. For completeness, Sarah also says that there are no reported attempts to breed the cheetah and the puma in captivity. Neither is there a reported example of a hybrid from the mating of a cheetah and a jaguar.

My thanks to Sarah Hartwell. I hope you and yours are well.


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