Do snow leopards purr?

The snow leopard does not purr. However, it depends on your interpretation of what a purr should sound like. I know that people have different ideas about this feline vocalisation and therefore the sound is elastic in terms of its description but there are limits to that elasticity and there’s no doubt in my mind that snow leopards do not purr in the classic way.

Snow leopard
Captive snow leopard. Photo: by jssvobodajs on 500px.
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It’s quite interesting because there are different points of view on this. For example, the experts on the snow leopard from the Snow Leopard Trust (a great charity supporting snow leopard conservation) state on their website that, “Snow leopards make sounds similar to those made by other large cats, including a purr, mew…”. So they say that the snow leopard can purr.

I guess it depends, as mentioned, what you consider to be a purr because my research out of books indicates that snow leopards “use a variety of indirect and direct means of communication [and] their vocal repertoire is similar to that of other felids except that they do not purr (Wildcats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist at page 384). They rely on scientific research and observation so it’s a reliable source. This information contradicts the Snow Leopard Trust. I am afraid to say that the Snow Leopard Trust is wrong on this topic.

On YouTube there are a couple of videos described as “snow leopard purring”. One of them is published below. The sound that the cat makes is not the sound of purring. It is a snow leopard sound which indicates contentment and which comes out of interaction with a person behind the cage. This is a friendly cat and we know that the snow leopard is inherently friendly towards people.

Please note that I am very reluctant to put YouTube videos on my website because they sometimes stop working and I don’t know if it has happened. They stop working because YouTube administrators remove the video from their website for some reason or other. If it has happened in this instance I apologise but I have no control over it.

But, I stress, this is not a purr as people know it. The classic feline purring sound is the one we know well and which is made by domestic cats. Other species of cat can also make the sound or a very similar sound but I’m not convinced that the snow leopard is in this category.

A second video is not a video of a snow leopard purring. It is a misleading description. The snow leopard makes a sound but it is not a purr.

My conclusion, therefore, is that the snow leopard does not purr. For the sake of completeness, I will add that snow leopards also do not roar like lions, tigers, Jaguars and leopards but they do spit, hiss, growl and cough-roar. They also make a soft ‘prusten’ greeting sound and appeasement call. And they have a rich repertoire of meow-like sounds. Both male and females have a main call which is a piercing yowl. Females make the sound in oestrus and it helps snow leopards to locate each other. The yowl can be heard over long distances.


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