Facts about the snow leopard – succinct with great pictures

Snow leopard - superb cat and background
Snow leopard – superb cat and background. Screenshot from BBC video.
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Here are some facts about the snow leopard. These are summaries together with links to lots more. The snow leopard is elusive and mysterious; rarely seen. They have massive home ranges. They have the longest tails of all the cats on my assessment because they need them for balance. They chase down blue sheep on 40-degree escarpments. They attack from above. As the rarely encounter humans, like the Andean mountain cat they are too tame with the world’s most prolific predator. This endangers them when near farmers.

Snow leopard Qinghai China
Snow leopard Qinghai China. Picture by Shan Shui -Snow Leopard Trust.


See Snow leopard description – Simply a beautiful cat and I would urge you to watch the videos below. The eyes are pale and the fur exotic. The tail is a major characteristic being very thick (as thick as a man’s forearm) and long (up to 90% of body length). The tail serves to provide balance. The paws are massive (for the snow and grip). This is a stocky, strong, cat. The head is domed for enlarged nasal cavities to aid breathing. The eyes give a haunted look. Spots are unique to each cat. They seem to be unaware of human danger and when tame are gentle being less aggressive than other big cats. See a page about the Snow Leopard appearance: Pictures of Snow Leopards.

Snow leopard Central Karakoram NP Pakistan
Snow leopard Central Karakoram NP Pakistan


Here are some audio files which provide you with a taste of the sounds that this superb cat makes:



RELATED: What do snow leopards sound like?


Ounce, Once, Snow Leopard. Scientific name: Panthera uncia. The name “ounce” is believed to have come, via a circuitous route, from the Greek, “lynx”. In Latin this is “lonza”. In French this is “lonce”. It was thought to be “l’once”. It was reduced to “once”. In Latin this is “uncia”. In parts of India it is known as “bharal-mar” (bharal – blue sheep, killer).

Bharral or blue sheep
Bharral or blue sheep. Photo: reurinkjan on Flickr.


High mountain regions of central Asia. The terrain is broken, rocky and frequently very steep (mostly 40º). On a separate page, I cover the habitat of the snow leopard (new window) in some detail with pictures. I have added a page that includes a customised map of the range – see Snow Leopard Range.

I have presented two distribution maps. The first one shows a slighter wider range. The B&W version (more fragmented) is probably more accurate because all wild cat ranges are shrinking:

Snow Leopard Range Snow Leopard Range
Snow leopard in India
Snow leopard in India

Status: (threats & conservation)



This classification means: considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. The major threat of most wildcats is loss of habitat. In the case of the snow leopard it could be argued that its habitat is saving it. Its range is remote and hostile to people and covers a vast area. One is hard pressed to see a snow leopard. I am thinking of a team of documentary film makers who spent 8 weeks searching with all the reserves that they had and never saw a single leopard. Retaliation killing by herders and poaching for the body parts trade rank as high-level threats. A lot of good conservation takes place in educating and generating interest in the local villagers and farmers to become involved for their sake and that of the snow leopard. See: Why are Snow Leopards Endangered? – see also Clever Cat Conservation.

Reproduction and Development:

Snow leopard biting tail
Cub biting tail of parent. Picture: Snow Leopard Trust.

The beginning of the life of a snow leopard is a little harsh in a den made from a cave but lined with the mother’s fur.

Snow leopard cubs open their eyes at 7 days of age, start to become social creatures and play at about 4 weeks and will follow their mother out into the mountain slopes at about 2-4 months of age.

He and she will become a father and a mother at about 4 years of age. Read and see more: Snow Leopard Cubs. See also snow leopard population.

Snow Leopard Hunting:

Snow leopard prey – This section briefly covers sport hunting of this wild cat and deals in more detail with the feeding ecology of the cat. It is an astonishing hunter racing down 40º slopes at 30 mph trying to catch equally athletic and skilled prey such as the blue sheep. As to sport hunting, Mongolia used to be the main culprits until the Dalai Lama stepped in and the hunters decided the cat was too elusive anyway. The habitat saves the snow leopard from sports hunters as it is so large, remote and inhospitable for people. See and read more here: Snow Leopard Hunting.

Snow Leopard – Social Organisation:

This covers home range (where an individual snow leopard lives) and communication. A few things stand out. Home ranges can be vast (in say China) and population density very low. Also the use of non-vocal communication plays a big role in creating social order. The snow leopard can’t roar or purr. See more: Social Organisation of the Snow Leopard.


I present a series of 6 videos of the snow leopard in the Hindu Kush by Nisar Malik, a Pakistani journalist and cameraman Mark Smith. The series was 18 months in the making and beats any book (bar one: Wild Cats of the World) as it is about the reality and the beauty. Some of the images are stunning and this big cat is fabulous to watch hunting.

Regrettably at Dec 2017, I have to remove the videos because they contain BBC material and, in this country, (UK) they are in breach of copyright apparently even though I have paid my BBC television licence. I should be able to watch this on television and therefore I cannot see why I cannot watch it in the video. There it is. They will be viewable elsewhere I presume but I cannot have videos being blank and not working in certain countries even if it is one country.

In their place I present another superb video from the BBC which shows off this great wild cat. So impressive.

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