This is a slender, long legged, wildcat with a small head and large ears designed to capture and kill small prey in long grass. It is a specialist at catching small mammals such as rodents. The serval is a medium-sized wildcat. Its head-body length is 59-92 cms (23-36 ins), with a height to the shoulder of about 54-66 cms (21-26 ins). Its weight ranges from about 7-12 kgms (15-26 lbs) for females, and from 9-18 kilograms (20-40 lbs) for males3…continued below the video…
Serval description….The notable feature is the leg length relative to the overall body size. The tail is relatively short. Savannah cat breeders try and replicate the shortened tail (the Savannah cat is a serval/domestic cat wildcat hybrid).The serval coat is similar to that of the cheetah and both cats have rangy bodies. However the cheetah is considerably larger. The serval, as mentioned, is of medium size. The video above gives a good impression of size.The pattern consists of a series of dense, high contrast, generally large, black dots, sometimes jointed up to form a line, against a tawny, yellow background. The black spots are smallest at the shoulders, neck and face.
The outside of the ear flaps have a large white spot outlined in black – the ocelli.
You will encounter black or melanistic servals in the Kenyan and Ethiopian highlands. Melanistic cats, although black, have faint ghost patterns. A survey in the Aberdare highlands of Kenya indicated that about 60% were melanistic at heights above sea level of 2,440-2,745 metres1.
The serval is built for height and not speed although it can reach 50 mph. Prey is caught through the use of its large oval ears and long legs. Armed with these atributes the serval can scan the long grass for prey, hear it and then leap up and down onto it. Its long toes and claws enable this cat to hook up prey and dig them out of burrows.
The serval is 20 cms taller than the similarly sized ocelot and 12 cms taller than the caracal. The serval’s small head results in a less strong bite, which is designed for killing small prey2.
1. York W. A study of serval melanism in the Aberdares and some general behavior information as referred to in Wild Cats of the World
2. Rose var DR 1974, The carnivores of West Africa referred to in Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.
3. Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 142-151. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
4. Leyhausen P 1979. Cat Behavior: The predatory and social behavior of domestic and wild cats.