A leopard also known as the big cat belongs to the genus Panthera of the Felidae family. Certain morphological features distinguish leopards from other members of this family; the most prominent of whih are its large skull, long body and relatively short legs. Its fur has rosettes which are often dense and closely packed as opposed to that of a jaguar. They are most commonly found in the some parts of sub-Saharan Africa, West Asia, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia to Siberia. Its hunting behavior, ability to camouflage and diverse diet is what makes it a successful wild animal.
Following are some of the most interesting facts about Leopards.
Leopards are more active and vigorous during the night hence known as nocturnal animals. Days are mostly spent resting on the trees or hidden in the thick bushes. Also, this animal does not prefer to stay with a company and are regarded as solitary animals. They mark their territories by leaving the marks of claws on the trees occupied by them.
Leopards are also known for their remarkable strength. They are comfortable in the trees and can easily carry their considerably heavy preys up to the tree to protect them from scavengers. They can also do their hunting from the trees. Their fur easily blends with the leaves and this camouflaging allows the leopard to plan its hunting more skillfully. Antelope, pigs and deers are among their favorite preys.
Leopards usually have a gestation period of about 90 to 150 days and can give birth to on average 3 to 4 cubs. They weigh about 1 pound when born and female leopard eases to roam about in the territory until the kittens are large enough to come along. The mother stays with its young ones for about 18 to 4 months. For the first 8 weeks, they are kept completely hidden to provide them protection against the predators.
Leopards are one of the most agile and swift creatures. They can run for almost 58 kilometers in an hour and can also leap 6m horizontally and 3m vertically. Also they are excellent swimmers and climbers giving them an edge in their hunting as well as in the variety of preys. They are very hard to trace and locate both because of their speed and camouflaging ability.
Leopards are opportunistic hunters, extremely versatile in their diet unlike most other members of the same genus. They can eat almost anything ranging from as small as dung beetle to as large as common elands. A leopard has been reported to have hunted a 900kg male eland. Rodents, reptiles, amphibians and birds are among their most favorite diet.
Leopards often have to face a large number of predators such as tigers, lions, spotted hyenas, striped hyenas, bears and wild dogs. They compete for food and shelter with them. Under these circumstances, a leopard’s strategy is to simply kill its competitor. In adverse conditions, leopards have the benefit of retreating on the tree quickly. They also survive this competition by avoiding the places that are mostly visited by their competitors.
Cross breeding practices have been carried out on leopards to produce hybrids and such cases are well documented. A male leopard mated with a lioness produces a leopon. They have been bred in captivity in Japan. In addition to this, a cross between a leopard and jaguars produces a lepjags and has also been reported to be bred in captivity.
Leopards are capable of growing up to 4.5 to even 6 feet tall. Normally, leopards have a height of somewhere between two to three feet. A leopard can weigh around 80-200 pounds and the females are normally a little smaller as compared to that of males.
Lions as well as hyenas are known to steal the kill of a leopard if an opportunity strikes. Therefore, Leopards take their larger kills up in the trees in order to savor them with safety.
Leopards are extremely threatened in all of Africa. Even in the rest of the world, Leopards fall in the category of endangered species.