47 Interesting Facts About Leopards!

Last updated on May 2nd, 2023

Leopards are wild cats, and they’re magnificent and beautiful creatures, and they can be very dangerous when cornered or if they feel threatened. This large cat is prominent in many parts of Asia and Africa, and there are plenty in captivity. There are nine subspecies of leopards (African, Indian, Javan, Arabian, Amur, North-Chinese, Caucasian (also called Persian), Indo-chinese and Sri Lankan), and its scientific name is Panthera pardus. There are five living subspecies in the genus Panthera, and they’re all big cats. If you don’t know much about leopards, prepare to be amazed. You’re about to learn a lot about leopards, and some facts about Leopards may be surprising. 

47 Facts About Leopards

1. What’s In a Name?

The scientific name for the leopard is Panthera pardus, and leopards are in the genus Panthera, along with the tiger, lion, jaguar, and snow leopard. In the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, Carl Linnaeus gave the leopard the scientific name, Felis pardus, the same genus as house cats. A leopard can’t change its spots, but apparently, people can change their names.

2. The Leopard’s Coat

Leopards are known for their spots, known as rosettes. They’re called this because their spots aren’t round and resemble the shape of a rose. Most leopards are light-colored, and the spots are visible. Some leopards have black fur, and it’s harder to see the spots due to their dark fur. If you see a spotted cat or any large cat, run!

3. Where Do Leopards Live?

You can find leopards all over the world, and they live in Sub-Saharan Africa, Northeast China, India, and Central Asia. If you don’t want to travel the world to see a leopard, you can see them in zoos throughout the United States. Seeing leopards in the zoo is the safest option because you’ll never outrun a leopard in the wild.

nine subspecies of leopards
The nine subspecies of leopards. Facts about leopards. Image credit – Deviant Art

4. Leopards Are Really Fast

You could never outrun a leopard in the wild because they can run 36 miles per hour. The fastest person in the world, Usain Bolt, can run an impressive 23.35 miles per hour, which still isn’t fast enough to outrun a leopard. Their speed isn’t the only superpower leopards have; they’re also excellent jumpers. They can leap up to 20 feet in the air, which is the length of three leopards lying head to toe. 

5. Leopards Are Loners

There are plenty of leopards in the wild, but they don’t have friends they like to hang out with. Leopards are solitary creatures and have their own territories. This big cat is antisocial and doesn’t want other leopards in its territory. They mark their territory by scratching trees, urine scent marks, and poop. These aren’t the safest or most hygienic way to mark territory, but it works. Males and females will cross into each other’s territories but not for a romantic date, and they only cross over to make baby leopards.

6. What Do Leopards Eat?

Like most animals in the wild, leopards love to eat, and they aren’t the pickiest eaters in the animal kingdom. Leopards eat anything they can find, such as antelope, deer, fish, rodents, and bugs.

7. They Have Excellent Night Vision

If we want to go outside at night, we have outdoor lights or use flashlights to see. Leopards don’t need lights because they have excellent night vision. Leopards can see seven times better than humans in the dark thanks to their adapted retinas, and their incredible night vision comes in handy when they’re hunting at night.

8. Their Spots Provide Camouflage

walking leopard, for facts about Leopards
Facts about leopards. Photo © Hedrus

Leopards have distinctive spots, also known as rosettes. They don’t have spots to make them stand out in a crowd, and the spots help them blend in with their surroundings, which comes in handy when hunting. The spots help them blend in with foliage, shrubs, and other plants, so their prey and predators can’t detect them.

9. Leopards Are Great Climbers

Leopards were blessed with speed, and they’re also great climbers. During the day, leopards enjoy resting on tree branches. They’re so good at climbing that they can carry their prey, even heavy prey, up into the trees, so other animals don’t try to steal the meal. Leopards may be great runners and climbers, but they don’t know how to share.

10. Leopards Are Hard To Track

If you want to see a leopard in the wild, don’t waste your time trying to track one. Leopards are the most secretive and elusive of the big cats and are very hard to trace in the wild. They don’t want to be bothered, so they cover their tracks, allowing them to live in peace.

11. Leopards Are Skilled Hunters

Many people believe they’re great hunters, but humans will never be as good as leopards. When a leopard spots its prey, it will approach slowly with its legs bent, and its head down, so it can’t be seen. The leopard will stalk its prey, and when its dinner is 16 to 66 feet away, it will pounce and bite larger prey in the throat or neck. If the leopard is stalking small prey like a mouse or bird, it will hit the prey with a fatal blow. 

12. Female Leopards and Their Cubs

Leopards don’t mate at a specific time of the year and can give birth anytime. Mother leopards are very attentive toward their young and don’t let them travel far. The mother will have two or three cubs and stays with them until they’re two years old, but this isn’t because they hit the terrible two’s. Two years old is the age when the cubs are old enough to hunt and fend for themselves.

Javan leopard, for facts about Leopards
Javan leopard. Facts about leopards. Photo © Rebius

13. Leopards Can Communicate With Each Other

Leopards may be solitary animals, but they can still communicate with each other. If a male wants another leopard to be aware of its presence, it will make a raspy, horse coughing sound. When leopards are angry, they’ll growl and purr when they’re happy, just like domestic cats. Leopards have some of the same qualities as domestic cats, but it’s best not to cuddle up with a leopard the way you do with your cat. 

14. The Leopard With An Incredible Maternal Instinct

Animals care for their own in the wild, but one female leopard went above and beyond for another animal’s young. A National Geographic documentary caught a female leopard on film killing a baboon for her dinner. She noticed a baby baboon hanging onto its dead mother and carried the baby up into a tree for safety. She spent the night grooming and cuddling with the baby baboon, the same way she would with her own cubs. This would be a beautiful story if the leopard weren’t the reason the baby baboon’s mother was dead, but she showed an incredible maternal instinct.

15. Leopards Are Nocturnal

Unless you work the third shift or love to party, you sleep at night and stay awake during the day. Leopards are nocturnal, which is the opposite, and leopards hunt at night with the help of their night vision and spend their days sleeping in trees or caves.

16. Habitats

The Amur Leopard
Facts about leopards. Photo © Galinasavina

Of all the large cats, leopards have the broadest range of habitats. They can adapt to various environments, which is why they’re seen in many places. The most extreme example of this is the snow leopard, which most people say is the most beautiful leopard. They can survive in the Himalayas and have adapted to the climate.

17. Leopards Have Five Limbs

Leopards are four-legged animals, just like other domestic and big cats. However, they use their tail as an additional limb, serving many purposes. Leopards use their tails to express their mood, communicate with other leopards, and help them move swiftly and climb trees. The tail gives the leopard balance when climbing and allows them to take sharp turns while running to catch their prey. What’s even more shocking is that the tail is almost as long as the leopard’s body.

18. Newborn Leopards

If you’ve ever had a kitten, you know they are born with blue eyes and eventually change to a permanent color. Baby leopards are also born with bright blue eyes. Also, newborns don’t have a spotted coat, and it takes a few days for the spots to develop. Mothers keep their cubs in a hidden den for the first few weeks, keeping them safe from predators.

19. The Leopard Mating Ritual

The leopard’s mating ritual is much different than a humans. Like lions, leopards mate every 15 minutes for up to five days. Female leopards must be stimulated to start ovulation, allowing them to continue producing eggs.

20. Leopards Are the Strongest Cats In the Animal Kingdom

Leopards are the smallest of all big cats, but they are the strongest (pound-for-pound). Leopards usually don’t lose fights, and they have the strength to carry a carcass up to 110 pounds into a tree so they can enjoy their meals in peace.

21. There Are Black Leopards

Although you’ll see mostly spotted leopards in Africa, there are also black leopards. Black leopards aren’t a different sub-species than spotted leopards, and they have a dominant gene that causes dark-colored pigment melanin.

22. Leopards Don’t Need A GPS

If you’re driving to an area you don’t know; you’ll need a GPS to help you find your way. Leopards don’t need any help with directions because they have an internal navigation system. Leopards can travel far from home and will always find their way back. Their ability to navigate so well is why tracking them in the wild can be so hard.

23. Leopards Look Similar To Jaguars and Cheetahs

Leopards are spotted and look similar to jaguars and cheetahs because they also have spots. Although they look alike, they couldn’t be more different. Leopards can be found in many parts of Africa and Asia and can also be found in Russia. Cheetahs live in Africa and Iran, while jaguars live in North and South America. Their spots are also different. Leopards have spots that come together in a small rose-like pattern, jaguars have larger rosettes with central spots, and the cheetah has a simple polka dot pattern. Also, they are of different sizes and display different behaviors.

24. Leopards Live Near Trees

Beautiful leopard sleeping on tree , for facts about Leopards
Beautiful leopard sleeping on tree in Serengeti, Tanzania. Facts about leopards. Photo © Alexander Shalamov

Leopards live close to trees because they climb when they feel threatened. They also climb trees to eat and rest during the day. It’s uncommon to see a leopard out in the open unless they’re hunting because they stick to areas with trees where they feel safe.

25. Leopards Are Great Swimmers

Leopards are one of the few big cats that are great swimmers. They don’t swim to train for the Olympics, and they do so to look for dinner. Leopards will jump in streams, rivers, and other bodies of water, looking for crabs and fish. Amazingly, leopards can swim better than many humans.

26. The Lion and the Leopard are Related

Jaguars and cheetahs have spots, so many people believe they are the leopard’s closest relative, but this isn’t the case. Genetic studies have shown that Lions’ closest living relatives are the Jaguars, followed by leopards and tigers.

27. Leopards Breed With Other Big Cats

Leopards in the wild are very aggressive to other big cats and only breed with other leopards. Leopards in captivity are different and will breed with other large cats. Their offspring are called leopons when a male leopard breeds with a female lion. When a male lion breeds with a female leopard, their offspring are called lipards. Jaguars also breed with leopards, and their offspring are called jagupards or leguars. Zoologists have attempted to breed leopards and tigers, but the cubs were all stillborn.

Persian leopard, for facts about Leopards
Persian Leopard. Facts about leopards. Photo © Stanko Mravljak

28. Leopards Don’t Drink Much Water

All living things need water to survive, and leopards drink less frequently than humans and most animals. Leopards in the wild only drink from watering holes once every two or three days and find other ways to meet their water requirement. They can get water from their prey’s bodily fluids or from the moisture on succulents, sour grass, watermelons, and gemsbok cucumbers.

29. If You Hear Sawing Wood, Watch Out For Leopards

Leopard roar
Facts about leopards. Photo © Franant 

Leopards use sounds to communicate, and they have a distinctive roaring pattern. When a leopard roars, it sounds similar to sawing wood. Don’t look for a lumber factory if you hear wood sawing in the wild. There’s likely a leopard nearby, and you should get away as quickly as possible.

30. Leopards Can Communicate Without Making a Sound

Leopards don’t need their voices to communicate, and the white spots on their tails and ears are another form of communication. Scientists believe that these spots help signal other leopards to follow.

31. Breeding Is Most Common During the Rainy Season

Although leopards mate at any time of the year, the most common time is during the rainy season in May. They don’t have much to do when it rains, and they can mate in the rain. Leopards in China and Siberia tend to mate mainly in January and February.

32. Leopard’s Lifespan

Leopards in the wild live to be 12 to 17 years old, but these aren’t the teen years like in humans. They can live longer in captivity, and the oldest leopard on record was a female; she lived to be more than 25 years when she died on July 21, 2022.

33. The Arabian Leopards

Arabian Leopard , for facts about Leopards
Facts about leopards. Photo © Arun Somanathan

Arabian leopards are a sub-species of the leopard and are the smallest subspecies. Males grow to be 72 to 80 inches and can weigh up to 66 pounds, and females grow to be 63 to 76 inches and can weigh up to 44 pounds. The Arabian leopard may be the smallest sub-species, but you should still run if you see one in the wild.

34. Leopards Rarely Attack Humans

Leopards aren’t man-eaters like tigers and lions and don’t approach humans very often. However, if a leopard feels threatened or their cubs are in danger, they will attack a human. Just because leopards rarely attack humans, don’t try to pet one in the wild because you can quickly lose a hand or your life. If a leopard does bite a human, it’ll get a taste for human flesh.

35. A Serial Killing Leopard

One of the most notorious leopards was the Leopard of Panar, and he’s famous for being a human serial killer. This one leopard was responsible for at least 400 human deaths in the 20th century. Fortunately, a hunter named Jim Corbett put the leopard’s killing spree to an end when he killed the leopard in 1910.

36. Leopards Face Danger In the Wild Everyday

Although leopards can be dangerous, they have plenty of predators. Most of their predators are large and include lions, tigers, cheetahs, wild dogs, bears, and hyenas. Lions and tigers rarely kill leopards, but they will kill leopard cubs when food is scarce. Lions will also steal baby leopards from trees, and Nile crocodiles will attack leopards when they swim near riverbanks.

37. Leopards Are Pretty Famous

Leopards have been depicted in mythology, folklore, and artwork throughout history and are famous. Today, the leopard is often used as an emblem for sports in Africa. They are also renowned in fashion, and many women love wearing leopard print.

38. Leopards Are Often Hunted

Leopards are beautiful animals, and the fact that they are often hunted is unfortunate. Some humans hunt these animals to use their fur for rugs, coats, and other decorative pieces. If farmers believe a leopard is threatening their livestock, they’ll kill the leopard. Also, poachers kill leopards for body parts used in traditional medicine by some cultures.

39. Leopards Are Losing Their Homes

Years ago, leopards were found all over the world. Today, they only occupy 25-37 percent of their historical range. The leopard population is losing their homes to humans moving into their territories. Leopards are tolerant of humans in most cases, but they don’t want to live with us, so their range is reduced.

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