Top 10 Amazing Facts about Leopards
10. Leopards Live in Some of the World’s Most Exotic Locations
Leopards live in the widest range of habitats of all big cats. Leopards can live in many different habitats as long as they can provide food and shelter. A leopard might be found in forests, mountains, grass plains, deserts and rainforests. A breed of leopard known as the snow leopard is even found in the Himalayan Mountains, the highest mountains in the world! Snow leopards habitat cover 2 million square kilometers, approximately the size of Mexico. Snow leopards like the cliffs and ravines provided by the high mountain ranges, but they aren’t known for staying in one place, especially if food is scarce. The Snow Leopard Trust once tracked a snow leopard across 27 miles of open desert in only one night! Leopards are also found in the wild in other parts of Asia from the Arabian Peninsula all the way to eastern Russia, Korea, China, India and even Malaysia.
There are species and subspecies of leopard found in the wild in most of Africa. There are nine subspecies of leopard in Africa native to 35 countries. Leopards in Africa seem to prefer rocky landscapes with dense bush or forests along major rivers. They can handle both warm and cold climates. Like Asian leopards, they are highly adaptable as long as they can find food and shelter. African leopards might be found in Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe as well as 30 other countries on all sides of the continent.
9. A Leopard’s Coat Can Vary Depending on Location
The color of a leopard’s fur coat often depends on the habitat in which they live. The pattern and color of each leopards coat offers them both protection and assistance in hunting. Some leopards may be black, tawny, or even light yellow. Arabian leopards are often deep golden or tawny colored to match their desert environment, while a snow leopard might smoky gray with a white belly, not unlike his snowy mountainous habitat. One leopard in particular is black and looks almost as if it is one solid color- but it does have spots. This black leopard is often called a ‘black panther,’but it is still in the leopard family. A lot of debate has been had regarding the leopard’s infamous spots. The leopard’s spots, or rosettes, are probably the evolutionary result of the amount of time leopards spend in trees. However, the types of spots may vary greatly across the species. For example, an East African leopard has circular spots but a South African leopard will have square spots!
One African leopard in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve has even been discovered to be pink! While most African leopards are often yellow with black spots, this male leopard’s coat is the color of a strawberry. It is suspected that this leopard has erythrism, which is a genetic condition that may cause an overproduction of red pigments in an animal’s fur or the under production of darker pigments – but scientists aren’t sure why this happens. A condition that is very unusual in carnivores, experts cannot think of another example of a strawberry colored leopard! Despite his color, it seems that the leopard is healthy and is still able to hunt successfully.
8. Leopards Are Solitary Animals
Leopards live entirely on their own and they often go out of their way to avoid one another when they can. Because leopards can hunt and kill prey up to three times their size, they do not need to live in groups to be able to feed themselves regularly. They can even drag their food up a tree to keep to themselves! Leopards usually have large territories that they control. Males have larger territories than females, and leopards may mark the boundaries of their territory with urine or claw marks on trees. Intrusion in a leopard’s territory is usually only tolerated if they are mating. Leopards rarely stay in one place for very long, rarely staying in one area of their home territory for more than a few days at a time. Because of the boundary markings, they usually know when another leopard is close so that they can avoid it. Unexpected encounters between two leopards can lead to fighting.
A female leopard nurturing her cubs is one of the only exceptions to this rule. A female will abandon her nomadic tendencies until her cubs are mature enough to roam with her. The cubs are allowed to live with their mother for two years. Female leopards are very nurturing and their maternal instincts are very strong. When one leopard cub named Legadema made her first kill, a baboon, she discovered that her prey had a baby! Legadema ignored her pretty and carried the baby baboon up a tree where she cared for the baby baboon and protected her from predators.
7. Leopards Will Eat Anything They Can Find – Even If It’s Twice as Large as They Are!
Leopards are carnivorous animals and will eat any available protein source. Leopards may feast on gazelle or impala, but they may also track and hunt monkeys or rodents. Because of their wide and often treacherous environments, they have to be adaptable to eating anything available to them. The most important food for a snow leopard is sheep and goats. For the Arabian leopard living in the desert, gazelle, hares, birds and lizards are their most important food groups. Arabian leopards do not have the luxury of trees and so much of their prey is stored in caves. An African leopard has a huge variety of food that it can hunt, at least 92 species of prey, in fact. Known prey of an African leopard includes dung beetles all the way up to elands, which can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. There have even been a few reported instances of a leopard killing a young giraffe and carrying it up a tree to save for later.
Leopards are mostly nocturnal hunters. There are stories throughout the world telling of the leopard’s stealthy ability to enter a village and catch a sleeping dog without being caught. Leopards have a variety of physical features that allow them to hunt without the aid of a pack. Their vision and hearing make leopards the ultimate hunters. However, when food is scarce, leopards may sometimes turn to the area’s livestock. This puts them under threat from local farmers, who have been noted to hunt leopards in retribution for killing their farm animals.
6. Leopards Communicate with Other Leopards
Leopards communicate with each other through a variety of vocal noises which are similar to other large cats. However, leopards have individual and distinct calls, possibly so that they might recognize each other from a distance to prevent contact. Leopards might roar, hiss, growl, moan, yowl or even produce a rasping cough. Just like your cat at home, leopards even purr when they are pleased! Purring usually happens between a mother and her cubs when the cubs or feeding. A leopard’s roar is said to sound like a person sawing through a difficult piece of wood and is usually used to show that they are alarmed or to prevent another leopard from coming any further into their territory. Leopards may use their raspy cough to let other leopards know they are in the area.
Unlike other leopards, the snow leopard cannot roar because of the physiology of their throat. Scientists have recently discovered that it is not simply the hyoid bone that allows big cats to roar but a variety of other features. Even though the snow leopard has the partial ossification of the hyoid bone in its throat, it is missing its larynx. Instead, the snow leopard relies on chuffing, which is a non-aggressive puffing sound.
Thankfully, leopards are said to have excellent hearing so that they might recognize the many and distinct calls of another leopard. It is said that leopards can hear five times more sounds than humans – including squeaks made by mice!