The leopard is a medium-sized wildcat that is natively found in a variety of different habitats across sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. A member of the “Big Cat” family, the leopard is an agile and opportunistic hunter that has been able to exploit habitats unused by other large felines as it spends a great deal of its time high in the tree branches.
There are seven different subspecies of leopard which differ in their appearance and geographic location, with the African Leopard being the most common and widespread and the others being the rare Amur Leopard, the Anatolian Leopard, the Barbary Leopard, the Sinai Leopard, the South Arabian Leopard and the Zanzibar Leopard.
Although the African Leopard populations are stable throughout much of their natural range, the story is different for the remaining sub-species that are often isolated and critically at risk (the Zanzibar Leopard is actually now thought to be extinct).
The leopard has a long and slender body that is supported by short, stocky legs and a long tail that is used to aid balance whilst in the trees. Leopards can vary in their coloration and markings depending on their surrounding habitat, with those found on open grasslands having a light-yellow background coat where those that are found in forests tend to be darker in color and with more markings.
The dark, ring-like patterns that cover the leopard’s coat are called rosettes, but these turn to solid spots on the face and limbs (and rings on the tail) and provide the leopard with camouflage into the surrounding environment.
Leopards are incredibly strong and muscular and are able to pull themselves up trees using their legs and retractable claws. Like a number of other large feline species, the leopard is able to draw their claws into folds of skin on their paws to ensure that they are not blunted whilst the animal is walking about.
Their keen hearing and sight coupled with their long and very sensitive whiskers, means that Leopards are also incredibly well adapted for hunting under the cover of night.
Keywords to learn
Rasping: Harsh-sounding and unpleasant.
Genetic: Relating to genes or heredity.
Hey Kids, my name is Lee the Leopard and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
Key Leopard Data:
Lifespan: 10 – 15 years.
Scientific Name:Panthera pardus.
Mass:30kg – 90kg (66lbs – 198lbs).
Length:100cm – 190cm (40in – 75in).
Region found:Sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia.
Population Status:Near Threatened.
Current population trend:Stable.
Sexual maturity:2 – 2.5 years.
Leopards are extremely beautiful animals however be cautious of leopards as they are predators and are dangerous. Leopards are feline, so that means that they are cats, wild cats and not like your standard house cat who are smaller, cuter and cuddlier.
Now that you know more about the leopard by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the leopard here: Leopard (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the leopard. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Leopard Fun Facts for Kids:
- # 1. The leopard is a solitary and nocturnal hunter that hunts both on the ground and in the trees. They are excellent climbers and spend the vast majority of the daytime hours resting in the shade of the branches in the trees or under a sheltered rock. They are quite unique amongst large felines as Leopards rely heavily on being able to get close enough to their prey before ambushing it, rather than expelling vast amounts of energy in a high-speed chase. Once caught and killed, the prey is then dragged to safety either into dense vegetation a couple of hundred meters away or up a tree trunk and into the branches.
- # 2. Leopards are highly solitary animals that mark their territory using scent markings and by producing rough, rasping calls that are said to sound like the sawing through coarse wood. Home range sizes vary depending on the habitat and the food available but those of male Leopards are significantly larger than those of their female counterparts, which often overlap the ranges of a number of both males and other females (sometimes by up to 40%).
- # 3. Throughout their natural range, leopards have no distinctive breeding season with females instead being able to reproduce every couple of months. After a gestation period that lasts for around three months, the female Leopard gives birth to between 2 and 6 cubs that are born blind and weigh just half a kilo.
- # 4. Leopard cubs are incredibly vulnerable in the wild and so remain hidden in dense vegetation until they are able to follow their mother around at between 6 and 8 weeks of age, camouflaged by their dark, woolly fur and blurry spots. Weaned at around three months old, Leopard cubs will remain with their mother for another 18 months until she is ready to mate again and encourages her young to independently establish their own territories.
- # 5. Originally thought to be a hybrid of the lion and the jaguar, the leopard has been the subject of much genetic confusion and wasn’t really distinguished properly until just over 100 years ago. Some of the confusion is thought to come from the Black Panther which is a leopard that has a completely black coat of fur, with occasional faint markings.
- # 1. Name 3 species of leopard?
- # 2. What species of leopard is now thought to be extinct?
- # 3. What class does the leopard belong to?
- # 4. How long is the leopard’s gestation period?
- # 5. How much does a baby cub weigh when its first born?