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Temporal range: late Pliocene or early Pleistocene to Recent
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Binomial name
Panthera pardus
Linnaeus, 1758
A leopard in a tree

A leopard (Panthera pardus) is a big feline of the genus Panthera. It lives in Africa and Asia. It climbs trees well and regularly. It can carry up the carcass of a large prey. In this way it avoids problems with hyaenas and lions, which might otherwise steal its prey. It is an ambush predator, and operates best where it has some cover. It has a wide range which does not overlap with that of the jaguar, which has a rather similar life-style.


Leopards generally have yellow fur with dark rosettes and spots, and a lighter colored underside. But there can be a lot of differences in the different leopard subspecies. There are also often leopards who are completely black, those are also called black panthers. Male leopards are about 30% larger than female leopards.[2]


Originally the leopard lived in all of Africa (but not in the Sahara) and southern Asia. But today many leopard subspecies, especially in Asia, are endangered. Leopards live in a lot of different environments: rainforests, forests, mountains and savannas.

Life style

The leopard is mostly active at night. It is basically an ambush hunter. It can climb very well, and it stays up in trees a lot of its time. Leopards usually live alone and try not to meet another leopard. They only come together to mate. Young leopards leave their mothers after 13 – 18 months.

Hunting and diet

Leopards hunt at different times, and they also use different methods for hunting. Most often leopards will secretly move towards their prey and attack it when they are close, or hide and wait for it to come close.

Leopards are versatile, opportunistic hunters, and have a very wide diet. They feed on a wider range of prey than other members of the Panthera genus.[3] Their diet consists mostly of ungulates and primates (mainly monkeys). However, they also eat rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, birds (some ground-based types), fish and sometimes smaller predators (such as foxes, jackals, martens and smaller felids). In one instance, a leopard killed a sub-adult Nile crocodile that was crossing over land.[4] Leopards are the only natural predators of adult chimpanzees and gorillas, though probably not the large male silverback gorillas.[5][6] Leopards do not usually eat humans, but sometimes leopards that are hurt or sick can eat people when they do not have enough to eat.[7] A leopard in India is believed to have eaten more than 125 people.[8]


There are nine subspecies of leopards recognized today, one in Africa and eight in Asia. They are:

  • African leopard P.p pardus
  • Amur leopard P.p orientalis
  • Arabian leopard P.p nimr
  • Indian leopard P.p fusca
  • Indo Chinese leopard P.p delacouri
  • Javan leopard P.p melas
  • North Chinese leopard P.p japonensis
  • Persian leopard P.p saxicolor
  • Sri Lankan leopard P.p kotiya


  1. Cat Specialist Group (2002). Panthera pardus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  2. Kindersley, Dorling (2001, 2005). Animal. New York City: DK Publishing. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5.
  3. Schaller, George B. 1972. The Serengeti lion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0226736393.
  4. "Leopard savaging a crocodile caught on camera". The Telegraph. 18 July 2011.
  5. Primates: Gorilla Facts – National Zoo| FONZ. Retrieved on 2012-08-21.
  6. []
  7. Hart, Donna; Robert W. Sussman 2005. Man the hunted: primates, predators, and human evolution. Westview Press. ISBN 0813339367.
  8. Tougias, Michael 2007. When Man is the prey: true stories of animals attacking humans. Macmillan. ISBN 0312373007