Leopards are the most widespread big cats across Africa and Asia. Leopards live in grasslands, deserts, tropical rainforests, and mountain highlands from sub-Saharan Africa, to the Himalayas, across India, and into southern and southeast Asia.
Leopards tend to have short, long bodies. They grow up to 6.2 feet (1.9 m) long and weigh as much as 200 pounds (90 kg). Leopards vary in color depending on their habitat. On the savannah they are usually sandy ochre; in deserts, they are pale yellow; and in the mountains, they are dark gold. The fur on their backs and sides is covered with black spots or rosettes; their tails are ringed or spotted. In forests, leopards have darker coats and spots and some leopards found in forests are completely black; black is a mutation–not a different subspecies. Leopards with mostly black fur are known as panthers. (Jaguars with mostly black fur are also known as panthers).
Leopards are opportunistic feeders; they eat mostly hoofed animals including antelope, deer, and even young giraffes as well as smaller animals such as wild pigs, baboons, birds, and rabbits. Leopards commonly hunt at night; they have superb night vision. They hunt by stealth. Their stout well-muscled legs allow them to spring and pounce on prey. Their shoulders and forelimbs are heavily muscled and able to pin down and drag prey. They have long powerful jaw muscles and canine teeth used for stabbing and gripping their prey. Leopards can catch and kill prey up to 10 times their own weight.
Leopards are adapted to climbing trees. They will sometimes carry their dead prey into the treetops where other carnivores can not follow.
Leopards live a mostly solitary life except during the mating season. They have home territories that may overlap with other nearby leopards. They use scent marks and make rough rasping calls to claim their territory. Females give birth to 2 to 4 cubs after a gestation of about 100 days Cubs live with their mother in a den for the first two years of their lives. Leopards reach maturity at about 3 to 4 years old.
A leopard’s lifespan is 10 to 15 years. The scientific name of the leopard is Panthera pardus. The world’s rarest cat is the Amur leopard, also known as the Far Eastern leopard. There are fewer than 70 left.
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