Leopard

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Category: Animal Info Pages


 

The leopard (Panthera pardus).  The leopard is an amazingly successful carnivorous hunter.  The combination of strength, speed, agility, and a highly evolved camouflage pattern enables the leopard to prey upon just about any species in its habitat.  It can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, leap almost 20 feet horizontally, and drag a carcass almost twice its weight up high into a tree.  Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest of the 6 "big cats".  The leopard was once  thought to be a hybrid of a panther and a lion, and actually derives its name from the Greek words for lion (leon) and panther (pardos). 

 

The leopard boasts the largest distribution of any of the big cats.  When we picture the leopard in its natural habitat, we tend to imagine a jungle or savanna backdrop.  In actuality, the leopard is extremely adaptable, and tends to thrive in every habitat but the most arid.  Leopards inhabit most of Africa, the semi-arid portions of the Middle East, and some of Asia.  Leopards even inhabit the temperate forests of East Russia where temperatures can drop to below zero.

 

The leopard looks very similar to the jaguar.  So much so, in fact, that melanistic (all black) leopards and jaguars are both known as black panthers.  The leopard is a bit smaller, and has shorter legs than other big cats.  It also sports a much larger skull, with incredibly strong jaw muscles.  Its fur is marked with spots called rosettes.  While similar to the rosettes of the jaguar, the leopard's tend to be much more densely patterned, and lack central spots like those of the jaguar.