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Episode 5: The Elusive Leopard


Feline Evolution

The Leopard can trace back their lineage to a single ancient ancestor, Pseudaelurus. This relative emerged roughly 20 million years ago. Earliest species of Pseudaelurus were the size of a domestic cat and later evolved to the size of modern-day cougars and leopards. Some ancient relatives of today’s leopard include the Giant cheetah, which was the size of a large lion, to the Machairodus Kabir, which is estimated to the be the size of a horse.

Today there are 8 lineages of cat.

Image of Felid Family Tree

As a member of the Panthera line, Leopards split from lions approximately 3 million years ago. The snow leopard is more closely related to tigers and split approximately 3.5 million years ago. The Clouded leopard split from all others of the Panthera family line almost 6.5 million years ago.


Leopard Image


Snow Leopard Image.


Image of ‘Max’ the Clouded leopard with his impressive canines. 

Species of Leopards

Not counting the Snow leopard or Clouded leopard, of general Leopards there are 9 subspecies.

  • African leopard
  • Indian leopard
  • Javan leopard
  • Arabian leopard
  • Anatolian leopard
  • North Chinese leopard
  • Indochinese leopard
  • Sri Lankan leopard
  • Amur leopard

The Amur leopard is the most critically endangered of all sub-species of leopard. There are an estimated 60 animals left in the wilds of Mongolia, Russia and China. Fortunately, there are over 200 of these animals housed in conservation centers and zoos throughout the world, being held as an emergency population.

Leopards range all over Africa and Asia.

Historical and modern range of Leopards image

Very Unique Predator

Leopards make a variety of sounds. One unique is ‘sawing’ and can be heard here.

Depending on location, leopard’s success rate when hunting can be as high as 38% or as low as 5%.  The diets of leopards will vary but mainly consist of smaller hoof stock. Studies in African indicate leopard preference for hunting are impala and gazelle. There are also incidence of leopards hunting young giraffes, baboons, catfish, eland, chimpanzee and even instances of gorillas. One species leopards avoid is the notorious Honey badger.

Honey Badger image

Leopard Physiology

Leopards can live up to 12 years old in the wild, or over 16 years in captivity. Most leopards stand 28 inches (70 cm) at the shoulders and can be as long as 75 inches (100 cm) head to tail. They can weigh up to 200 lbs. (90 kg). The Snow leopard is slightly smaller and the Clouded leopard is the smallest about the size of medium-sized dog.

The leopard’s spots are called rosettes, which is the same for the Snow leopard and Jaguar. The cheetah spots are called flecks. The rosettes are just flecks that have gotten lighter in the middle.

Organizations to Support

African Wildlife Foundation

  • Working with many African species, to include the leopard.

Snow Leopard Trust

  • Working with locals to conserve snow leopards in their native habitat.
November 28, 2017
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