Leopards are easily recognized by their unique spots. Like other big cats, these beautiful animals are some of the most awe-inspiring creatures in the natural world. Leopards come in many shapes and sizes, with 9 subspecies in many different regions of the globe. Just like the other large felines they share the planet with, leopards offer their own special characteristics that help them keep their place in the circle of life.
#1 – They’re The Strongest Big Cats
Leopards are, pound for pound, the strongest of the big cats. Their physical structure is slightly different than other big cats, with their short legs and large heads. But leopards are incredibly powerful. They spend a lot of their time climbing trees, even carrying carcasses heavier than themselves all the way up into the branches. Since lions, cheetahs, tigers or other big cats aren’t very good climbers, this means that the leopard doesn’t have to worry so much about it’s prey being stolen. Leopards will also hunt out of the trees, pouncing onto unsuspecting prey below. Even more, leopards are known to reach running speeds of 36mph and are excellent swimmers.
#2 – Black Panthers Have Spots
“Black panther” is the name given to leopards and jaguars that appear solid black. In the case for both, however, the spots do remain on the animals. Black panthers are melanistic, meaning that they display an excess amount of black pigment. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon seen in many different species. Black panthers were originally thought to be a different species, but they are not. If you look closely enough at the black panther, you’ll see they still have their spots.
#3 – They Have The Widest Habitat Range
Leopards have the widest habitat range of all of the big cat species. They can be found in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the Arabian peninsula, the Caucasus, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, northern Iran, various parts of China, the Russian Far East, mainland Asia, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Leopards were found in even more areas of the world, but due to habitat destruction and other causes they are no longer in these parts.
#4 – They’re Vocal
Leopards do not roar in the way we might imagine they do, such as a lion does. Instead, their roars are considered “sawing,” because the sound resembles that of someone sawing wood. Leopards also meow, growl, snarl and purr similarly to that of a house cat. They use these vocalizations and other body language to communicate with each other, although interactions are not common. Leopards are solitary animals and are very territorial, but with their wide range of communication arguments over territory rarely turn aggressive.
#5 – They Need Our Help
Of the 9 subspecies of leopards, nearly all are critically endangered. The Amur leopard, living in northeast China and Siberian, is one of the most endangered species in the world today. There are an estimated 60 living Amur leopards as of 2015. There are less than 200 Arabian and Javan leopards in the wild, with some estimates reporting fewer than 100 individuals. Leopards are adaptable and widespread animals, but they are facing serious decline and some subspecies face extinction. Thankfully, conservation efforts are being taken and we hope to see the populations of these incredible cats increase.