LEOPARDS WILL BE DESCRIBE IN TERMS OF TWO OF THE DIFFERENT SPECIES. FIRST WHAT WILL BE REFERRED TO AS 'COMMON', AND SECOND THE SNOW LEOPARD.
NOTE: I refer to the species Panthera pardus as a 'common leopard' because it is the animal most think of when they hear the term 'leopard'. It is NOT an official taxonomic term. This classification is solely for purpose of writing, as I find it less confusing to write about the two species under the same page title when each is given a different name. I have not read of this term as an official name for the species Panthera pardus, it's true common name is simply 'leopard'.
|As stated , this 'common' leopard is the typical yellow cat with black spots we think of as a leopard. Although the term 'spots' is not technically accurate. The leopard's coat is covered with rosette, black circles surrounding patches of brown. These are slightly different than the solid spots of the cheetah's coat.|
This type of leopard ranges in areas of Africa, the Arabian peninsula, and east Asia. It is probably one of the most adaptable cats around. Common leopards have been found to live in a wide range of environments, from savannas and semi deserts to mountains, swamps, and woodlands. They also take a wide range of prey. Among the many different types are rodents, fish, reptiles, birds, and large mammals.
|If a common leopard catches large prey, it will usually drag it up into a tree where it will be safe from competing predators such as hyenas and lions. Common leopards live solitary lives, living with others only when mating or as a mother raising cubs. They therefore can be vulnerable to a larger predator such as a lion or hyena. By hiding prey in a tree, a common leopard has a much better chance of keeping it as hyenas can't climb and lions usually won't. The leopard will try to keep the prey hidden for a period of time. I have seen documentaries where leopards feed off a large prey animal stuffed in the branches of a tree over days, especially if it is a mother feeding cubs.|
An interesting fact about this practice is how it helped dispel a theory about human behavior. Some early hominid skulls have been found with holes punched through them. It was hypothesized that these were the result of a sort of ritualistic cannibalism, where holes were punched in the skulls by other hominids in order to extract the brains. Later, researchers found that if a leopard skulls were placed on the hominid skulls in a gripping fashion, the teeth of the leopards fit the holes almost exactly. In addition, the caves in which the hominid skulls were found were almost always formed under trees. From this, a more likely scenario was formed. These hominids were probably not victims of cannibalism, but rather prey stored in a tree by leopards.
The snow leopard is a much more rare and endangered leopard. It lives mostly high in the Himalayan mountains and is rarely seen. In some areas, it is even difficult to determine the population of this rare leopard. It differs from the common leopard in appearance. The snow leopard has a thicker coat and slightly longer tail. It's feet are wider and more padded, making them like snowshoes so the leopard can move more easily in the mountain snow. It's coat is light gray in color with darker gray rosettes, which are larger than those of the common leopard. Snow leopards are in danger from poaching because of their thick beautiful pelts.
|Panthers are not a separate species of cat, but rather common leopards with a rare condition called melanism, which makes the coat appear black. These cats still have the rosettes of other leopards, but they are extremely difficult to see against the black coat. There is melanism in tigers and lions as well, but it is even more rare. It is more commonly found in leopards and jaguars.|
sources: 1."Big Cats : Kingdom of Might" Tom Brakefield. Voyaguer Press, Stillwater, MN. 1993.
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