This cunning member of the big cat family is often a source of excitement among kids, these facts about leopards for kids will help them learn all about their favorite big cats. That way they will know all about these powerful cats when they see leopards lounging and lazing around in the zoo with not a care in the world. But despite its particularly lazy appearance, the leopard turns into a mean, lean hunting machine at night, taking down small to big prey. These are some of the most ruthless killers in nature as well as some of the most nurturing mothers. So there is more to this spotted creature than meets the eye.
The spotted kings of forests (and a lot of other places!)
These majestic creatures are the fifth largest animal in the cat kingdom. Not a covetous position, probably, but in a lot of places across the world, it reigns as the top predator of the food chain. They have a distinctive coat which ranges from pale yellow to chestnut and even grey. On the shoulders, upper arms, haunches and back, there are dark rosette patterned spots. On the head, throat and chest, the leopard has smaller black spots and on its white belly, large black spots are seen. They live in almost every kind of habitat like forests, mountains, desert terrains, grasslands and so on. Today, they are found in Africa and Asia, especially in Korea, India, China, Malaysia and Russia.
The stealthy hunter
Stealth is a leopard’s MO. Even though it is spread across the world atypically, almost all leopards are solitary and stay hidden in high branches of trees and in caves. They hunt at night, and stalk prey, staying close to the ground, hidden among grasses or bushes until the prey is inescapably close. At such an opportune position they launch an attack on the prey. However, when the leopard is not in the mood to hunt, it can pass through a herd of antelopes without disturbance, flipping its tail to reveal the white underside- almost as if showing a white flag to say ‘I come in peace.’
Not a picky eater
Leopards are not the pickiest eaters in the nature. They can eat small animals like impala, deer, wildebeest and gazelle. They are also known to hunt baboons, monkeys, hares, hyraxes and even fish, reptiles and birds. With such a wide palate, it is hardly surprising that when they are full, they even drag the edible excess of the carcass high up in the tree to return to it after three or four days. A male can drag a carcass of up to three times its weight (like small giraffes) up a height of 6 meters.
The caring moms
Leopards are solitary animals, each having a home range in close vicinity of but not overlapping with neighboring leopards’ home ranges. While males have home ranges as big as 450 sqkm, females’ territories can be up to 18 sq km in area. They change home ranges every three days or so. But when females become mothers, they discard their nomadic days until the cubs are old enough to move around with her. For the first 2 months, the mother leopard keeps her cubs hidden, giving them meat and suckling them for 3 months.
Photo Credit: Greg Willis (used under CC license)
The snowy cousin
Snow leopards are found in alpine regions of Central Asia with its distinctive white coat speckles with black rosettes. They usually have fluffy, fur-covered shoes that help them walk on snow and protect them from cold. They have enormous tails- up to 105 cms long, which they use for balance and for covering themselves in the cold. Unfortunately, it is the only big cat in the family that cannot roar. It hunts the ibex, blue sheep and the Himalayan Tahr. Check out this cool page all about Snow Leopards!