Different Types of Leopards
Felines are fascinating animals with often impressive abilities. We find species ranging from very powerful animals like lions and tigers to domestic cats. They are all grouped in the family Felidae, which in turn is divided into two subfamilies: Pantherinae and Felinae. The first includes the species Panthera pardus, commonly known as the leopard. Its taxonomy has always been controversial. In ancient times, the leopard was thought to be a cross between a lion and a panther. Until the 19th century, it was believed that there were about thirty subspecies of leopards, but modern taxonomy has identified eight.
The following AnimalWised article provides an overview of the various types of leopards in the world, along with their most interesting facts and their conservation status.
- African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)
- Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)
- Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana)
- Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca)
- Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)
- Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri)
- Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas)
- Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)
- Black leopards
African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)
It is the nominotypic subspecies of the group. As the name implies, this species of leopard is native to many countries in Africa, where it is widely distributed. It is widespread in most of sub-Saharan Africa, but its historic range has been fragmented during habitat conversion.
It exhibits obvious sexual dimorphism, as males are larger than females. Male African leopards are larger and heavier than females, which are typically 40% lighter than them. They can reach a length of 1.90 meters (6 feet) and a weight of up to 90 kg (200 pounds), with an average weight of 60 kg (130 pounds) for males and 40 kg (88 pounds) for females.
Their diet is carnivorous. They are excellent hunters and have an exceptional ability to adapt to changes in prey availability and have a very wide diet. The known prey of leopards ranges from insects to adult antelope.
Leopards are generally nocturnal, although they are occasionally active during the day. During the day they seek shelter from the heat, either in trees, dens, or in the shade of rocks. In arid regions, they often stay in dens, which they use for shade.
If you want to know more about leopards, do not miss the following article, where we explain the difference between cheetahs and leopards.
Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)
The Arabian Leopard is the smallest of all subspecies, but the largest cat in the entire Arabian Peninsula. Unfortunately, it is classified as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with fewer than 200 individuals estimated to exist in the wild in 2006. The remaining population is highly fragmented and isolated in groups of no more than 50 adult members.
The body exhibits the usual rosettes of the species, but the yellow color can vary from light to intense. On average, this leopard species is 1.90 meters (6.2ft) long in males, while females are smaller, averaging 1.60 meters (5.2ft). Weight is 30 kg (66 lb.) for males and 20 kg (44 lb.) for females. Their limbs are short, but they have strong legs with a large, rounded paw and retractable claws. They are great climbers and can scale mountains with ease.
They appear to concentrate on small to medium-sized prey and usually store the carcasses of large prey in burrows or hiding places, but not in trees. The lifespan of this subspecies of leopard has been shortened by many human interventions, whether killing leopards for their fur or killing them to save livestock.
If you want to learn more about leopards and their habitat, read this other article, where we explain where leopards live, their habitat and distribution.
Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana)
This species of leopard is native to southwest Asia and is considered the largest of all subspecies. It is classified by the IUCN as Critically Endangered, as the wild population is estimated to be less than 1000 adult individuals. Taxonomic clarifications are still under discussion, but as of 2017, the subspecies of the leopard are referred to as P. p. ciscaucasica and P. p. saxicolor.
Its size is about 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) from head to tail, and its height can reach 0.80 meters (2.62 ft). As for the body mass, it can reach 75 kg (165 lbs.). P. p. tulliana has a grayish, slightly reddish coat with large rosettes on the flanks and back, smaller ones on the shoulders and thighs, and patches on the head and neck
Unlike other leopards, which tend to live alone, males of P.p. tulliana usually share their territory with two or three adult females. P. p. tulliana is threatened by poaching, depletion of the prey base due to poaching, human disturbances such as the presence of military and training of troops in border areas, habitat loss due to deforestation, and others.
Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca)
The Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) is a subspecies of leopard widely distributed in the Indian subcontinent. Due to habitat loss, fragmentation, poaching for pelts and body parts, conflicts, and persecution, Panthera pardus is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Males are about 142 cm (4 ft 8 in), not including the tail, which grows to 91 cm (3 ft). The weight varies from 50 to almost 80 kg (110 and 170 lb). Compared to males, females are slightly smaller, reach a length of about 117 cm (3 feet 10 inches), have tails almost as long as males, and weigh between 29 and 34 kg (64 and 75 pounds).
The yellow fur can vary between light, brown, or golden and even grayish depending on the region. Although the rosettes are present and form unique patterns as in the other leopard subspecies, they tend to be larger in this subspecies, a feature that distinguishes it from the others.
The leopard is elusive, solitary, and largely nocturnal. It is known for its climbing skills and has been observed dragging its prey up trees and hanging it there. The Indian leopard is also a skilled swimmer.
Indian leopards are not common in habitats where tiger densities are high. In fact, where tiger populations are high or increasing, the tigers drive the leopards away to areas closer to human settlements. The hunting of Indian leopards for the illegal wildlife trade is the greatest threat to their survival.
Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)
The Sri Lanka leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is a subspecies of leopard native to Sri Lanka. The IUCN Red List initially classified the subspecies as endangered in 2020. There are believed to be fewer than 800 sexually mature individuals in the wild, and it is likely that the population is declining.
The black rosettes are smaller than in other leopard species, and the fur is often reddish or coppery yellow. Females averaged 64 pounds (29 kilograms) in weight and had a head-to-body length of 3 feet 5 inches (1.04 meters) and a tail length of 2 feet 6.5 inches (77.5 cm). In contrast, males are typically 4 ft 2 in (1.27 m) tall, weigh an average of 56 kg (124 pounds), and have a tail that is 2 ft 10 in (86 cm) long.
They are more active and prefer to hunt at night, but are reasonably active at dawn, dusk, and during the day. They rarely drag their prey into the trees, probably because there is no competition in the wild and prey is relatively abundant.
Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri)
The Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) is a leopard subspecies native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China. In a recent assessment, it was classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List. The basic coloration of the coat is rather reddish or rust-colored, but becomes lighter towards the sides of the body. The pattern of the rosettes is uniform and gives the impression of large black spots, but in reality they are small uniform spots.
Sexual dimorphism is maintained, with males being larger than females. They weigh about 50 kg (110,231 lbs.) and average 1.20 m (3.93701 ft) in length. Females weigh about 25 kg (55.1156 lbs.) and measure slightly more than 1 meter (3.28 ft).
Melanism is quite common in dense tropical forests, and black leopards are thought to have an ambush selection advantage. There are few contiguous areas left where leopards have a chance of long-term survival. Due to large-scale deforestation and illegal hunting, they are primarily threatened by habitat destruction. Human traffic within protected areas negatively affects the movements and activities of leopards.
Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas)
The Java leopard (Panthera pardus melas) is a subspecies of leopard found only on the Indonesian island of Java. It was recently classified as endangered by the IUCN. The fur is golden, rarely light yellow, and has the black rosettes typical of the species.
There is no reliable and accurate information about the weight and size of this leopard. However, it has been identified as a small subspecies, probably slightly larger than the Arabian leopard. The Java leopard was originally described as a black panther with dark black spots and silver-gray eyes. This breed is either spotted with rosettes or black due to a recessive phenotype.
Prey animals of the java leopard include deer, wild boar, and monkeys. Javan leopards also frequent nearby villages and have been known to prey on domestic dogs, chickens, and goats. Conflicts between locals and leopards is considered one of the biggest threats to the Java leopard.
Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)
The Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is a subspecies of leopard native to the Primorye region of southeastern Russia and northern China. Its range includes the Russian Far East, the Korean Peninsula, and northeastern China. It is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, with fewer than 30 specimens living in the wild. In fact, it is considered one of the rarest cats in the world.
Depending on the season, the coat varies from light or pale yellow to intense reddish, the usual rosettes being more widely spaced in this case. Males are larger and heavier than females. Males grow up to 2 meters (6.56 ft) long and weigh up to 50 kg (110 lbs.). Females tend to be smaller and weigh 25-42.5 kg (55-94 lbs).
Like other leopard subspecies, Amur leopards are solitary unless females have offspring. Records from camera traps show that they are more diurnal than nocturnal in both summer and winter. Like other leopard subspecies, Amur leopards are solitary unless females have offspring. Unlike most leopards, they are diurnal rather than nocturnal in both summer and winter.
Unlike other leopard species, the Amur leopard chooses its territory very carefully. Individuals usually have territories within a river basin, generally extending to their natural topographic boundaries. These leopards use the same hunting trails, migration routes, and even resting places for many years.
They are not really a type of leopard. There are some cats known as black panthers, but these actually correspond to leopards and even jaguars (Panthera onca), which are completely black, although they also have the typical rosettes, but are not easily distinguished.
Due to a recessive genetic mutation, melanism affects these individuals, and since melanin pigment is responsible for coloring the skin, it causes the entire animal to darken. This mutation occurs mainly in subspecies that live in humid and forested areas, which is an advantage for camouflage and thermoregulation.
It has been noted that although this phenotypic variation can occur in several leopard species, it is more common in the Chinese and Javanese subspecies, resulting in very peculiar individuals that continue to correspond to the same species.
If you want to learn even more about leopards and other big cats, read this other article, where we explain the difference between a jaguar and a leopard and a cheetah.
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