Facts About the Differences Between a Leopard and a Cheetah
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Facts About the Differences Between a Leopard and a Cheetah

This article was written as a response to the question: What is the difference between a Leopard and a Cheetah?
This article is written in response to a question posted asking what is the difference between a leopard and a cheetah. Both animals have fearsome reputations for their capabilities as predators and are able to bring down animals larger than themselves using a mixture of strength and intelligence. At first sight the two animals may look similar but they in fact have some very distinct features to tell them apart.

The leopard is known by its Latin name of panthera pardus placing it into the same class of animal as the world’s other big cats of tigers and lions. Cheetah’s are known as acinonyx jubatus and belong to their own genus of cat with no similar species.

Cheetahs are smaller than leopard’s; a male leopard can weigh anything from 66 pounds (30 kg) up to 200 pounds or around 100kg. Cheetahs weigh between 75 pounds or 35 kg up to 145 pounds or a little under 70kg. Leopards reach a height of up to 30 inches and can grow to around six feet in length. Cheetahs are a little smaller in height and only grow to around two-thirds of the size of the larger animal of the two.

There are a number of subspecies of Leopard across Africa and Asia. They are the Asian, Arabian, African and Indo-Chinese leopards. There is only the one type of cheetah found on the plains of Africa.

The spot patterns on each animal is one way to differentiate between the two, leopards spots are in the shape of rosettes or small rings while the cheetah has round or oval spots. Cheetahs have a tear line coloured black running from the inside of each eye down to the mouth; leopards do not have this feature.

The appearance of leopards is of a normal or regular cat shape while cheetahs are lankier than other big cats. Leopards generally do their hunting during the hours of darkness and cheetahs use their speed to bring down prey in daylight. Once they have caught their prey leopards will drag their kill up a tree to protect it from other predators, cheetahs will usually consume their kill on the grassy plains where they excel as hunters.

While hunting leopards rely on the art of stealth and cunning to snare the hunted animal while cheetahs rely on the use of speed. Cheetahs can run up to 70mph or 110 km/ph over the short distances heeded to catch their prey; they are the fastest animals in the world.

The strong teeth and jaws of leopards enables them to crunch their way through bones, the teeth and jaws of cheetahs are smaller but they have a larger nasal cavity allowing for the fast running speeds that require rapid breathing.

Leopards are solitary animals only coming together to find a partner and mate, cheetahs are social creatures mothers will remain with their cubs while older males will form groups of 2 or 3, the males and females only mix during the mating season. Leopards have retractable claws enabling them to climb trees, cheetahs do not have these and remain on the ground.

Cheetahs will generally avoid contact with humans although they can become aggressive if surprised or confined, leopards are generally more aggressive towards humans.

Cheetahs can only be found on the grassy plains or savannah in Africa. They will usually position themselves on small hills or termite mounds to make scanning the horizon easier to pick out their prey. Leopards are to be found in grassy plains, dense woodlands, deserts and mountains.

Leopards will slowly move into their prey using stealth to pounce from a few yards, usually ambushing an unsuspecting animal from no more than 5 or 10 metres or yards. Cheetahs use speed, attack from behind to knock it off balance then attack the throat.

One final distinctive difference between the two is in the sound they each make, a leopard will roar or growl while a cheetah’s sound is more like chirping or yelping.

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Comments (3)

I did not know the differences either, thanks for the explanation!

well written post

Very elaborate explanation John. I'm still amazed by the speed of the Cheetah.