Cheetah Vs. Leopard : Top 10 Main Differences : Although cheetahs and leopards may appear similar at first glance, they are actually two very different cats. The key distinctions between leopards and cheetahs are listed below so that you can identify the two cats with ease the next time you’re on an African safari tour. Some of the differences, such as body shape, behavior, or habitat, can be distinguished from a distance; other differences, like markings and claws, require a closer inspection. So, to help you easily identify which animal you are looking at, here is our guide to the cheetah vs. leopard debate:
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: SIZE AND BODY SHAPE DIFFERENCES
Although they are much more slender animals, cheetahs are taller at the shoulder and stand higher than leopards. They can weigh up to 72 kg, have lost a lot of muscle mass to become more streamlined, have a body built for speed, and have evolved to become the fastest land animal, with top speeds of 120 km/h.
Their long, rounded heads, high chests with thin stomachs, exposed shoulder blades, and particularly flexible spines contribute to their aerodynamic shape, which also features very long bodies.
Although they can weigh up to 100 kg, leopards are larger and more robust than cheetahs, despite being the shortest of the big cats. Leopards, who are much more powerful than cheetahs, stalk and ambush prey while carrying it up trees to protect their meal.
A leopard will drive away any cheetah that approaches its territory in the wild due to the strength differential between the two cats (even though neither animal makes our list of the top 15 strongest animals in the world!).
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: COAT
The fashion world may distinguish between cheetah and leopard by comparing their prints, but coat pattern is undoubtedly one of the most noticeable differences once you know what to look for. At first glance, it might appear that both cats have a yellow coat with black spots, but if you look closer, you’ll notice that:
- Cheetah spots are solidly round or oval in shape and distinct from the rest of their body spots.
- Leopards have smaller, erratically shaped spots that are arranged in circles to resemble rose-like markings known as “rosettes.”
In both instances, these two cats (Leopard and cheetah) uses its spots to help disguise itself from other animals, allowing it to approach its prey before striking.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: FACIAL MARKINGS
If you get close enough, the facial markings on a cheetah and a leopard can be easily distinguished from one another. A leopard’s face is covered in a continuation of its rosette pattern, but a cheetah’s face is marked by a black line that extends from the inside corner of its eyes to the sides of its mouth. According to one theory, these tear marks serve to reflect sunlight away from the cheetah’s eyes while it hunts. The color of the eyes is another facial distinction. While leopards’ eyes can range from bright blue to bright green, cheetahs’ eyes are amber.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: TAIL SHAPE
Cheetah tails have an appearance that is somewhat flat and wide. Cheetahs use these rudder-like tails as a counterbalance to help them change direction quickly while pursuing their prey at high speeds. Tubular is the shape of a leopard’s tail. Leopards use their tails to aid in balance, especially when climbing trees or dragging prey up them.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: FEET AND CLAWS
Leopards’ large, muscular forequarters, which are used to help hoist carcasses up trees, are supported by larger front feet than rear feet. Leopards, like almost all cats, have retractable claws and only use them when necessary, such as when climbing trees, engaging in combat, or pounce on prey.
On the other hand, cheetahs need to move quickly, so they have big back feet that aid in their rapid acceleration. The fact that cheetahs can only partially retract their claws, which gives them more traction, is another adaptation for acceleration and turning at speed.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: SOUNDS
The classification of cheetahs as large or medium-sized cats is still up for debate. According to one school of thought, the ability to roar distinguishes big cats from other species. The ability to roar deeply and loudly is shared by the jaguar, leopard, lion, and tiger thanks to their modified larynxes and hyoid apparatuses, which are special parts of the throat. Leopards have the ability to growl and roar, but cheetahs can only purr.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: HABITATS
Despite the fact that their ranges overlap, cheetahs and leopards prefer relatively different habitats due to their distinctive hunting strategies. Cheetah are frequently seen in expansive grasslands and savannas because they require wide open areas to safely complete a hunt at top speed. Leopards, on the other hand, prefer thicker vegetation and more densely covered areas, such as forests, woodlands, and scrub, where it is simpler for them to conceal themselves because they hunt by stalking and camouflaging.
In comparison to cheetahs, leopards also spend a lot more time in trees, frequently relaxing and sleeping there all day before going out to hunt at night. Of course, leopards also prefer carrying any kill up into a tree so they can eat it at their leisure without worrying about hyenas or lions stealing it away.
Although cheetahs can climb trees and are frequently seen perched on fallen trees or termite mounds while hunting, they are not as at ease in trees as leopards and are unable to hoist a kill into a tree.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: HUNTING BEHAVIOR
Leopards are nocturnal cats; they typically hunt more frequently and are more active at night. To detect movement and shape in the dark, they have a lot of light-sensitive cells in their eyes, along with large pupils that maximize light absorption.
Cheetahs hunt primarily during the day because they are diurnal animals. This being said, leopards occasionally hunt during the day if the opportunity arises, and cheetahs are frequently spotted hunting by the light of a full moon.
Leopards are predators that stalk prey before pounce. They spend a lot of time lying low to the ground, stalking their prey until they are close enough to leap on it and kill it by using surprise. High-speed cheetahs swipe at their prey’s hind legs to trip them rather than leaping on them to bring them to the ground.
Cheetahs typically drag their prey across land to a place that is isolated or has some cover after they have made a kill. They consume food quickly because they lack the strength to fend off stronger predators like lions and hyenas who might try to steal their kill. Instead, leopards use their powerful bodies to pull their prey up a tree and along the ground so they can eat it at their leisure, safe from other predators.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: LIFE CYCLE
As opposed to leopards, which can live up to 12–17 years, cheetahs typically live up to 8–10 years in the wild. Unlike leopards, which mate year-round, cheetahs usually only breed during the dry season. Compared to female cheetahs, female leopards’ gestation periods range from 90 to 105 days. Compared to leopard cubs, the survival rate of cheetah cubs is lower. Cheetah cubs are more vulnerable to wildlife predictors because their mothers may leave them alone for a long time while they go food hunting. In contrast to leopards, who give birth to litters of only two to three cubs at a time, cheetahs typically have litters of four to six cubs.
- CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: WHICH IS MORE DANGEROUS?
We can conclude that between the cheetah and Leopard, the leopard is significantly more dangerous after examining hunting behavior and evolutionary standards. Because they are too fragile, cheetahs rarely attack people unless they are provoked. Although they move at about half the speed of cheetahs—about 40 MPH—leopards are much more agile and powerful than cheetahs. Leopards lift impalas and antelopes, which can weigh up to 180 and 200 pounds, up trees so they can eat at their convenience.
Additionally, they hunt dangerous prey like wildebeests and crocodiles. Cheetahs, however, only pursue smaller, faster prey. Their hunting strategy is therefore more focused on speed. Sometimes, risky prey like ostriches or zebras are taken on by cheetahs, but this only occurs when they are in a group, which is uncommon.
As you can see, despite having similar appearances to the untrained eye, cheetahs and leopards are in fact very different creatures with distinctive physical and behavioral traits.
CHEETAH VS. LEOPARD: FAQs
Which is stronger, a cheetah or a leopard? Despite being the smaller of the two cats, leopards are heavier, more powerful, and stronger than cheetahs.
Can a cheetah kill a leopard? A cheetah could kill and devour a leopard cub, but in a fight between two similar animals, such as a female leopard and a female cheetah or a male leopard and a male cheetah, the leopard would always prevail due to their superior size and strength.
Can a cheetah and a leopard mate? Whether cheetahs and leopards could breed and have offspring is a topic of some interest. Although some sources claim cheetahs and leopards are genetically similar enough to produce hybrid animals, it is unknown whether this has ever actually occurred.
BRIEF LEOPARD OVERVIEW
- Group name: Leap.
- Size: 1 meter high, weighing up to 100 kg.
- Speed: 56 km per hour.
- Diet: As opportunistic carnivores, leopards consume a variety of prey, including jackals, antelopes, gazelles, monkeys, duikers, elands, impala, wildebeest, and more.
- Range and Habitat: Leopards have a wider range than any other big cat and can live in a variety of habitats, including deserts, swamps, grassland savannas, mountains, rainforests, and woodlands. One of the few big game species that can be found outside of national parks is the leopard.
- The best locations to see leopards are in South Africa’s Londolozi Game Reserve, Botswana’s Moremi Game Reserve, Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve, Maasai Mara national reserve, Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park and Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park.
BRIEF CHEETAH OVERVIEW
- Group name: Coalition
- Size: 0.9 meters, weighing up to 72kg.
- Speed: The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal, reaching top speeds of more than 92 kilometers per hour.
- Diet: Hares, impalas, wildebeest calves, and gazelles are among the small and medium-sized mammals that cheetahs hunt either individually or in small family groups.
- Range and Habitat: Cheetahs are primarily restricted to very small, fragmented habitats in savannahs, dry and scrub forests, and grasslands. However, they are also found in Iran and Afghanistan.
- Etosha National Park in Namibia, Kruger National Park in South Africa, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and Masai Mara National Reserve in Kenya are the best places to see cheetahs.