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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Leopard – Elegant, Strongly Built Creature

A Leopard may be smaller than a Tiger, Lion, and Jaguar, but it is no less fatal as a predator. This elegant, strongly built creature, with a long body, relatively short legs and a large skull, is capable of killing prey larger than itself. The overall size of a Leopard depends greatly on the subspecies and location, with the largest animals growing to a length of nearly 5 feet with an extra tail length of about 3 feet. The male is in general 20 to 40% larger than the female.

The glossy yellow coat of the Leopard is closely dotted with black spots. On the head and limbs the spots are spread at random, but those on the sides form clusters of rosettes (resembling the shape of a rose). As the disposition of the rose differs, no two coats are alike. Black Leopards, which appear to be almost solid in color because their spots are hard to distinguish, are commonly called Black Panthers. Leopards keep their stunning coats glossy by regularly grooming with the tongue.

Leopards like most other cats, are solitary creatures except in the mating season when they form pairs. Female Leopards can give birth any time of the year. About 2 to 3 cubs with hardly visible spots are born after a 3 month pregnancy. When they are big enough, they begin to pursue the mother out on hunting expeditions. Cubs remain with their mother for about 2 years.

Leopards live throughout much of Asia and Africa, not only in intense tropical forest but also in more open wooded country. Their aptitude to both warm and cold climates has helped them survive due to the loss of habitat caused by increasing human settlement. Unfortunately, Leopards have long been preyed upon by man. Their soft, stunning fur has been used for clothing and the tail, claws and whiskers of the Leopards are popular as fetishes. In some regions farmers try to eliminate them, whereas in other regions Leopards are considered symbols of wisdom.

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