I'm taking a break from helping my boyfriend pack in order to write about Leopards. Boyfriend is moving East for a job, and it sucks, but it's the right career move for him and we're going to try the long distance thing.

The Leopard (Panthera pardus) is the smallest member of the "big cat" Panthera group (the others being the jaguar, lion and tiger). They have a wide range, and can be found in Africa and parts of Asia, but due to being hunted for fur and "pest control," as well as loss of habitat, its populations are declining and it is considered to be Near Threatened. The Leopard has already been extirpated from Tunisia, Kuwait, the Syrian Arab Republic, Lybia, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Leopards have spotted coats, like many other kinds of wild felids, but there is a lot of variation in coat color and rosette patterns. Coat variations vary depending on the type of habitat - for example, the rosettes on Leopards in southern Africa and Asia have more of a square shape, while the rosettes on Leopards in eastern Africa are more circular. The largest Leopards can grow up to 65 inches (165 cm) in body length, with a 43-inch tail (110 cm). Males can weigh up to 200 pounds (91 Kg), while females are about 30% smaller at 130 pounds (60 Kg).

There are currently nine recognized subspecies of Leopard:

  • Panthera pardus pardus (Sub-Saharan Africa)
  • Panthera pardus fusca (India)
  • Panthera pardus melas (Indonesia, Java)
  • Panthera pardus nimr (Arabian Peninsula)
  • Panthera pardus orientalis (Northeast China, Korean Peninsula, Eastern Russia)
  • Panthera pardus japonensis (Northern China)
  • Panthera pardus saxicolor (Iran, Caucasus, Turkmenistan)
  • Panthera pardus delacouri (Southeast Asia)
  • Panthera pardus kotiya (Sri Lanka)

Leopards are solitary, nocturnal animals. The bulk of research that has been done on Leopards deals with the cats that live in the open savannah, but in general their activity level depends on their terrain and the type of prey they are hunting. Leopards are excellent climbers, and will drag the heavy carcasses of their kills into the trees to prevent other, larger predators from taking it. They are also amazing jumpers - they can leap three meters (9.8 feet) straight up into the air, and they can make 6 meter leaps (20 feet) horizontally.

The mating season of Leopards depends on where they live. In some places, it may be year-round. In others, only a few months out of the year. Female Leopards will give birth to a litter of two to four cubs after a gestation period of 90 to 105 days. The mortality rate of cubs in their first year can be up to 50%. Male Leopards are not at all involved in raising cubs. At three months, the cubs will begin to accompany their mother on hunts. By the time they reach one year, they can hunt for themselves, but will stay with their mother until they are two years old.

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