Smallest of the ‘Big Cat’ family, Cheetahs are often mistaken for Leopards, but Cheetahs have round, solid black spots and black ‘tear’ tracks from the corner of their eyes to the top of their mouths, on either side of their noses. This helps deflect the sun from their eyes as they hunt during the day. Exceptional eyesight allows the Cheetah to see its prey 3 miles away! Lanky and built for speed; they are the fastest land mammals on earth. Cheetahs cannot roar. Instead, they purr, and chirp, churr, yowl – and growl. Non-retractable claws and rubber-like paw pads prevent the Cheetah from climbing trees but provide excellent traction for quick turns during high-speed chases. Ancient Egyptians once kept Cheetahs as pets and hunting partners, though they are now considered an endangered species.
Leopards have brown/black blotches that some describe as ‘roses’ or ‘wings.' These blotches offer optimal camouflage and allow the leopard to easily sneak up on his prey. Occasionally, the Leopard’s dark blotches are so numerous as to appear one solid color and he is mistaken for a Black Panther. Though not as fast as the Cheetah, the Leopard is much more powerful and can drag his lunch all the way up a tree and stash it there for later enjoyment. Though Leopards do indeed roar, they usually bark when they have something to say. Some folks believe the bones and whiskers of the Leopard can heal sick people, which may have contributed to their dwindling number. They can be found in many environments, including wetlands, rainforests, deserts, and coastal scrubs.
Could you tell them apart (without reading the sign at the zoo)?