How Do Leopards Hunt?
The quick answer is with relative ease. The leopard is the smallest of the four “Big Cats.” Their typical size is approximately 6.5 ft in length and they carry a weight of approximately 65-115 lbs. Despite this seemingly “small” frame, these cats carry some of the finest attributes for hunting in Tanzania.
Let’s first consider the typical leopard hunt. Leopards are basically opportunistic hunters, meaning they’ll devour almost anything with flesh on it. Granted, they prefer medium sized antelopes like impalas, but they’ll feast on fish, birds, wild pigs, amphibians, reptiles, monkeys and rodents. We’ll assume the leopard’s target is its favorite dish…impala. When it sights its target, the leopard slowly and stealthily stalks forward. The animal’s head is low and its legs are bent. The leopard is a master at camouflage and always tries to make clever use of cover.
The leopard can either stalk its prey over long distances, or, it can patiently wait in an ambush type position if it knows its prey is moving closer. At about 32 feet, the cat attacks. It dashes forward and uses its piercing and hooked claws to render its prey almost useless. The final deadly blow comes from the cat’s sharp and strong teeth. These teeth bite directly at the nape of the prey’s neck or at the throat. The final bite typically signals the end of the hunt.
What about smaller prey? The leopard is a strong cat. Smaller prey, such as mice, rats and birds, rarely stand a chance. A single swipe of a leopard’s paw will cause death to the cat’s smaller prey almost immediately.
Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about the leopard is that it will carry its catch up into a tree for the final feast. This is especially true if many scavengers abound. Leopards have been known to carry carcasses weighing more than 110 lbs up vertical tree trunks. The carcass is typically wedged among branches for support.
One source has described the leopard as a cat “built like a middle weight boxer.” This is a description right on point. Leopards are crazy strong for their size. They are powerful. They are agile. They are fast. They can swim. They can climb down trees head first. They also possess extremely acute hearing and eyesight.
Watch a video filmed by Smithsonian how leopard hunts baboons in the dark.
In addition, leopards have legendary abilities when it comes to camouflage and stealth. They are also solitary and elusive creatures. Leopards can easily live within a very close proximity to humans without a single detection.
If you combine all of these attributes, you basically end up with a cat that knows how to hunt. Let’s go back to our initial question. How does a leopard hunt? Basically anyway that it deems fit, provided you and I are safe at bay.