Leopards are fierce and formidable predators as they stalk across the African grasslands. But as babies, they may be the most adorable fuzzballs ever to be found wandering around the African savanna.
Leopards typically live in grasslands, tropical rainforests, and mountainous regions. A member of the genus Panthera, they are native to sub-Sarahan Africa and southern Asia.
Leopard babies, called cubs, are completely helpless when born. They rely entirely on their mothers for food and protection. There is a lot to learn about this adorable baby predator. Read on for eight fascinating facts about baby leopards!
#1 Baby Leopards Are Born Without Spots
Leopards are known for their distinctive spots. Leopard means “spotted lion.” The word is derived from two Greek words, “leon” (lion) and “pardos” (spotted). The distinct rose-shaped markings are called rosettes. The dark spots are easily seen against the leopard’s light-colored fur. Even black leopards have spots, although their dark spots are harder to distinguish against their black fur.
Newborn leopard cubs are born entirely without spots. Instead, they have soft and fluffy grey coats. They won’t start developing the characteristic leopard markings until they are around ten days old.
#2 All Leopard Cubs Are Born With Blue Eyes
The babies are born blind, with closed eyes. When the cubs open their eyes after a few days, they are a brilliant blue color. Similar to other cat species, their eyes change to yellow after they are a few months old.
#3 Leopard Moms Hide Their Cubs in Secret Lairs
Leopard babies are born defenseless. Their mothers keep them safe from predators by hiding them away in dens for their first eight weeks.
The mother leopard will move her babies every few days to keep predators from tracking the little cubs. Baby leopards are in danger from predators such as snakes, hyenas, and lions.
#4 Newborn Baby Leopards Are Tiny
Leopard cubs are only 17 to 21 ounces at birth. You could fit a newborn baby leopard in the palm of your hand. Although leopards grow to be much larger than housecats, they are the smallest members of the large cats.
Leopards can weigh anywhere from 66 to 198 pounds. Their weight varies based on their species, with the males typically weighing more than the females.
#5 Baby Leopards Practice Their Stalking Skills on Each Other
One of the most essential skills a leopard cub can learn is how to hunt. When the babies are around 12 weeks of age, the mother will begin taking her offspring on hunts with her.
Leopards are excellent at stealthy hunting. Oftentimes, their prey doesn’t know they are being stalked until it is too late. To be successful hunters, the little cubs must learn how to be very quiet and still when stalking their prey. They practice this skill by sneaking up and pouncing on each other. The babies can also be seen trying to stalk waving grass, twigs, or blowing leaves.
#6 Baby Leopards Have a Strong Sense of Smell
Leopards have a keen sense of smell, which is part of the reason they are such frightening predators. Although the little cubs are born blind and helpless, they are born with this strong sense of smell.
The babies’ sense of smell is critical to their survival because it helps them know when their mother is nearby. If the mother is out of the den on a hunt, the cubs must stay quiet to avoid attracting predators.
#7 Baby Leopards Sometimes Stay With Their Mothers for up to 4 Years
Baby leopards begin eating meat around eight weeks old, and can hunt small game by the time they are 18 months old. But it won’t be until they are two years old that they become the strong and stealthy predator their mother is. This is why leopard young tend to stay with their mothers for around two years.
However, in some cases, the young ones will stay with their mother longer, up to four years. And even after they’ve found their own territory and are living on their own, sometimes young leopards will continue to occasionally pay their moms a visit. At least until she is caring for a new litter of cubs.
#8 If You See a Group of Leopards, It’s Likely a Mother With Her Cubs
If you see a group of leopards wandering the savanna together, it is probably going to be a mother raising her babies. Since the babies tend to stay with their mothers for two years or more, it may be hard to tell the cubs apart from their moms. When leopards aren’t in a family unit, they never live in groups, preferring a solitary life.
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