Leopard (Panthera pardus)
African Leopard in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Image by Patrick Giraud, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Panthera Lineage

1. Tiger (Panthera tigris)

2. Lion (Panthera leo)

3. Jaguar (Panthera onca)

4. Leopard (Panthera pardus)

5. Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)

6. Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

7. Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi)

Classification

In scientific classification (taxonomy) Leopards (Panthera pardus) belong to the big cat genus Panthera within the subfamily Pantherinae of the Felidae cat family.

The levels of classification for a Leopard are:

  • Kingdom: Animalia (animals)
  • Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)
  • Class: Mammalia (mammals)
    • Order: Carnivora (carnivores)
    • Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)
      • Family: Felidae (cats)
      • Subfamily: Pantherinae (big cats / pantherine)
        • Genus: Panthera (big cats)
        • Species: Panthera pardus (leopard)
        • Subspecies:
          • P.p. delacouri
          • P.p. fusca
          • P.p. kotiya
          • P.p. melas
          • P.p. nimr
          • P.p. orientalis
          • P.p. pardus
          • P.p. tulliana

Note: The scientific name for the Leopard species, Panthera pardus, is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name and zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Classification Chart

This Leopard classification chart shows where the Leopard fits into the Felidae family and in particular the Panthera genus.

Leopard (Panthera pardus) Classification Chart
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.
Credit: www.WildCatFamily.com.
Leopards of the World Print
Leopards of the World Print by Roger Hall
(taxonomy prior to 2017 revision)
Leopard Subspecies Map
Whitesachem, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Approximate distribution of subspecies of Panthera pardus (Leopard). Based on Jacobson AP, Gerngross P, Lemeris Jr. JR, Schoonover RF, Anco C, Breitenmoser-Würsten C, Durant SM, Farhadinia MS, Henschel P, Kamler JF, Laguardia A, Rostro-García S, Stein AB, Dollar L. (2016) Leopard (Panthera pardus) status, distribution, and the research efforts across its range. PeerJ 4:e1974 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.1974

Note: This is prior to the Felidae taxonomic revision of 2017.

Subspecies (Lower Classifications)

There are eight subspecies of Leopards as proposed by the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017:

  • African Leopard - Panthera pardus pardus - Africa
  • Arabian Leopard - Panthera pardus nimr - Arabia
  • Indian Leopard - Panthera pardus fusca - India
  • Sri Lankan Leopard - Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lanka
  • Javan Leopard - Panthera pardus melas - Java
  • Amur Leopard - Panthera pardus orientalis - Eastern Asia
  • IndoChinese Leopard - Panthera pardus delacouri - South East Asia
  • Persian Leopard - Panthera pardus tulliana - South West Asia

Historically up to nine Leopard subspecies (or lower classifications) were recognized based on genetic analysis, and a further two subspecies based on morphological analysis alone (not listed here):

  • African Leopard (P.p. pardus)
  • Arabian leopard (P.p. nimr)
  • Indian leopard (P.p. fusca)
  • Sri Lankan leopard (P.p. kotiya)
  • Javan leopard (P.p. melas)
  • Amur leopard (P.p. orientalis)
  • Indochinese leopard (P.p. delacouri)
  • North Chinese leopard (P.p. japonensis)
  • Persian leopard (P.p. saxicolor)

Research

Here is a list of papers published on Leopards. Click on the title bar to view the abstract and the link to the article.

View more articles on Panthera pardus in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database (scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list).

Consider joining the Friends of the Cat Specialist Group to access the full articles and receive their journal Cat News covering the latest wild cat research.

African leopard walking down a sand dune

Conservation

The global conservation status for Leopards is Vulnerable (VU) and populations are declining (2023).

Some Leopard subspecies have a more severe threatened status than the global status:

  • Arabian Leopard (P.p. nimr) - CR Critically Endangered 2008, 2023
  • Amur Leopard (P.p. orientalis) - CR Critically Endangered 2008
  • Indochinese Leopard (P.p. delacouri) - CR Critically Endangered 2019
  • Persian Leopard (P.p. saxicolor) - EN Endangered 2008, 2023
  • North Chinese Leopard (P.p. japonensis) - EN Endangered 2008
  • Javan Leopard (P.p. melas) - CR Critically Endangered 2008, EN Endangered 2021
  • Sri Lankan Leopard (P.p. kotiya) - EN Endangered 2008, VU Vulnerable 2020
  • Indian Leopard (P.p. fusca) - NT Near Threatened 2023

Note that the subspecies taxonomy used at the year of assessment is shown above.

An assessment of the populations in the Mediterranean region was rated as CR Critically Endangered 2010.

Leopards occur across both Africa and Asia, however in just a few decades they have lost more than 30% of their range. Although Leopards are adaptable and occupy diverse habitats at all altitudes, they are becoming critically endangered in areas that are under extreme pressure due to human expansion.

The following organizations are all fighting to conserve our beautiful leopards in the face of persecution, trophy hunting and habitat loss:

Panthera - Various Leopard Projects - Global

African Wildlife Foundation - African Leopard

Cape Leopard Trust - South Africa

World Wildlife Fund WWF - Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your contribution, every bit helps!

Facts and Information

The Leopard has a beautiful rosette patterned coat and is the most widespread of all the big cats.

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Leopards:

Key Facts Leopards

~ Most widespread of the big cats ~

~ Melanism (black coat) common ~

~ Diverse habitats ~

If you find this website useful, please consider a small contribution of $5 so I can continue to keep it updated. Thank you, Mandy 🙂