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

The leopard (Panthera pardus) has a beautiful rosette patterned coat and is the most widespread of all the big cats. The leopard occurs across both Africa and Asia, however in just a few decades has lost more than 30% of its range. Although leopards are adaptable and occupy diverse habitats at all altitudes, they are becoming critically endangered in parts of their range that are under extreme anthropological pressure.

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)

Key Facts Leopards

~ Most widespread of the big cats ~

~ Melanism (black coat) common ~

~ Diverse habitats ~

Leopard (Panthera pardus) Classification

Leopards belong to the big cat genus Panthera and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the leopard species is:

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)


Panthera pardus delacouri

Panthera pardus fusca

Panthera pardus kotiya

Panthera pardus melas

Panthera pardus nimr

Panthera pardus orientalis

Panthera pardus pardus

Panthera pardus tulliana

The scientific name for leopard is Panthera pardus which 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).

Leopard (Panthera pardus) Subspecies

Leopard Lower Classifications

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

  • Panthera pardus pardus - African Leopard
  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabian leopard (CR Critically Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus saxicolor - Persian leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus melas - Javan leopard (CR Critically Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lankan leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus fusca - Indian leopard
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - Indochinese leopard
  • Panthera pardus japonensis - North Chinese leopard (EN Endangered)
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Amur leopard (CR Critically Endangered)

As per the last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 the following eight leopard subspecies (or leopard lower classifications) were proposed:

  • Panthera pardus pardus - Africa
  • Panthera pardus tulliana - South West Asia
  • Panthera pardus fusca - India
  • Panthera pardus kotiya - Sri Lanka
  • Panthera pardus delacouri - South East Asia
  • Panthera pardus orientalis - Eastern Asia
  • Panthera pardus melas - Java
  • Panthera pardus nimr - Arabia

Leopard Conservation

The global conservation status for leopards is Vulnerable (VU) with the populations in the Mediterranean region rated as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List. Six leopard subspecies have a more severe threatened status as per the subspecies assessments conducted in 2008.

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

Panthera - Project Pardus - Global

African Wildlife Foundation - African Leopard

Cape Leopard Trust - South Africa

World Wildlife Fund WWF - Amur Leopard

Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)

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



African leopard walking down a sand dune

Male African leopard stretching

Leopard Facts and Information

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


2019 Big Cat Documentary:

Preview The Secret Lives of Big Cats filmed using high tech starlight and thermal imaging night cameras to capture previously unrecorded behavior. The series includes seven episodes on the secret lives of Lions, Tigers, Jaguars, Leopards, Snow Leopards, Pumas and Cheetahs. Produced by CuriosityStream.

Trips to see Leopards

The following organizations offer tours to Africa or Asia where you are likely to see wild Leopards in their natural habitat. These companies offer small group experiences, support conservation projects, and indicate their trips are environmentally and ethically responsible:

Leopard Safaris - Africa

Leopard Safaris - Asia

Always bear in mind that sightings of any particular animal in its natural environment are not guaranteed and the experience of guides will greatly enhance your success.

Tours to see Leopards in Africa

Leopard Art Prints by Barbara Keith

Images copyright Barbara Keith

Leoaprd Art - Felicitous by Barbara Keith
Leopard Print - Felicitous by Barbara Keith
Leopard Art - Shadow Hunter by Barbara Keith
Leopard Print - Shadow Hunter by Barbara Keith
Leopard Art - Potency by Barbara Keith
Leopard Print - Potency by Barbara Keith