Classification

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

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Pantherinae (big cats)

Genus: Panthera (big cats)

Species: Panthera uncia (Snow Leopard)

Subspecies (to be confirmed):

P.u. irbis

P.u. uncia

P.u. uncioides

Note: The scientific name for the Snow Leopard species, Panthera uncia, 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 Snow Leopard classification chart shows where the Snow Leopard fits into the Felidae family and in particular the Panthera genus.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) Classification Chart
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.
Credit: www.WildCatFamily.com.
Snow Leopard Subspecies
From Janecka et al. 2017: Range-wide genetic structure analysis of snow leopards (n = 70) using genotype data from 33 microsatellites. (a) Three subspecies (Panthera uncia uncia, Panthera uncia uncioides, and Panthera uncia irbis) identified across different regions of the snow leopard range (NQ, northern Qinghai; SQ, southern Qinghai; HIM, Himalayas–Bhutan, Nepal, Tibet; IP, India and Pakistan; TK, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; WM, western Mongolia; SM, southern Mongolia).

Subspecies (Lower Classifications)

The last Felidae taxonomy revision in 2017 classified the Snow Leopard as a monotypic species (no subspecies) pending further genetic studies.  In the same year a study published by Janecka et.al. proposed three subspecies based on a comprehensive genetic assessment:

  • Panthera uncia irbis (Northern group - Mongolia)
  • Panthera uncia uncia (Western group - Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, northwestern India)
  • Panthera uncia uncioides (Central group - Nepal, Bhutan, China)

Jan E. Janecka et al. Range-Wide Snow Leopard Phylogeography Supports Three Subspecies, Journal of Heredity, Volume 108, Issue 6, September 2017, Pages 597–607, https://doi.org/10.1093/jhered/esx044

The proposed taxonomy was disputed by Senn et al. 2018 and responded to by Janecka et al. 2018:

Senn, H., Murray-Dickson, G., Kitchener, A.C. et al. Response to Janecka et al. 2017. Heredity 120, 581–585 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41437-017-0015-4

Janecka, J.E., Janecka, M.J., Helgen, K.M. et al. The validity of three snow leopard subspecies: response to Senn et al.. Heredity 120, 586–590 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41437-018-0052-7

Science articles about the Janecka et al. 2017 three subspecies paper:


Prior subspecies of Snow Leopard (previously Uncia uncia) that have been proposed include:

  • Uncia uncia uncia - Mongolia and Russia
  • Uncia uncia uncioides - Western China and Himalayas

 

Research

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

View more articles on Panthera uncia 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.

Conservation

The beautiful smokey grey Snow Leopard occurs in the high snowy mountains of Central Asia. Known as the 'ghost of the mountains' this elusive wild cat is difficult to study in its rugged terrain, and numbers are estimated between 4000 and 6500.

In 2017 the global conservation status of Snow Leopards was changed from Endangered to Vulnerable, primarily as estimates exceeded the Endangered threshold of 2500 mature adults. The populations appear to have stabilized yet there are still many threats across its vast range.

The following organizations are all fighting to conserve our mysterious Snow Leopards, increasingly threatened due to loss of prey base, persecution and illegal trade:

Snow Leopard Trust

Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow Leopard Program - Panthera

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 Snow Leopard has one of the longest tails of all cats, used for balance when hunting and wrapped around the cat for warmth when sleeping. They have an unusual eye color of grey to green compared to most wild cats that have yellow to gold eyes.

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

Key Facts about Snow Leopards

~ One of the longest tails of all cats ~

~ Grey to green eyes ~

~ Inhabits snowy mountains ~

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