Serval

Owners of the longest legs-for-body-size of all Cats are widespread in sub-Saharan savannahs

MLBergan

The serval is a medium-sized and slender cat with a buff to golden-yellow pelage with black stripes and spots. The marking pattern of each individual is unique. They also have a small head, large ears, and a short, black-tipped tail. Their long neck and legs helped them to see over savanna grasses. The oversized ears also allowed them to track their prey by sound.

They are active day and night and prey on vlei rats, frogs, small birds, reptiles, and insects. They hunt their prey down by leaping onto the prey on their forefeet and performing a killing blow by biting on the neck or the head.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Algeria
2014
Possibly Extinct
Angola
2014
Benin
2014
Botswana
2014
Burkina Faso
2014
Burundi
2014
Cameroon
2014
Central Af. Rep.
2014
Chad
2014
Congo-Brazzaville
2014
Côte D’ivoire
2014
DR Congo (Kinshasa)
2014
Djibouti
2014
Eritrea
2014
Eswatini
2014
Ethiopia
2014
Gabon
2014
Gambia
2014
Ghana
2014
Guinea-Bissau
2014
Guinea
2014
Kenya
2014
Lesotho
2014
Presence Uncertain
Liberia
2014
Malawi
2014
Mali
2014
Morocco
2014
Presence Uncertain
Mozambique
2014
Namibia
2014
Niger
2014
Nigeria
2014
Rwanda
2014
Senegal
2014
Sierra Leone
2014
Somalia
2014
South Africa
2014
Sudan
2014
Tanzania
2014
Togo
2014
Tunisia
2014
Reintroduced
Uganda
2014
Zambia
2014
Zimbabwe
2014

Did you know?

  • Serval is among the top and most successful hunters on the African continent, with a 50% kill rate.
  • They are known by the nickname “giraffe cats” because of their exceptionally long neck and legs. Their lengthy forelimbs are used to reach inside burrows or snare fish out of the water.
  • Servals share common ancestry with the African Golden Cat, diverging approximately 5.4 million years ago.
  •  Serval is widely recorded from most major African national parks and reserves, except for North Africa and the Sahel. 
  • Servals are specialist rodent hunters who may be advantageous to crop growers throughout rural Africa.
  • For the exotic pet trade, the serval is bred with a domestic cat to create the savanna cat, a serval hybrid that is not a good pet.
  • Wetland habitat loss and degradation pose the greatest threat to the serval. Wetlands have higher rodent numbers than other habitat types and serve as the core of Serval home ranges.
  • Serval has very precise ecological requirements; therefore, it may be restricted to smaller places within its extensive distribution range. It is not found in rainforests or desert-like habitats. 

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No