Leptailurus – Serval

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

Native to Africa, particularly sub-Saharan regions, servals inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including savannahs, grasslands, and wetlands, where their specialized adaptations give them a significant advantage in hunting and survival.

Servals are medium-sized cats with slender bodies, weighing between 20 to 40 pounds (9 to 18 kilograms), and standing up to 24 inches (60 centimeters) at the shoulder. Their most striking features include a buff to golden-yellow coat adorned with black stripes and spots, a pattern that is unique to each individual, much like human fingerprints.

Another notable feature of the serval is its disproportionately large ears set on a small head, which are a distinctive physical trait and serve a critical function in their survival strategy. These oversized ears are highly sensitive to sound, enabling servals to detect the movements of prey hiding in the grasses or underground. Coupled with their long neck and legs, which elevate their height to see over savanna grasses, servals are adept at scanning their environment for potential threats and opportunities.

Servals exhibit remarkable hunting skills, utilizing both sight and sound to track down various prey. Their diet primarily consists of live rats, frogs, small birds, reptiles, and insects, reflecting their opportunistic feeding behavior. Servals employ a distinctive hunting technique, pouncing onto their prey with their forefeet and delivering a fatal blow by biting the neck or head. This method is highly effective, granting them one of the highest success rates among felines in capturing prey.

Servals are unique among felines for their flexibility in activity patterns, being active day and night. This adaptability allows them to exploit different prey species and avoid competition with larger predators. Their activity levels are influenced by environmental factors, such as temperature and prey availability, showcasing their ability to adjust behaviorally to changing conditions in their habitats.