Find out everything there is to know about Snow Leopards with our ultimate guide. From their habitat, diet, appearance and more!
Adult snow leopards can reach a length of 7 feet (2.1 metres) including the tail which is 3 feet long (0.9 metres). They stand around 2 feet tall at shoulder height and can weigh anywhere between 30-60kg, with males often being bigger than females.
Although they are the 5th largest cat species they the smallest of the 5 big cats. They are a small, stocky cat species with long fur fur and pale grey or green eyes. This long fur ranges in colour from white on the belly to pale grey across the rest of the body, with black spots on the head and neck and larger rosettes on the back. Despite the small stature the snow leopard has a long tail. Infact, snow leopards have the longest tail in proportion to body size of any cat species, it is nearly as long again as their body length.
The head of the snow leopard is domed with a short muzzle on the face and large nasal cavities.The muzzle is shorter than that of most cat species and has large wide nasal cavaties that warms the air before reaching its lungs. They also have short ears to reduce heat loss and thick dense fur to keep them warm.
The thick fur of the snow leopard, complete with the darker colouring, dark spots and rosettes, allows the animal to camouflage itself within its surroundings which are often rocky mountainous landscapes. In fact, the snow leopard is so good at camouflaging itself that it’s gained the nickname of the ‘Ghost of the Mountain’!
The snow leopard is categorised as ‘Vulnerable’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Snow leopards are an obligate carnivore (meaning that their diet consists of at least 70% meat) and can hunt animals up to three times its own weight the common diet of the snow leopard consists of a range of species including: blue sheep, ibex, marmots, deer, pikas and other small mammals.
Most snow leopards live within cold rocky mountain landscapes. The long fur of this big cat allows it to withstand the low temperatures and the pattern of its fur helps it to blend in. Alongside this, they have short ears that reduce heat loss and short but strong front limbs and longer hind limbs that help them leap through the air. They have the longest tail, size for size of any cat species which can be used for aiding in balance on rocky ledges as well as like a rudder while they are jumping through the air. They even use their tail like a scarf to wrap around their face to help keep warm.
The snow leopard is a member of the Felidea family. The scientific name is Panthera Uncia
They often live in high alpine areas, sometimes as high as 18,000 feet in elevation and often above the tree line. At this elevation the climate is cold and dry.
Snow leopards can reach speeds of up to 55mph for short distances, but will often run at between 35 – 40 miles per hour (but only in short bursts as it is an ambush predator).
They are fantastic jumpers and can leap up to 50 feet down cliffs and have been recorded jumping 30 feet from a standing position.
Snow leopards can be found around mountain ranges across northern and central Asia, including the Himalayan region. They are found in 12 different countries including Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, China, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Although we don’t know for sure, it’s estimated that there are between 4,000 – 6,500 left in the world.
The snow leopard doesn’t have any natural predators. However, human activity resulting in a smaller habitat and hunting of their main prey species has led to a decline in numbers for this species.
To support this species and our conservation efforts you can adopt a snow leopard for yourself or as a gift for friends or family! Or you can visit the Paradise Wildlife Park animals in person by booking one of our big cat experiences.