Leopard vs. Cheetah

Leopard vs. Cheetah

Leopard and cheetah are types of wild cats that can be found in the sub-Saharan Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula and in the parts of southern Asia. Cheetah inhabits semi-deserts, savannas, prairies, steppes and thick scrubland, while leopard resides in rainforests, woodlands and grasslands. Despite their carnivorous nature and ability to survive in various habitats, number of both leopard and cheetah is decreasing in the wild. Cheetah is classified as vulnerable due to intense predation and diseases which eliminate large number of young animals each year. Habitat destruction, on the other hand, represents the greatest threat for the survival of leopards in the wild (leopard is classified as near threatened). Here are several features that can facilitate identification of leopard and cheetah:

Shape of the Body

Leopard is larger than cheetah. It has strong, stocky body, large head and broad face. Leopard has shorter legs and tail compared with cheetah. Unlike leopard, cheetah has slender body, deep chest, narrow waist and long legs. Cheetah is lighter, but slightly taller than leopard. It has small head and round face with black lines that stretch from the inner corners of the eyes to the mouth.

Color of the Fur

Leopard has yellow fur covered with circular or square-shaped black rosettes (rose-shaped markings with black dots on the periphery and dark brown fur in the center). Cheetah has tan fur covered with solid, oval black dots on the back and sides. Bottom side of its body is covered with white fur without dots.


Leopard has retractable claws (they can be hidden inside the paws), while cheetah has non-retractable claws (they are exposed all the time).

Life Style

Leopard is active during the night, while cheetah is active during the day. Leopard is solitary creature, while cheetah often hunts in small groups (made of 2 to 3 animals).

Strength and Speed

Leopard has very strong jaws and large teeth that can easily crush thick bones of ungulates, monkeys, large reptiles and birds. It can reach the speed of 36 miles per hour when it hunts. Cheetah has smaller and less strong teeth compared with leopard, but it can easily accelerate to the speed of 75 miles per hour to catch gazelle or impala, its favorite type of food.

Consumption of Food

Leopard carries and eats its prey high in the trees, where it is safe from other hungry carnivores. Cheetah usually consumes its prey in the tall grass.


Cheetah can purr and growl, but unlike leopard, it cannot roar. That's why it is not included in the group of "big cats" (aside from leopard, jaguar, lion, tiger and snow leopard are classified as "big cats").

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