Genus & Species: Leptailurus serval
Listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
Widespread in Africa south of the Sahara.
Primarily found in wetter areas of the savannas with tall grass or swampland cover. A water source is usually close.
More active at night but also regularly hunts in the early and late hours of the day.
Males are larger than females. Head and body up to 39 inches long. Tail 12 to 18 inches. Weight up to 40 pounds.
Prey species are mostly rats and mice. Servals also eat small antelopes, birds as large as flamingos, reptiles, and frogs.
Large ears that swivel and long legs are the most distinguishing characteristics of this medium-sized cat. The back side of the ears is black with a bold white patch in the middle. The head is small, the neck long, and the canine teeth are sharp and slender. The fur ground color is tawny. Variable patterns of dark brown to black spots (over most of the body) and stripes (on the head and shoulders) mark the fur. Melanistic animals, which are black all over, are often found in nature. Melanistic animals are most common at higher elevations and in wetter areas.
Up to 5 offspring, but usually 2 to 3.
Gestation is 65 to 75 days.
Female feeds and protects the babies.
- Ecology, Adaptations, Etc:
The long legs have at least four important functions. The cats leap into the air and knock flying birds to the ground. They pounce through high grass and land on a mouse, rat, or small bird. Their long front legs reach into deep holes to pull out rodents or nesting birds. And, the long legs let the cats sprint after fast moving antelopes. Hearing is so acute in servals that they can hear mice chewing, even in their burrows. The ears swivel in the direction of any noise, making it easy to locate and focus in on their prey. Captured prey is quickly killed with a bite to the neck. Servals mark their territories by spraying urine on rocks or vegetation.
Servals are solitary except when courting or with babies.