Not many people know this, but there are several subspecies of leopards. These leopards are located in various parts of the world and have their own individual traits that set them apart from other leopards. In this article, we will be focusing on the Indian leopard in comparison to the African Leopard.
Different Types of Leopards
There are many different subspecies of leopards (Panthera pardus). These are:
- African Leopard (Panthera pardus pardus)
- Indian Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca)
- Indochinese Leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri)
- North-Chinese Leopard (Panthera pardus japonensis)
- Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)
- Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)
- Javan Leopard (Panthera pardus melas)
- Persian Leopard (Panthera pardus ciscaucasica)
- Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)
Each one of these leopards varies in size, weight, habitat, among many other things. However, studies suggest that no two subspecies are probably as different from one another as the Indian leopard is vs. the African leopard.
The Indian leopard or Panthera pardus fusca is a subspecies of leopard that is resident to the Indian subcontinent specifically in India, Bhutan, Nepal, and some areas of Pakistan.
These leopards are widely known to have higher populations of man-eaters, often being hunted down in persecutory attacks for hunting down humans near settlements.
On the other hand, the African leopard, Panthera pardus pardus, is a subspecies of leopard that is a local of the African continent.
These leopards are much larger and stronger than other leopard subspecies placing them just at the top of the food chain. They are also the subspecies with the greatest population.
These leopards are said to have varying coats that depend on their location. These unique coats are one of the reasons why these leopards are great trophies for sport hunting.
Differences between Indian Leopard and African Leopard
While they are both leopards, the Indian leopard and African leopard have many differences that go as deep as the genetic levels. Studies have shown that African leopards and Indian leopards vary so much genetically that they may almost be considered different species.
Other more observable differences between the two species include the following:
The Indian leopard is smaller than the African leopard. Male Indian leopards usually come up at around 50kg to 77kg (or around 110lb to 170lb) in weight. On the other hand, female Indian leopards only weigh 29kg to 34kg (or around 64lb to 75lb).
African leopards have much larger builds with males weighing in at 60kg to 91kg (or 130lb to 201lb). Females of the same species weigh around 35kg to 40kg (or around 77lb to 88lb).
The reason why Indian leopards are considerably smaller is that larger ones are not allowed to thrive in the wild due to competition. Large Indian leopards are often killed off by tigers in order to eliminate threats to the latter’s food sources.
The Indian leopards are noted to have darker, more prominent spots on their coats which allows them to blend into their forested habitat better. Because of their predisposition to darker pigments, these leopards have a greater tendency to exhibit melanistic coats (black panthers).
The African leopards’ coats vary depending on their environment. Overall, they have a lighter coat in order to better match dry, African woodland habitats. They also have smaller spots that appear to be greater in number in comparison to the Indian leopards’.
The Indian leopard is found in the Indian subcontinent. They are said to reside in various types of forests from tropical rainforests, temperate forests, to arid regions with coniferous forests, deciduous forests, and even mangroves of Bengal. Occasionally, they are also found in the alpine regions of the Himalayas.
From the name, the African leopard is widespread in various habitats in sub-Saharan and North Africa. They reside in places such as grasslands, savannahs, and mountainous forests. At times, they may be even seen in rainforests.
Indian leopards prefer smaller prey in order to avoid competition with larger predators in their area. Its prey includes but is not limited to peafowl, wild boar, common langur, Indian hare, axis deer, nilgai, and sambar deer.
Due to their proximity to human settlements, Indian leopards can also develop man-eating tendencies and hunt women and small children.
African leopards, on the other hand, have over 92 prey species documented. These prey include large ungulates, medium-sized ungulates, antelopes, gazelles, rodents, hyraxes, beetles, hares, and many more.
As of 2020, the current population of Indian leopards in a known tiger range landscape reached numbers of 12,172 to 13,535. They are currently listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List because of their dwindling numbers.
As for African leopards, they are currently much larger in number with a whopping 700,000 population. However, due to the rapid decrease potentially brought on by poaching, they are placed in the Near Threatened to Vulnerable status by the IUCN Red List.
Humans are the greatest threat to both of the leopard subspecies’ existence.
Indian leopards’ and African leopards’ populations continue to diminish due to habitat loss brought on by rapid urbanization in their areas. This also brings them to proximity to human settlements and can lead to conflict and retaliatory attacks between the leopard and the humans for livestock and prey.
They are both also victims of illegal trophy hunting for their skins and various body parts adding to their already shrinking numbers.
They may both also be at risk of being killed off by larger predators such as the tiger (Indian leopard) and the lion (African leopard) due to competition over shared territories and prey.
Similarities between Indian Leopard and African Leopard
Despite their vast differences in physical and genetic aspects, the Indian and African leopards still hold many similarities in behavior.
For one, they are both solitary creatures who only interact with other leopards during mating season.
They are also very well-known to be nocturnal creatures often opting to hunt between the hours of sunset and sunrise to avoid competition from day hunters and allow for the element of surprise for unsuspecting prey.
While these leopards technically belong under the same species and have an established mixing and interbreeding of subspecies, it is amazing how much these two vary.
The difference does not lie only in where they are located in the world, but in various aspects of their physical and genetic characteristics.
These two leopards offer us a rare peek over so many surprises that a seemingly well-known animal can offer us in this vast animal kingdom.