Difference between Tiger and Leopard

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Tiger Vs Leopard:

Difference between a tiger and a leopard

There are many types of large cats found throughout the world. Two of which that are tigers and leopards. Each of these has distinguishing features to help identify them.

  1. Appearance and size

One of the most notable differences between a tiger and a leopard is going to be their size. Whereas the tiger is the largest cat species, the leopard is the smallest. Males typically weigh between 198 to 675 pounds while females are commonly between 143 to 368 pounds. Tigers are very muscular with large heads and long tails. Their coloring varies between different shades of orange and brown with white areas usually in a vertically striped pattern. Each tiger’s pattern is unique. They have heavier growth around the neck and jaws with long whiskers. One subspecies, the Bengal tiger, has a white pigmentation rather than the orange.

The leopard is the smallest species in the large cat family (genus Panthera). Males commonly weigh between 82 and 198 pounds and females are between 62 and 132 pounds. It usually has shorter legs and a longer body and would have a similar appearance to a jaguar. The leopard has rosettes which appear as spots. Their colouring is a pale yellow or a golden colour with the spots fading into a white underbelly. The spotted pattern is unique to each individual animal. When a leopard is melanistic, it is commonly referred to as a black panther.

  1. Subspecies

Both tigers and leopards have multiple subspecies. With tigers, there are 11 recognized ones with subtle variances, and several are now considered extinct. The Bengal tiger is the most widely recognized one as it is the heaviest subspecies currently alive. There is also the Indochinese tiger, Malayan tiger (which has only about 250 to 340 individuals alive as of 2014), the Siberian tiger (with only about 331-393 adult individuals), the Sumatran tiger (with between 400 and 500 individuals) and the South China tiger, which is considered critically endangered and even labeled ‘functionally extinct’ as the entire known population is held in captivity. There are 3 subspecies that went extinct in the 20th century, the Bali tiger, the Caspian tiger and the Javan tiger. Additionally, two subspecies, the Trinil tiger and the Japanese tiger, became extinct in prehistoric era.

Difference between a tiger and a leopard-1

At one point in time, there were up to 27 different leopard subspecies described, though modern analysis shows there are only 9 known subspecies currently. They are the African, Indian, Arabian, Persian, North Chinese, Amur, Indochinese, Javan, and Sri Lankan leopards. Analysis of skulls indicates that there may be two more subspecies, the Anatolian leopard and the Balochistan leopard.

  1. Territory

Tigers once roamed territory stretching across eastern Eurasia from the Black Sea on the west to the Indian Ocean on the south and from Kolyma and Sumatra in the east. This includes the modern-day countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, southern Russia, Syria, Turkey, eastern Ukraine, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Mongolia, North Korea, Siberia, South Korea, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Fossil records also indicate that they may have at one time also lived in Beringia, Japan, and part of the Philippines. However, over the last century, they have lost over 90% of the range of their natural habitat and they are currently mostly located in southern Asia, North Korea, Russian, Nepal and Russia.

Leopards are the most widely distributed of the large cat species, with populations in Africa, eastern and southern Asia, the Indian subcontinent and China. They tend to prefer savanna and rainforest areas, but can thrive in grasslands, woodlands and ravine forests as well.

  1. Diet

Tigers tend to hunt and feed on large or medium-sized animals such as the Sambar deer, chital, dogs, leopards, sloth bears, wild boar, water buffalo, and crocodile in the Indian region. In Siberia, they hunt wild boar, sika deer, moose, black and brown bears, and roe deer and musk deer. In the Caspian region, they may hunt saiga antelope, camels, yak, and wild horses. Though they prefer larger prey, they will eat small prey if its available, such as monkeys, birds, porcupines and hares. They tend to avoid larger mammals such as the rhinoceros and elephants, but if humans are nearby they will eat the domesticated livestock. Under certain circumstances, they will attack humans. They typically hut at night, but will sometimes also hunt during the day and they usually single out either young, old, or injured animals. They frequently kill animals much larger than they are by latching onto the neck until it dies of strangulation. They can go up to two weeks without eating, but then may gorge on up to 75 pounds of meat at a time.

Like a tiger, a leopard is a carnivore though they typically prefer medium-sized prey. This mainly consists of antelope, deer, rodents, cattle, impala, gazelle, porcupine, primates, rate, squirrel, young zebras, warthogs, and wildebeest. They may opt for larger prey such as greater kudu or giraffe if larger prey are absent.  They also hunt primarily at night, and they typically attack humans with much more frequency than tigers. Several famous examples re the Leopard of Rudraprayag, who killed more than 125 people and the Panar Leopard, who killed more than 400. Leopards are considered bold and difficult to track and their penchant for hunting humans makes it easy to consider them far more dangerous than the much larger tiger. One large game hunter noted that he’s seen elephants face-off with a tiger, yet turn and stampede from a leopard.


Author: Rikki Roehrich

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