Serval

Category: Wildlife

Servals are wild felines (cats) known for their proportionately long legs. These medium sized, spotted cats live in Africa.

Serval

Serval

Scientific & Common Names

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Leptailurus

Species: L. serval

Common Names: Serval

Characteristics

Servals and are a sandy yellow in color with black spots and stripes all over their body. They grow to be two feet tall at the shoulder and can weigh up to 40 lbs. Their length is usually up to 40 inches long (not including the tail).

Compared to most other cats, servals have distinctively small heads and very long legs. Relative to body size, servals have the longest legs of any cat species.

Breeding

Servals mature at 1-2 years old. Females are fertile one to two times a year, or as many as four times if they repeatedly lose litters.

Gestation lasts for two to three months, and a litter typically contains between one and four kittens. Serval kittens’ eyes don’t open until several days after birth, sometimes nearly two weeks!

The young stay with their mother until they are a year old and can hunt for themselves, at which point they go off on their own.

Behavior

Servals are largely solitary animals. They are active both day and night, preying on rodents, birds, frogs, reptiles and insects. Servals use their large ears to find food, and will use their strong legs to pounce on a prey animal once discovered.

Servals must be wary of predators, including hyenas and wild dogs. To escape prey, they will use their powerful legs to leap away or climb trees.

History

Servals and humans have interacted since the time of Ancient Egypt. They were often traded or given as gifts, and were kept as pets. They are still kept as pets in some areas, although they are not truly domesticated and many countries have restrictions on ownership.

Present Status

The Serval is a species of Least Concern, and is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, destruction and deterioration of their native habitat poses a threat. The Serval is protected over much of its range, and several African countries have outlawed hunting them.