Leptailurus serval -Serengeti National Park, Tanzania-8.jpg
A serval in Serengeti National Park
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Leptailurus
Severtzov, 1858
L. serval
Binomial name
Leptailurus serval
(Schreber, 1776)
  • L. s. serval
  • L. s. constantina
  • L. s. lipostictus
Serval distribution.jpg
Distribution of serval in 2015[1]
  • Felis serval (Schreber, 1776)
  • F. capensis (Forster, 1781)
  • F. galeopardus (Desmarest, 1820)
  • F. algiricus (J. B. Fischer, 1829)
  • F. servalina (Ogilby, 1839)
  • F. senegalensis (Lesson, 1839)
  • F. ogilbyi (Schinz, 1844)
  • Caracal serval[2]

The serval (Leptailurus serval) is a wild cat native to Africa. It is rare in North Africa and the Sahel, but widespread in sub-Saharan countries, except rainforest regions. Across its range, it occurs in protected areas, and hunting it is either prohibited or regulated in range countries.

It is the sole member of the genus Leptailurus. Three subspecies are recognised. The serval is a slender, medium-sized cat that stands 54–62 cm (21–24 in) at the shoulder and weighs 9–18 kg (20–40 lb). It is characterised by a small head, large ears, a golden-yellow to buff coat spotted and striped with black, and a short, black-tipped tail. The serval has the longest legs of any cat relative to its body size.

The serval is a solitary carnivore and active both by day and at night. It preys on rodents, particularly vlei rats, small birds, frogs, insects, and reptiles, using its sense of hearing to locate prey. It leaps over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) above the ground to land on the prey on its forefeet, and finally kills it with a bite on the neck or the head. Both sexes establish highly overlapping home ranges of 10 to 32 km2 (4 to 12 sq mi), and mark them with feces and saliva. Mating takes place at different times of the year in different parts of their range, but typically once or twice a year in an area. After a gestational period of two to three months, a litter of one to four is born. The kittens are weaned at the age of one month and begin hunting on their own at six months of age. They leave their mother at the age of around 12 months.

  1. ^ a b Thiel, C. (2019) [amended version of 2015 assessment]. "Leptailurus serval". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T11638A156536762. Retrieved 25 November 2021.
  2. ^ Johnson, W. E.; Eizirik, E.; Pecon-Slattery, J.; Murphy, W.J.; Antunes, A.; Teeling, E.; O'Brien, S. J. (2006). "The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment". Science. 311 (5757): 73–77. Bibcode:2006Sci...311...73J. doi:10.1126/science.1122277. PMID 16400146. S2CID 41672825.