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"A leopard does not change his spots, or change his feeling that spots are rather a credit."
~ Ivy Compton-Burnett
If you hear a deep rasping, sawing coughing roar behind you, watch out! Very few have heard the distinctive sound of the usually silent leopard. Similar to lions, jaguars, and tigers, leopards can roar but can't purr. A ligament in their voice box allows more air to pass across the vocal cords creating a deeper sound and a wider range of tones. This tartan takes inspiration from the leopard's characteristic spots and rosettes which aid it in blending into the flora and shadows of their natural environment. This strategy works amazingly well, as similar spot patterns appear on both predators and prey - several other great cats, fish, frogs, insects, and even, postulated by a few paleontologist, dinosaurs! However, leopards in eastern Africa have circular rosettes, while their those in southern African have square rosettes! Jaguar's, in contrast, have a slightly different body type, and the coats of the similarly colored jaguar frequently contain little black spots in their rosettes while leopard rosettes do not! 🐆
Designed by Carol A.L. Martin for the leopard (Panthera pardus), this tartan was inspired by the characteristic spots and rosettes of this big cat (and the leopard-like behavior of her black, panther-like housecat)! The designer notes:
"[This is] a variation of [the tartan] "Cheetah" - I added another brown/black stripe which I think was an improvement. It is still almost all 'teeth'."
The common name 'leopard' is derived from the Old English word 'leuparz' used in the poem The Song of Roland written in the late 8th century.
Similar in appearance to the jaguar, but with a smaller, lighter physique, its characteristic rosettes are generally smaller, more densely packed and without central spots. Both leopards and jaguars that are melanistic are known as black panthers. The leopard is further distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, strength, and its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas.
Leopards living in arid regions are pale cream, yellowish to ocher in colour; while those living in forests and mountains are much darker and deep golden. Spots fade toward the white underbelly and the insides and lower parts of the legs.
The leopard's wintry cousin, the snow leopard (Panthera uncia) is native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is an endangered species.
Snow leopards inhabit alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft). In the northern range countries, they also occur at lower elevations. Unusually among carnivorous cats, snow leopards also eat a significant amount of vegetation, including grass and twigs. Snow leopards will also hunt in pairs successfully, especially mating pairs. They use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.
For more on the snow leopard's endangered status and preservation efforts, click the snow leopard.