"A leopard does not change his spots, or change his feeling that spots are rather a credit." ~ Ivy Compton-Burnett
The characteristic spots and rosettes of the leopard aid it in blending into the flora and shadows of their natural environment. This strategy works amazingly well, so much so that similar patterns appear on both predators and prey - several great cats, fish, frogs, insects, and even, postulated by a few paleontologist, dinosaurs!
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'."
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 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.
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.