serval picture

Servals (Leptailurus serval) are a medium-sized cat with 19 recognized subspecies.  Servals are small wild cats native to Africa. The majority of their population is distributed across the south of the Sahara in the savannah near watercourses (flowing bodies of water).Research has shown that the African serval cat is closely related to both the African golden cat and the caracal. Although the fur pattern is often variable, the body features black spots and a few stripes over a golden coat. They are sometimes mistaken for black panthers or leopards from a distance because their black ears peek out of the grass.

Interesting Species Facts

Hunting & Prey

As the serval is nocturnal, it hunts its prey at night. They mainly prey on rodents but eat birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs when the opportunity for a kill arises. Servals eat incredibly quickly and can travel as much as 3 or 4 kilometers each night in search of food.

The serval has the longest legs, relative to body size, of any cat and this allows them to jump and run up to 80 kilometers per hour with agility through the savannah grass. Not only are they able to dig underground in search of rodents, they can also jump 2 to 3 meters in the air and snatch birds. Their incredible intelligence and wit allows them a 50% success rate for catching pray, 20% more than a lion.


The gestation period of a female Serval lasts from 66 to 77 days and the litters contain 1-4 kittens. They are able to have multiple litters each year. Life expectancy in the wild is 10 years and up to 20 years in captivity. Although their numbers have been swindled due to poachers for pelts they have been re-introduced in private reserves along the Eastern Cape.

Serval Subspecies

  • Leptailurus serval kempi (Uganda)
  • Leptailurus serval kivuensis (Congo)
  • Leptailurus serval lipostictus (northern Angola)
  • Leptailurus serval lonnbergi (southern Angola)
  • Leptailurus serval mababiensis (northern Botswana)
  • Leptailurus serval serval (Cape Province)
  • Leptailurus serval constantinus (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia)
  • Leptailurus serval hamiltoni (eastern Transvaal Province)
  • Leptailurus serval robertsi (western Transvaal Province)
  • Leptailurus serval beirae (Mozambique)
  • Leptailurus serval tanae (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia)
  • Leptailurus serval togoensis (Togo and Benin)
  • Leptailurus serval brachyurus (West Africa and the Sahel region to Ethiopia)
  • Leptailurus serval hindei (Tanzania)
  • Leptailurus serval faradjius
  • Leptailurus serval ferrarii
  • Leptailurus serval pantastictus
  • Leptailurus serval phillipsi
  • Leptailurus serval pococki


Servals are currently on the IUCN Red List of threatened species, but they are of LEAST CONCERN.

African Serval Cat Conservation Organizations

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