Difference between Cheetah and Leopard

There are mainly four big cats in the world: Jaguar, Leopard, Lion, Snow Leopard, and Tiger. All big cats roar and no animal can hunt them. Cheetah, Cougar, Lynx, Snow Leopard also belong to Family Felidae, Subfamily Felinae (a group of small to mid-size cats including bigger cats as Cheetah and Cougar), though they don’t roar. Among these cats, Tiger and Snow Leopard are related closely whereas Lion, Leopard, and Jaguar are related closely.

At a quick glance, one may find Cheetah and Leopards the same in appearance but there are different in several ways. Please go through this article to understand the difference between Cheetah and Leopard.

What is a Cheetah?

Cheetah is a wild, carnivorous, spotted, diurnal animal from the Falinae (Cat) Subfamily, who hunts its prey by chasing it. Cheetah is the fastest land animal recorded to run at the speed of 80 to 128 km/h. They can accelerate speed from zero to 95km/h in just three seconds.

(Classification − Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae, Genus: Acinonyx, Species: jubatus)

Characteristics of Cheetah

Here are some prominent characteristics of Cheetahs −

  • Habitat − Cheetahs live grasslands and desert in Africa and in some parts of Iran. Open Savannas are perfect to run speedily and catch the pray.

  • Body, Appearance, and Weight − Their have slender bodies and long flattish tail to support aerodynamism while running. They have golden yellow-beige colored spotted coat, small heads, black face-streaks, very flexible spine, and strong legs to be able to take long leaps while running and to be able to run for long distances speedily. They don’t have retracting claws. Females are a bit smaller than males. Cubs during their early days have fur on their necks. Adult Cheetahs can weigh from 35Kg to 65Kg.

  • Roar − Cheetahs cannot roar. They purr, chirr, howl, yelp, and make a sound that is a blend of many such sounds.

  • Diet − Cheetahs hunt Antelopes, Ostriches, Rodents, Porcupines, Hares, Rabbits, etc.

  • Litter − The female gives birth to 3 to 6 cubs in a litter after the gestation period of 3 months. She raises the cubs all alone by staying with them for first 18 months.

  • Behavior − Cheetahs are social animals. Males always remain in groups. Cheetahs hunt during cooler periods of the daytime, like dawn or evenings. They chase down the pray and eat it quickly before scavengers takes it away. Also, they sit quietly after hunting to rest and recoup. While being in a recovery period, the males take turns to lookup around.

  • Life Expectancy − Cheetahs live up to 12 years.

What is a Leopard?

Leopard is a wild, carnivorous, rosette-spotted, nocturnal, smallest cat in the Big Cats family, who hunts its prey by leaping, jumping, and pouncing on to it. They are strong yet agile animals who can kill an animal larger than itself.

(Classification - Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata, Class: Mammalia, Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae, Genus: Panthera, Species: P. pardus)

Characteristics of Leopard

Here are some prominent characteristics of Leopards −

  • Habitat − Leopards live in a wide geographical region such as grasslands, deserts, semideserts, thick forests, of India, China, Middle East countries, and savannas in Africa. They can tolerate both warm and cold weather.

  • Body, Appearance, and Weight − Their have bulky bodies and long round tail to support balance while climbing up and down a tree. They have golden yellow-beige colored rosette-shaped spotted coat, large heads, and very powerful jaws to be able to break large bones of the prey. The color of their coat varies depending upon the habitat they live in. They also have powerful eyesight to be able to hunt at night. Females are smaller than males. Adult Leopards can weigh from 38 kg to 80 kg.

  • Roar − Leopards can roar. They grunt or growl when angry and purr when they are contented.

  • Diet − Leopards hunt antelopes, ostriches, rodents, hares, rabbits, fish, birds, etc.

  • Litter − The female gives birth to 2 to 3 cubs in a litter after the gestation period of 3.5 months.

  • Behavior − Leopards are solitary animals. They prefer to hide while being on land. They sleep during the daytime on the branch of a tree. They hunt during night. Leopards can swim swiftly. They are one of the big cats who love water. They carry their kill and place it on the tree to keep it out of the reach of scavengers and other predators.

  • Life Expectancy − Leopards live up to 15 years. They have reported to live longer in zoos, up to 23 years.

Difference between Cheetah and Leopard

Here are some prominent differences between the two big cats −

Key Factor Cheetah Leopard
Body Shape Cheetahs are slenderer, tall-legged big cats, which is required to run fast. Leopards are bulkier and heavier than Cheetahs with more muscle weight to be able to drag and carry their prey high.
Body Size Cheetahs are smaller. Leopards are larger.
Spots on fur They have solid round/roundish black spots on their fur. Leopards have black flower-shaped spots on their fur called rosettes. Leopard’s rosettes don’t have a central spot unlike the rosettes of a Jaguar.
Face They have two black lines starting from the inner corners of their eyes and running down to the corners of the mouth, called ‘Tear Lines’. Leopards don’t possess tear lines on their face.
Paws and Claws They have padded paws but don’t have retractable claws. They have strong paws with retractable claws which help them to climb trees.
Size of Head Cheetahs have smaller heads than Leopards’. Also, their heads are smaller for their body size. Leopards have bigger head.
Waist They waist is thin and slender. Their waist is wider.
Tail Shape They have little flatter tail to support aerodynamism. Their tail is tube-like and acts as a weight-balancer while they climb up and down the trees.
Speed They are the fastest running animals. (120km/h with acceleration from 0 to 95km/h in 3 seconds) They cannot run as fast as Cheetahs do. (80km/h)
Hunting Forte Cheetahs exploit their speed while hunting. Leopards rely on their power while hunting.
Ability to Roar Cheetahs cannot roar. Leopards can roar.
Bend of Nature They are docile and calm animals when they are not running for hunt. They are ferocious and aggressive animals.
Choice as a Pet Cheetahs are closely related to house cats. Earlier, rich people kept Cheetahs as their pets. But it isn’t a good idea to pet them as they need to run regularly and require taking food at irregular frequency. Also after all it is primarily a wild animal. They are completely unfriendly; hence it is not a good idea to pet them.


Cheetah and Leopards belong to Big Cats family. They both are carnivorous animals and depend on other animals as their food. Cheetahs and Leopards play an important role in maintaining the balance in an ecosystem.

They are on the top of the food chain but they are threatened by humans. Despite having a good number of common characteristics, it is now clear that Cheetahs and Leopards are different if their styles of hunting, habitats, appearance, lifestyle, and different skills they employ for hunting.