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12 Differences Between Leopards and Cheetahs

Updated on July 7, 2018

Leopards and Cheetahs

Both Leopards and cheetahs belong to the cat family (felines) along with lions and tigers. It is easy to spot a lion from a cheetah, but it takes a little more attention to differentiate a leopard from a cheetah.

The Leopard’s scientific name is Panthera pardus and the cheetah is Acinonyx jubatus. The word “cheetah” has its origins in the Hindi word “cita” meaning “spotted one”.

Both Leopards and Cheetahs are found in African and Asian countries although, like other wild animals, they are also facing the threat of extinction. Leopards have become endangered in North East Asia.

Leopard | Source
Cheetah | Source

What are the Similarities between Leopards and Cheetahs?

There can be much confusion between these two cats because of their striking similarities at first glance. They are similar in appearance since they both have spots on their coat and their fur is light colored. They look like big, spotted cats. Leopards and Cheetahs are both good hunters with good eyesight. They are also very lean so they resemble each other in appearance. Aside from being carnivores, another obvious similarity is that they like climbing and resting on trees

However, they are some significant differences between them.


Body appearance


Compared to the leopard, the cheetah has a lighter coat almost yellow. The leopard has rosette-shaped spots. Each spot looks like a flower. It appears like one spot in the middle surrounded by smaller spots. The cheetah’s spots are rounded, like polka dots. They are all over the cheetah’s body but turn into rings near the tip of the tail. The cheetah’s belly is spot free.

Body size

Also, the leopard has shorter legs and a heavier body of between 30-91 kilograms. Their bodies are usually 35-75 inches long. The cheetah has longer legs and a lighter body, and a body length of between 43-49 inches, and a weight of approximately 45-64kg.


The cheetah has its claws out of the paw all the time. These are called non-retractable claws. However, leopards hide their claws sometimes (retractable claws), like the way normal tamed cats do.

Rosettes | Source
 Cheetah's spots
Cheetah's spots | Source

Facial structure

Leopards have a wide face while the cheetahs have slim faces with unmistakable dark tear lines which run down their face, from the eyes up to the mouth.


Hunting Method

Their method of hunting differs. Leopards creep on their prey before aiming for the kill it while cheetahs use their speed to catch prey; they chase them around until they get tired before pouncing on them.


Leopards are nocturnal hunters. They prefer to prey at night. Cheetahs prefer day hunting because of the speed they put into pursuing prey; the prey needs to be clearly visible.

Type of prey

Cheetahs prey on smaller animals like impalas and gazelles. Although in groups, they also hunt big game like wildebeests. Leopards hunt bigger sized prey, like zebras and other ungulates. They also prey on monkeys and baboons.


Leopards breed all year round and give birth to 2-4 cubs while cheetahs mate during the dry seasons and give birth to 1-3 cubs although the number can exceed that sometimes. Leopards tend to outlive cheetahs because they live 12-17 years yet the average life expectancy of cheetahs is 8 to 10 years.


Leopards are mostly found in areas with a green cover like grasslands or forests or swamps. Since they creep on their prey they need to live in areas which can give them a hiding place during hunting. Cheetahs are mostly found in lands with very large space and a lot of prey. They dwell in semi-deserts or prairies.

Leopard relaxing on a tree
Leopard relaxing on a tree | Source
Cheetah walking on grassland
Cheetah walking on grassland


The cheetah is known as the fastest animal in the world since it can run up to a speed of 112km/hr. Leopards can reach a speed of 57km/hr.


Cheetahs can chirp or growl or purr but they cannot roar. Leopards communicate with each other by roaring.

Ease of Domestication

Historically in ancient Egypt, Greece, and India, when domesticating wild animals was a common hobby. Cheetahs were more readily domesticated and kept as pets. Leopards, on the other hand, are very fierce and more aggressive than cheetahs, thus posing a challenge during hunting and domestication. The leopard has been listed as one of the big five animals because it is not easy for humans to hunt it down.


List of Differences between Leopards and Cheetahs

Leopards vs Cheetahs diffrences
Leopards vs Cheetahs diffrences


MacMillan, D. M. (2009). Cheetahs. Minneappolis: Lerner Publications.

Middleton, D. (1999). Leopards. 1st ed. New York: Rosen publishing group Inc.

© 2015 Centfie


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