Leopard Cat

Leopard Cat

Overview
The leopard cat is a small wild cat
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 of South
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 by IUCN as it is widely distributed but threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range. There are twelve leopard cat subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

, which differ widely in appearance.

The leopard cat's name is derived from the leopard-like spots prevalent in all subspecies, but its relation to the leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

 is distant.

Leopard cats are about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender with longer legs and well-defined webs between the toes.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Leopard Cat'
Start a new discussion about 'Leopard Cat'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The leopard cat is a small wild cat
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

 of South
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

 and East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

. Since 2002 it has been listed as Least Concern
Least Concern
Least Concern is an IUCN category assigned to extant taxon or lower taxa which have been evaluated but do not qualify for any other category. As such they do not qualify as threatened, Near Threatened, or Conservation Dependent...

 by IUCN as it is widely distributed but threatened by habitat loss and hunting in parts of its range. There are twelve leopard cat subspecies
Subspecies
Subspecies in biological classification, is either a taxonomic rank subordinate to species, ora taxonomic unit in that rank . A subspecies cannot be recognized in isolation: a species will either be recognized as having no subspecies at all or two or more, never just one...

, which differ widely in appearance.

The leopard cat's name is derived from the leopard-like spots prevalent in all subspecies, but its relation to the leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

 is distant.

Physical characteristics


Leopard cats are about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender with longer legs and well-defined webs between the toes. Their small head is marked with two prominent dark stripes, their short and narrow muzzle white. There are two dark stripes running from the eyes to the ears, and smaller white streaks running from the eyes to the nose. The backs of their moderately long and rounded ears are black with a central white spot. Body and limbs are marked with black spots of varying size and color, and along the back are two to four rows of elongated spots. The tail is about half the size of their head-body-length and spotted with a few indistinct rings near the black tip. The background color of their spotted fur is tawny with a white chest and belly. But in their huge range, they vary so much in coloration and size of spots as well as in body size and weight that initially they were thought to be several different species. The fur color is yellowish brown in the southern populations, but pale silver-grey in the northern ones. The black markings may be spotted, rosetted, or even forming dotted streaks, depending on the subspecies. In the tropics
Tropics
The tropics is a region of the Earth surrounding the Equator. It is limited in latitude by the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere at approximately  N and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at  S; these latitudes correspond to the axial tilt of the Earth...

, leopard cats weigh 0.55 to 3.8 kg (1.2 to 8.4 lb), have a head-body-length of 38.8 to 66 cm (15.3 to 26 in) with a 17.2 to 31 cm (6.8 to 12.2 in) long tail. In northern China and Siberia
Siberia
Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

, they weigh up to 7.1 kg (15.7 lb), and have a head-body-length of up to 75 cm (29.5 in); generally, they put on weight before winter and become thinner until spring. Shoulder height is about 41 cm (16.1 in).

Distribution and habitat


Leopard cats are the most widely distributed Asian small cats. Their range extends from the
Amur
Amur
The Amur or Heilong Jiang is the world's tenth longest river, forming the border between the Russian Far East and Northeastern China .-Course:...

 region in the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

 over the Korean Peninsula
Korean Peninsula
The Korean Peninsula is a peninsula in East Asia. It extends southwards for about 684 miles from continental Asia into the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by the Sea of Japan to the south, and the Yellow Sea to the west, the Korea Strait connecting the first two bodies of water.Until the end of...

, China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Indochina
Indochina
The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

, the Indian Subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

, to the West in northern Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

, and to the south in the Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and the Sunda islands
Sunda Islands
The Sunda Islands are a group of islands that form part of the Malay archipelago.They are further divided into the Greater Sunda Islands and the Lesser Sunda Islands.-Administration:...

 of Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

. They are found in agriculturally used areas but prefer forested habitats. They live in tropical evergreen rainforests and plantations at sea level, in subtropical deciduous and coniferous forests in the foothills of the Himalayas
Himalayas
The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains Sanskrit: Devanagari: हिमालय, literally "abode of snow"), usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya for short, is a mountain range in Asia, separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau...

 at altitudes above 1000 m (3,280.8 ft). In 2009, a leopard cat was camera trap
Camera trap
A camera trap is a remotely activated camera that is equipped with a motion sensor or an infrared sensor, or uses a light beam as a trigger. Camera trapping is a method for capturing wild animals on film when researchers are not present, and has been used in ecological research for decades...

ped in Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

’s Makalu-Barun National Park at an altitude of 3254 m (10,675.9 ft). At least six individuals inhabit the survey area, which is dominated by associations of rhododendron
Rhododendron
Rhododendron is a genus of over 1 000 species of woody plants in the heath family, most with showy flowers...

, oak
Oak
An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus , of which about 600 species exist. "Oak" may also appear in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus...

 and maple
Maple
Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple.Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Modern classifications, including the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group system, favour inclusion in...

. In the northeast of their range they live close to rivers, valleys and in ravine
Ravine
A ravine is a landform narrower than a canyon and is often the product of streamcutting erosion. Ravines are typically classified as larger in scale than gullies, although smaller than valleys. A ravine is generally a fluvial slope landform of relatively steep sides, on the order of twenty to...

 forests, but avoid areas with more than 10 cm (3.9 in) of snowfall. They are rare in Pakistan’s arid treeless areas.

In Sabah
Sabah
Sabah is one of 13 member states of Malaysia. It is located on the northern portion of the island of Borneo. It is the second largest state in the country after Sarawak, which it borders on its southwest. It also shares a border with the province of East Kalimantan of Indonesia in the south...

’s Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Tabin Wildlife Reserve
Tabin Wildlife Refuge is a nature preserve in Sabah, eastern Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. It was created in 1984 to preserve Sabah’s disappearing wild animals...

 leopard cats had average home ranges of 3.5 km² (1.4 sq mi). In Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

’s Phu Khieu Wildlife Reserve 20 leopard cats were radio-collared between 1999 and 2003. Home ranges of males ranged from 2.2 km² (0.849424748903577 sq mi) to 28.9 km² (11.2 sq mi), and of the six females from 4.4 km² (1.7 sq mi) to 37.1 km² (14.3 sq mi).

Distribution of subspecies




As of 2009, the following subspecies are recognized:
  • Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis (Kerr, 1792) — lives in India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , Bangladesh
    Bangladesh
    Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

    , Myanmar, Thailand, the Malay Peninsular
    Malay Peninsula
    The Malay Peninsula or Thai-Malay Peninsula is a peninsula in Southeast Asia. The land mass runs approximately north-south and, at its terminus, is the southern-most point of the Asian mainland...

    , Indochina
    Indochina
    The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

     to Yunnan
    Yunnan
    Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately and with a population of 45.7 million . The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with...

     in China;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis javanensis (Desmarest
    Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest
    Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest was a French zoologist and author. He was the son of Nicolas Desmarest and father of Anselme Sébastien Léon Desmarest...

    , 1816) — lives in Java and Bali
    Bali
    Bali is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east...

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis sumatranus Horsfield
    Thomas Horsfield
    Thomas Horsfield M. D. was an American physician and naturalist.Horsfield was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and studied medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the grandson of Timothy Horsfield, Sr., a colonel and justice of the peace in Bethlehem, and a friend mentioned in Benjamin...

     1821) — lives in Sumatra
    Sumatra
    Sumatra is an island in western Indonesia, westernmost of the Sunda Islands. It is the largest island entirely in Indonesia , and the sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538...

     and Tebingtinggi;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis chinensis (Gray
    John Edward Gray
    John Edward Gray, FRS was a British zoologist. He was the elder brother of George Robert Gray and son of the pharmacologist and botanist Samuel Frederick Gray ....

     1837) — lives in Taiwan
    Taiwan
    Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

     and China except Yunnan;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis horsfieldi (Gray 1842) — lives in Kashmir
    Kashmir
    Kashmir is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range...

    , Punjab, Kumaon
    Kumaon Division
    For Kumaoni/Kumauni People see Kumauni PeopleKumaon or Kumaun is one of the two regions and administrative divisions of Uttarakhand, a mountainous state of northern India, the other being Garhwal. It includes the districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Champawat, Nainital, Pithoragarh, and Udham Singh Nagar...

    , Nepal, Sikkim
    Sikkim
    Sikkim is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains...

     and Bhutan
    Bhutan
    Bhutan , officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked state in South Asia, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and bordered to the south, east and west by the Republic of India and to the north by the People's Republic of China...

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis euptilurus/euptilura (Elliott
    Daniel Giraud Elliot
    Daniel Giraud Elliot was an American zoologist.Elliot was one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the American Ornithologists' Union. He was also curator of zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago.Elliot used his wealth to publish a series of sumptuous...

     1871) — the Amur cat lives in eastern Siberia
    Siberia
    Siberia is an extensive region constituting almost all of Northern Asia. Comprising the central and eastern portion of the Russian Federation, it was part of the Soviet Union from its beginning, as its predecessor states, the Tsardom of Russia and the Russian Empire, conquered it during the 16th...

    , in Manchuria
    Manchuria
    Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast...

    , in Korea and on the Tsushima Island
    Tsushima Island
    Tsushima Island is an island of the Japanese Archipelago situated in the middle of the Tsushima Strait at 34°25'N and 129°20'E. The main island of Tsushima was once a single island, but the island was divided into two in 1671 by the Ōfunakosiseto canal and into three in 1900 by the Manzekiseto canal...

     in the Korea Strait
    Korea Strait
    The Korea Strait is a sea passage between South Korea and Japan, connecting the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan in the northwest Pacific Ocean...

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis borneoensis (Brongersma 1936) — lives in Borneo
    Borneo
    Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located north of Java Island, Indonesia, at the geographic centre of Maritime Southeast Asia....

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis trevelyani (Pocock
    Reginald Innes Pocock
    Reginald Innes Pocock F.R.S. was a British zoologist.Pocock was born in Clifton, Bristol, the fourth son of Rev. Nicholas Pocock and Edith Prichard. He began showing interest in natural history at St. Edward's School, Oxford. He received tutoring in zoology from Sir Edward Poulton, and was allowed...

     1939) — lives in northern Kashmir and Punjab, and in southern Baluchistan;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis alleni (Sody, 1949) — lives in Hainan Island
    Hainan
    Hainan is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China . Although the province comprises some two hundred islands scattered among three archipelagos off the southern coast, of its land mass is Hainan Island , from which the province takes its name...

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis
    Iriomote cat
    The Iriomote cat , is a wild cat about the size of a domestic cat that lives exclusively on the Japanese island of Iriomote. It is considered a "living fossil" by many biologists because it has not changed much from its primitive form...

     (Imaizumi, 1967) — lives exclusively on the tiny island of Iriomote
    Iriomote
    Iriomote is the largest of the Yaeyama Islands and the second largest in Okinawa Prefecture after Okinawa Island itself....

    , one of the Ryukyu Islands
    Ryukyu Islands
    The , also known as the , is a chain of islands in the western Pacific, on the eastern limit of the East China Sea and to the southwest of the island of Kyushu in Japan. From about 1829 until the mid 20th century, they were alternately called Luchu, Loochoo, or Lewchew, akin to the Mandarin...

     in the Japan archipelago;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis heaneyi (Groves 1997) — inhabits the Philippine island of Palawan
    Palawan
    Palawan is an island province of the Philippines located in the MIMAROPA region or Region 4. Its capital is Puerto Princesa City, and it is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. The islands of Palawan stretch from Mindoro in the northeast to Borneo in the...

    ;
  • Prionailurus bengalensis rabori (Groves 1997) — inhabits the Philippine islands of Negros, Cebu
    Cebu
    Cebu is a province in the Philippines, consisting of Cebu Island and 167 surrounding islands. It is located to the east of Negros, to the west of Leyte and Bohol islands...

    , and Panay
    Panay
    Panay may refer to*Panay Island*Panay *Panay, Capiz*Panay River*Panay Gulf* USS Panay *Panay incident...

    .


The Iriomote cat has been proposed as a species in 1967, but following mtDNA analysis in the 1990s is now considered a subspecies of the leopard cat.

The Tsushima leopard cat lives exclusively on Tsushima Island. Initially regarded as belonging to the Chinese leopard cat subspecies, it is now considered an isolated population of the Amur leopard cat.

Ecology and behavior



Leopard cats are solitary, except during breeding season. Some are active during the day, but most hunt at night, preferring to stalk murids
Muridae
Muridae is the largest family of mammals. It contains over 600 species found naturally throughout Eurasia, Africa, and Australia. They have been introduced worldwide. The group includes true mice and rats, gerbils, and relatives....

, tree shrews and hare
Hare
Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares less than one year old are called leverets. Four species commonly known as types of hare are classified outside of Lepus: the hispid hare , and three species known as red rock hares .Hares are very fast-moving...

s. They are agile climbers and quite arboreal in their habits. They rest in trees, but also hide in dense thorny undergrowth on the ground. In the oil palm plantations of Sabah, they have been observed up to 4 m (13.1 ft) above ground hunting rodent
Rodent
Rodentia is an order of mammals also known as rodents, characterised by two continuously growing incisors in the upper and lower jaws which must be kept short by gnawing....

s and beetle
Beetle
Coleoptera is an order of insects commonly called beetles. The word "coleoptera" is from the Greek , koleos, "sheath"; and , pteron, "wing", thus "sheathed wing". Coleoptera contains more species than any other order, constituting almost 25% of all known life-forms...

s. In this habitat, males had larger home ranges than females, averaging 3.5 square kilometre and 2.1 square kilometre respectively. Each male's range overlapped one or more female ranges.

Leopard cats can swim, but seldom do so. They produce a similar range of vocalisations to the domestic cat. Both sexes scent mark their territory by spraying urine, leaving faeces in exposed locations, head rubbing, and scratching.

Diet


Leopard cats are carnivorous, feeding on a variety of small prey including mammals, lizards, amphibians, birds and insects. In most parts of their range, small rodents such as rats and mice form the major part of their diet, which is often supplemented with grass, eggs, poultry, and aquatic prey. They are active hunters, dispatching their prey with a rapid pounce and bite. Unlike many other small cats, they do not "play" with their food, maintaining a tight grip with their claws until the animal is dead. This may be related to the relatively high proportion of birds in their diet, which are more likely to escape when released than are rodents.

Reproduction and development


There is no fixed breeding period in the southern part of its range; in the colder northern range they tend to breed around March or April, when the weather is mild enough to support newborn kittens. The estrus period lasts for 5–9 days. If the kittens do not survive, the female may come into heat again and have another litter that year.

After a gestation
Gestation
Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time ....

 period of 60–70 days, two to four kittens are born in a den, where they remain until they are a month old. The kittens weigh about 75 to 130 g (2.6 to 4.6 oz) at birth and usually double their weight by age of two weeks; at five weeks, they are four times their birth weight. The eyes open at ten days, and the kittens start to eat solid food at 23 days. At the age of four weeks, the permanent canines appear, and the kittens begin to eat solid food. Leopard cats have lived for up to thirteen years in captivity.

Leopard cats usually pair for life and raise their kittens together for about 7 to 10 months. Full maturity is reached at 18 months, but in captivity, the male can become ready to breed at 7 months, and the female at 10 months.

Threats



In China, leopard cats are hunted mainly for their fur. Between 1984 and 1989, about 200,000 skins were exported yearly. A survey carried out in 1989 among major fur traders revealed more than 800,000 skins on stock. Since the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 imposed an import ban in 1988, Japan has become the main buyer, and imported 50,000 skins in 1989. Although commercial trade is much reduced, the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for fur, for food, and as pets. They are also widely viewed as poultry pests and killed in retribution.

In Myanmar
Myanmar
Burma , officially the Republic of the Union of Myanmar , is a country in Southeast Asia. Burma is bordered by China on the northeast, Laos on the east, Thailand on the southeast, Bangladesh on the west, India on the northwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southwest, and the Andaman Sea on the south....

, 483 body parts of at least 443 individuals were observed in four markets surveyed between 1991 and 2006. Numbers were significantly larger than non-threatened species. Three of the surveyed markets are situated on international borders with China and Thailand, and cater to international buyers, although the leopard cat is completely protected under Myanmar's national legislation. Effective implementation and enforcement of CITES is considered inadequate.

Conservation



Prionailurus bengalensis is listed in CITES Appendix II. In Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

, the species is protected under the Wild Animals Protection Ordinance Cap 170. The population is well over 50,000 individuals and, although declining, the cat is not endangered.

The Tsushima leopard cat is listed as critically endangered on the Japanese Red List of endangered species, and has been the focus of a conservation program funded by the Japanese government since 1995.

Taxonomic history


In 1792, Robert Kerr first described a leopard cat under the binominal Felis bengalensis in his translation of Carl von Linné’s Systema Naturae
Systema Naturae
The book was one of the major works of the Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carolus Linnaeus. The first edition was published in 1735...

 as being native to southern Bengal
Bengal Presidency
The Bengal Presidency originally comprising east and west Bengal, was a colonial region of the British Empire in South-Asia and beyond it. It comprised areas which are now within Bangladesh, and the present day Indian States of West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Meghalaya, Orissa and Tripura.Penang and...

. Between 1829 and 1922, different authors of 20 more descriptions classified the cat either as Felis
Felis
Felis is a genus of cats in the family Felidae, including the familiar domestic cat and its closest wild relatives. The wild species are distributed widely across Europe, southern and central Asia, and Africa; the domestic cat has been introduced worldwide.Members of the genus Felis are all small...

or Leopardus
Leopardus
Leopardus is a genus consisting of small spotted cats mostly native to Middle and South America. Very few range into the southern United States. The genus is considered the oldest branch of the part of the cat family to cross into the Americas, followed by the genera Lynx and Puma...

. Owing to the individual variation in fur colour, leopard cats from British India were described as Felis nipalensis from Nepal, Leopardus ellioti from the area of Bombay
Bombay Presidency
The Bombay Presidency was a province of British India. It was established in the 17th century as a trading post for the English East India Company, but later grew to encompass much of western and central India, as well as parts of post-partition Pakistan and the Arabian Peninsula.At its greatest...

, Felis wagati and Felis tenasserimensis from Tenasserim. In 1939, Reginald Innes Pocock
Reginald Innes Pocock
Reginald Innes Pocock F.R.S. was a British zoologist.Pocock was born in Clifton, Bristol, the fourth son of Rev. Nicholas Pocock and Edith Prichard. He began showing interest in natural history at St. Edward's School, Oxford. He received tutoring in zoology from Sir Edward Poulton, and was allowed...

 subordinated them to the genus Prionailurus. The collection of the Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum is one of three large museums on Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London, England . Its main frontage is on Cromwell Road...

 in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 comprised several skulls and large amounts of skins of leopard cats from various regions. Based on this broad variety of skins, he proposed to differentiate between a southern subspecies Prionailurus bengalensis bengalensis from warmer latitudes to the west and east of the Bay of Bengal
Bay of Bengal
The Bay of Bengal , the largest bay in the world, forms the northeastern part of the Indian Ocean. It resembles a triangle in shape, and is bordered mostly by the Eastern Coast of India, southern coast of Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to the west and Burma and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands to the...

, and a northern Prionailurus bengalensis horsfieldi from the Himalayas, having a fuller winter coat than the southern. His description of leopard cats from the areas of Gilgit
Gilgit
Gilgit is a city in northern PakistanGilgit may refer to other terms related with the area of the city:* Gilgit River* Gilgit Valley* Gilgit District* Gilgit Agency * Gilgit Airport...

 and Karachi
Karachi
Karachi is the largest city, main seaport and the main financial centre of Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh. The city has an estimated population of 13 to 15 million, while the total metropolitan area has a population of over 18 million...

 under the trinomen
Trinomen
In zoological nomenclature, a trinomen , or trinominal name, refers to the name of a subspecies.A trinomen is a name consisting of three names: generic name, specific name and subspecific name. The first two parts alone form the binomen or species name. All three names are typeset in italics, and...

 Prionailurus bengalensis trevelyani is based on seven skins that had longer, paler and more greyish fur than those from the Himalayas. He assumed that trevelyani inhabits more rocky, less forested habitats than bengalensis and horsfieldi.

Between 1837 and 1930, skins and skulls from China were described as Felis chinensis, Leopardus reevesii, Felis scripta, Felis microtis, decolorata, ricketti, ingrami, anastasiae and sinensis, and later grouped under the trinomen Felis bengalensis chinensis. In the beginning of the 20th century, a British explorer collected wild cat skins on the island of Tsushima. Oldfield Thomas
Oldfield Thomas
Oldfield Thomas FRS was a British zoologist.Thomas worked at the Natural History Museum on mammals, describing about 2,000 new species and sub-species for the first time. He was appointed to the Museum Secretary's office in 1876, transferring to the Zoological Department in 1878...

 classified these as Felis microtis, which had been first described by Henri Milne-Edwards
Henri Milne-Edwards
Henri Milne-Edwards was an eminent French zoologist.Henri Milne-Edwards was the 27th child of William Edwards, an English planter and militia colonel in Jamaica and Elisabeth Vaux, a French. He was born in Bruges, Belgium, where his parents had retired. At that time, Bruges was a part of the...

 in 1872.

Two skins from Siberia motivated Daniel Giraud Elliot
Daniel Giraud Elliot
Daniel Giraud Elliot was an American zoologist.Elliot was one of the founders of the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the American Ornithologists' Union. He was also curator of zoology at the Field Museum in Chicago.Elliot used his wealth to publish a series of sumptuous...

 to write a detailed description of Felis euptilura in 1871. One was depicted in Gustav Radde
Gustav Radde
Gustav Ferdinand Richard Radde was a German naturalist and explorer.Radde was born in Danzig, the son of a schoolmaster. He had little formal education, and began a career as an apothecary...

’s illustration cum description of a wild cat; the other was part of a collection at the Regent's Park Zoo. The ground colour of both was light brownish-yellow, strongly mixed with grey and covered with reddish-brown spots, head grey with a dark-red stripe across the cheek. In 1922, Tamezo Mori
Tamezo Mori
, was a Japanese naturalist in Korea while it was under Japanese Rule . He taught at a prep school for Keijō Imperial University in Seoul, Korea from 1909 until he was expelled by the American forces in 1945. Primarily an ichthyologist, he published numerous works on the zoology of the Korean...

 described a similar but lighter grey spotted skin of a wild cat from the vicinity of Mukden in Manchuria that he named Felis manchurica. Later both were grouped under the trinomen Felis bengalensis euptilura. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Russian zoologists Geptner, Gromov and Baranova disagreed with this classification. They emphasized the differences of skins and skulls at their disposal and the ones originating in Southeast Asia, and coined the term Amur forest cat, which they regarded as a distinct species. In 1987, Chinese zoologists pointed out the affinity of leopard cats from northern China, Amur cats and leopard cats from southern latitudes. In view of the morphological
Morphology (biology)
In biology, morphology is a branch of bioscience dealing with the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features....

 similarities they did not support classifying the Amur cat as a species.

The initial binomial euptilura given by Elliott was eventually changed to euptilurus referring to the ICZN Principle of Gender Agreement; at present, both terms are used.

Molecular analysis
Molecular genetics
Molecular genetics is the field of biology and genetics that studies the structure and function of genes at a molecular level. The field studies how the genes are transferred from generation to generation. Molecular genetics employs the methods of genetics and molecular biology...

 of 39 leopard cat tissue samples suggested distinction between northern leopard cats from Tsushima, Korea, Siberia, China and Taiwan, and southeast Asian leopard cats.

Leopard cats as pets


Keeping a leopard cat as a pet is possible, although a license is required in most places. License requirements vary by location.

The Asian Leopard Cat (P. bengalensis bengalensis) is often mated with a domestic cat to produce hybrid offspring known as a Bengal cat
Bengal Cat
Bengal Cat may refer to:*Leopard Cat*Bengal , a domestic cat breed...

. These hybrids are usually permitted to be kept as pets without a license. For the typical pet owner, a Bengal cat kept as a pet should be least four generations (F4) removed from the Leopard Cat. The "foundation cats" from the first three filial generations
F1 hybrid
F1 hybrid is a term used in genetics and selective breeding. F1 stands for Filial 1, the first filial generation seeds/plants or animal offspring resulting from a cross mating of distinctly different parental types....

of breeding (F1–F3) are usually reserved for breeding purposes or the specialty pet home environment.

External links