Difference Between Cheetah and Leopard

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 13, 2023


Difference Between Cheetah and Leopard

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People refer to leopards and cheetahs as big cats, though cheetahs are not truly one. Classifying leopards as big cats may seem incredulous, but that is what they are. The term leopard originated from the Old French word leupart. Leopards have the fascinating ability to descend headfirst from trees after they finish eating or resting on the tree branches. They can leap over twenty feet and jump as high as 9.8 feet. Fancy joining the Olympics? Try adding mock matches with leopards (the tame ones, not the wild leopards) to the practice routine.

Cheetahs are big cats capable of changing direction sharply and gracefully while moving at high speed. Their extreme agility, rapid acceleration, and explosive bursts of speed make them deadly predators. A cheetah prefers to catch its prey within 30 seconds after the chase begins (normally, no prey is lucky enough to elude a cheetah.). Cheetahs start eating their kill around 30 minutes after the chase ends (surprise, they have to catch their breath after a sprint, too!). Panting and sweating do not completely cool down the body heat generated while running so fast; that is why they need a breather.

Cheetah vs. Leopard

Cheetahs have rounded and oval-shaped spots, whereas the spots on leopards are rose-like markings called rosettes. A more striking difference between the two is that cheetahs have black lines that run down their mouth from their eyes (making it look like they are crying). Leopards do not have these tear lines instead, the rosette pattern covers their faces.

Difference Between Cheetah And Leopard In Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonCheetahLeopard
Hunting time preferenceCheetahs prefer to hunt in the daytime.Leopards prefer to hunt at night.
SizeCheetahs are taller at the head than leopards. However, they are shorter lengthwise. They are lighter and sleeker.Leopards are the shortest in the big cat family and are bulky and powerful.
SpeedIt is the fastest land animal, and its acceleration rate is faster than most sports cars.It can run at the speed of 58 km per hour at most.
Gestation periodFemale cheetahs take around 90 – 98 days to give birth to a litter (usually three or four cubs).Female leopards’ gestation period is 90 – 105 days. They give birth to litters consisting of (typically two) up to six cubs.
Known forIt is renowned for its agility and speed.It is known for its strength, ability to climb trees with remarkable grace, and swimming.
SoundIt lets out explosive yelps (that can be heard 2km away), chirps, and purrs in addition to the usual hissing, spitting, and churring.It lets out a powerful roar (though not as goosebumps-inducing as a lion’s), and its growls are terrifying.
Attack StyleCheetahs choose their prey, stalk them, give chase, and finally kill with a bite to the throat (splendid, cheetahs are like human stalkers – creepy as hell).Leopards are ambushers. They sneak up on their prey aided by their rosette spots that camouflage them and pounce. The prey does not know what hit it (poor thing. At least, it was a quick death.)

What Is A Cheetah?

Cheetahs are predators with unmatched speed (at least on land); they are much faster than other animals because of a high concentration of fast-twitch muscle fibers. Furthermore, their larger respiratory passages allow them to inhale and exhale more air. After hunting for the majority of the day, cheetahs (in groups) rest in grassy clearings. They take turns acting as a lookout for prey and other big cats that may kill them or steal their prey (look at that! This move proves all living creatures, and not just man, are instinctively wary and suspicious).

Types Of Cheetahs

The following are the four valid subspecies of cheetahs:

Southeast African Cheetah

Southeast African cheetahs live in deserts, lowland areas, grasslands, and savannahs. Four cheetahs belonging to this subspecies reside in Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India. King cheetahs were considered a distinct species but later were found to be (a variant of) Southern African cheetahs.

The male cheetahs love socializing with their male siblings, whereas females prefer to be alone. However, males are territorial and urinate to mark their territories (perhaps that's why they live with their siblings – to better protect their territory.). Female cheetahs of this subspecies are not territorial.

Asiatic Cheetah

Asiatic cheetahs are a critically endangered subspecies currently found only in Iran; only twelve are left at present (9 males and 3 females). These cheetahs experience high body temperatures after a hunt due to the probability that some other predator may attack them for the carcass (wow, talk about paranoia; however, it is justified in this case.). The Asiatic Cheetahs thrive in open habitats and hunt chinkara, wild sheep, wild goat, cape hare, etc.

Northeast African Cheetah

This subspecies has the largest head and darkest fur colors among all others. Northeast African cheetahs' tear marks are thickest near their mouth, making them different from the other subspecies (they have consistent tear marks). They predominantly feed on herbivorous creatures like gazelles, cape hares, guineafowls, etc. These cheetahs almost became extinct in Sudan due to a lack of Soemmerring's gazelles (whoa, talk about a refined palate).

Northwest African Cheetah

This subspecies is native to the Sahara and Sahel. Their coat is nearly white in contrast to the other African cheetahs, and their black spots fade to brown near their legs. They often lack tear marks (what? Come on, that was the easiest way to identify a cheetah.) and have few or no spots on their face. They can survive without drinking water directly, as they obtain water indirectly from their prey's blood (Could they be related to vampires?).

What Is A Leopard?

Leopards are predators that have soft, thick, pale yellow or dark golden fur with spots. However, the underbelly is entirely white. They are largely found in savannahs and rainforests but can be seen in relatively undisturbed grasslands, riverine forests, and woodlands. Though the leopard population is on the decline, around 12,000 – 14,000 leopards are present in India.

Leopards are typically shy and wary when encountering vehicles (who knew leopards were shy killers?) but are highly territorial. Their grunts resemble the sound of sawing wood, and they are active from dusk until dawn (fabulous, if people are unfortunate enough to get lost in a forest or a jungle, they will be hunted by cheetahs during the day and leopards at night. There is no escape; good to know.). Leopards prefer medium-sized prey such as the impala, bushbuck, and common duiker. Tigers, cheetahs, hyenas, and wolves are their main competitors.

Types Of Leopards

Currently, there are eight living sub-species of leopards, and they are as follows:

African Leopard

African leopards have varying coat colors, such as pale yellow, tawny, gold, and rarely black. Usually, the male African leopards weigh more than the females. These leopards are found in various African countries and typically roam in grasslands, mountainous forests, and savannahs. The leopards can adjust to their habitats even when altered, as long as there is no intense persecution. However, trophy hunting in the '90s and poaching along with poisoning in recent years have decreased their population considerably (why can't some people leave those poor big cats alone?).

Indian Leopard

These leopards are present in India, Pakistan, Bhutan, and Nepal. Their coats vary depending on the climate; leopards enduring cold climates have greyish fur, those in rainforests have dark gold fur, and those surviving in arid regions (characterized by severe lack of water) have pale cream furs.

All of them are deadly predators no matter which color fur they have. They can hunt wild boar, sambar deer, common langur, primates, etc., with the aid of their enormous skulls and powerful jaws. Therefore, people should run as if hellhounds are after them and not stand mesmerized by the leopard's stunning coat when it turns their way.

Javan Leopard

Found in Indonesia, Javan Leopards hunt barking deer, crab-eating macaque, wild boar, etc. However, those close to the villages sometimes prey on dogs, chickens, or goats (eeks! People must take extra measures to protect their livestock!). The Indonesian government is taking several measures to protect these endangered leopards.

Arabian Leopard

Arabian Leopards are the smallest leopard species and are critically endangered. They are mostly nocturnal creatures. There have been only a few daylight sightings. These leopards store their prey's carcasses in caves if they are large (it looks like these creatures are intelligent enough to store food for the days they feel off). Arabian leopards hunt Ethiopian hedgehogs, Arabian gazelles, porcupines, small rodents, birds, etc. The Arabian Wolves and caracals are predominant competitors of these leopards.

Persian Leopard

Persian leopards can be seen in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan, and other surrounding areas. They are also known as Caucasian leopards and Asia Minor leopards. These leopards have reddish-grey fur. Persian leopards prey on wild goats, wild boar, roe deer, etc. The male leopards of this subspecies share their living spaces with two or three female leopards, unlike other subspecies that prefer a solitary life.

Sri Lankan Leopard

Sri Lankan leopards have rusty yellow coats. They stalk their prey sneakily until they are within striking distance and usually kill with a single bite. These leopards are colloquially known as kotiyā in Sinhala and chiruthai in Tamil. Sri Lankan leopards hunt small mammals, birds, and reptiles and live for 12 – 15 years in the wild. They can live up to 22 years if raised in captivity.

People are the primary cause of the decline in their population; they poison the carcasses of livestock in retaliation for the ones the leopards kill. Sometimes, they are shot (more merciful than being poisoned, but it would be better to find some other solution. After all, leopards are living beings, too.)

Amur Leopard

Amur leopards, also known as Siberian leopards, have thick, yellowish-red fur tinged with gold, making it easier for people to distinguish from the other leopard subspecies. They are predominantly found in the Russian Far East; however, they cross over to China and Korea at times and come back to Russia. Amur leopards are active during the day (unlike most other subspecies) as well as at dawn and dusk; this coincides with the active period of their preferred prey – the Siberian roe deer and the Manchurian sika deer.

Awesome, these leopards instinctively understood that their prey could be hunted during a certain time and adapted themselves to hunt at that time. Female leopards with cubs prefer hunting domestic deer on farms (why go chasing deer around when they are made easily available? Good thinking, right?).

Indochinese Leopard

This leopard subspecies is native to Southeast Asia and Southern China. They live in protected areas, and sightings of them outside those areas are rare. Indochinese leopards have rusty-red fur coats. Dusky leaf monkeys, Indian hog deer, wild boar, Indian muntjac, etc., are their preferred prey. The high demand for their skins and bones in Myanmar, Malaysia, and China has severely threatened their population. Illegal wildlife trades have increased due to the use of leopards' skin and bone in traditional medicines.

Main Differences Between Cheetah And Leopard (In Points)

  • Cheetahs have amber or brown eyes, whereas leopards have green or blue eyes.
  •  Leopards have lesser bite force compared to cheetahs; however, a leopard is capable of chasing away any cheetah that enters its territory. People won't regret rooting for a leopard instead of a cheetah when the predators are hunting the same prey next time they watch the Discovery Channel.
  •  Cheetahs have an average lifespan of twelve years in the wild. Leopards live for 12 – 17 years in the wild. Furthermore, leopards emerge victorious more often in a head-to-head fight with cheetahs (it looks like power and endurance are more important than speed!).
  •  Leopards have rounded, tubular tails, whereas cheetahs have flat, wide tails.
  •  Cheetahs have only semi-retractable claws. On the other hand, leopards have completely retractable claws, which allow them to drag their prey onto the trees and eat them, similar to hyenas.
  •  Leopards belong to the genus Panthera, whereas cheetahs belong to Acinonyx.
  •  Cheetahs may travel alone or with their siblings. However, leopards are solitary creatures.


'In short, cheetahs are the epitome of speed, and leopards are known for their incredible strength and power (they can drag an antelope up a tree; that is no small feat!). Man-eater leopards are rare; generally, they avoid people. Cheetahs are much less aggressive to humans than the big cats. Therefore, people need not worry about being eaten unless they provoke them (the saying don't poke a sleeping lion applies here).


  • https://www.discoverwildlife.com/animal-facts/mammals/cheetah-vs-leopard-whats-the-difference/
  • https://safarisafricana.com/cheetah-vs-leopard/
  • https://thomsonsafaris.com/blog/what-are-the-differences-between-a-leopard-and-a-cheetah/
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leopard


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"Difference Between Cheetah and Leopard." Diffzy.com, 2023. Sun. 24 Sep. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-cheetah-and-leopard>.

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