Elusive and unpredictable, spotting a leopard in the wild is an experience that will stay with you for life. Here are five fun facts that may help you learn a little more about Africa’s magnificent spotted cat.

LEOPARDS SMELL LIKE BUTTERED POPCORN

Ever smelt something akin to buttered popcorn during your adventures in the African bush? Be aware that a leopard may have been in the area. Leopards mark their territory with their urine, giving off this unique smell. It often goes unnoticed when exploring in a game vehicle but keep this in mind if you are ever out on foot on a walking safari.

THEY AMBUSH PREDATORS

Leopards are incredibly stealthy and when they spot their prey, they crouch very low down and creep up. Only once they are within very close range of their prey do they pounce, killing their prey by biting down on their neck or swiping with a paw. In addition to being quiet and careful, they also have speed and agility on their side. They can run at up to 58 kilometres per hour, leap forward about 6 meters and jump up off the ground to heights of about 3 metres.

LEOPARDS LEAD A SOLITARY LIFE

Leopard cubs stay with their mother for approximately two years. During this time they learn to hunt and only when they can hunt for themselves will they leave their mother’s side and live a solitary life. Male and female leopards interact only to mate, and will mark their territory to keep other leopards away.

THEY AREN’T PICKY EATERS

Leopards are carnivorous but they will happily eat whatever prey comes across their path from larger animals like gazelles, wildebeest, baboons, cheetah cubs, porcupines, warthogs and antelopes to smaller creatures like mice, tortoises, snakes, birds and even fish. They usually carry their prey up into trees to keep it away from scavengers like hyenas and lions who may want to steal their meal.

LEOPARDS ARE KNOWN TO PURR

While largely silent animals, leopards do have a range of distinctive calls. They have a hoarse cough to warn other leopards of their presence. They also growl, hiss, and snarl when angry or fighting, and are even known to purr when relaxed – usually during feeding or when a cub is with its mother.

Feeling inspired to spot a leopard in its natural habitat and book that safari getaway? Take a look at our four bush escapes and get in touch for any help planning your itinerary or stay – The Outpost Lodge, Pel's Post, Tshwene Lodge and Ekuthuleni Lodge.