Cheetah vs Leopard(Battle Of The Big Cats)

There are around 36 species in the cat family, Felidae and you can find them in all parts of the world, with the exception of Antarctica and Australia. These mammals are typically carnivorous in nature. They are built to hunt. They chase their prey and pounce on it.

There are a lot of similarities in all the members of the family, but an equal number of differences as well.

Some of the members of this family are the tiger, jaguar, puma, lion, lynx, etc. Two felids or members of the cat family that are often confused with each other are the leopard and cheetah.

What is the difference between a cheetah and a leopard?

A cheetah

A cheetah looking to make a kill

Leopards and cheetahs are as different from each other as chalk and cheese. People often confuse them due to their similarities. But if you study them in detail, you will notice their different characteristics and unique traits.

Cheetah and Leopard Habitats

The leopard is a member of the genus Panthera, within Felidae. They are mostly found in Africa and some parts of Western and Central Asia. Their population all over the world is declining, and they are now on the endangered species list. They are hunted for decorative and medicinal purposes.

The cheetah is generally found in the Eastern, Northern and Southern parts fo Africa, as well as in Iran. It lives mostly in dry forest areas. The cheetah population is declining due to pet trade, poaching, and illegal hunting. Cheetahs are now also endangered and African countries are trying to revive their population by taking strict measures.

Difference Between Cheetah and Leopard Structure


A leopard waiting to spot a prey

The biggest difference in the cheetah and the leopard is in their body structure. While they appear to be of the same size and similar-looking from afar, they are actually quite differently built and the differences can be seen clearly from up close.

Basic body structure

A cheetah has a thin body frame, with a narrow waist and deep chest. A leopard is much larger and much more muscular than a cheetah, with a long body and short legs.


The head of a cheetah is small in proportion to its body, to enable faster running. The head has tear-strains running from the inner corner of the eye to the corner of the mouth. A leopard has an elongated head, with spots on its muzzle.


The cheetah is the fastest animal in the world and can reach speeds of up to 113 kmph. A leopard is not as fast as a cheetah, reaching speeds of up to 60kmph.


The cheetah has evenly spread black spots on its body that resemble polka-dots and are about 2 to 3 cm in diameter. These spots extend to the tail as well, but they are not found on the underside of the mammal.

Leopards bodies also have patterns, but these are not polka-dots, they’re rosettes. These rosette patterns vary in different regions. They are more circular in the Eastern part of Africa, but more square in South Africa and much larger in Asian leopards.


Compared to a leopard, cheetahs are small. In spite of being smaller, they lack the grip in their claws that don’t fully retract. Making it difficult to hold on to prey. Thus, a cheetah can outrun its prey but has difficulty clinging to it.

Due to retractable claws, a leopard is a better tree climber than a cheetah. They are highly agile and capable of holding on to larger prey.


The cheetah has a flat tail compared to the leopard, which has a tubular tail.

Difference Between Leopard And Cheetah Behavior

Leopard on a tree

Leopard relaxing on a tree

The leopard is more of a nocturnal animal. It makes its kills during the night, while the cheetah is more active during daylight.

There are times when the cheetah hunts at night, but on the whole, they prefer to prey when most other animals are also active. Making use of the opportunity for a filling meal.

The leopard likes to drag its prey up to the trees and eat in peace, while the cheetah prefers hanging out on the plain ground.

Cheetahs and leopards are scared of humans and prefer not to prey on them. Although there have been instances where leopards have killed humans for purposes of hunger, no reported case of a cheetah killing a human has been found.

Difference Between A Cheetah And A Leopard Birthing

Mother and cub cheetah

Mother and cub cheetah

Leopards usually mate during the months of January and February, and the period of gestation is typically 90 to 105 days. Female leopards give birth to two cubs at a time, but there have been known instances of six births, all at once.

The gestation period of the female cheetahs is 90 to 98 days, and three-four cubs are birthed at a time.

Both cheetah and leopard cubs are blind at birth.

Leopard vs Cheetah Voices

Leopards and cheetahs, being giant muscular animals, are both expected to have a majestic voice. But that is not the case.

A leopard, similar to other large members of the Felidae family, growls and roars.

A cheetah, although a large animal, cannot roar. It is more like a cat in this respect, it purrs, yelps and chirps.

In Conclusion

The next time you go on a safari, you can show off your knowledge in front of your friends and family by identifying correctly between cheetah v. leopard.

With their many differences among their similarities, they should be easy to distinguish between. With their body spots vs rosettes, their preference of killing, depending on whether you go for a night safari or day safari, whether you find them on trees, their head structure, etc.

So hop on, time for a trip to the African savannah, where you’ll find both these animals, and give everyone else a general knowledge lesson.

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