A leopard’s tail…

Marlon duToit All Authors, Marlon 11 Comments

Conspicuous, extensive, lingering and telling. Often the first to reveal the presence of it’s owner, and demanding of attention by all members of the audience.

Yes, I am talking about the captivating tail belonging to none other than a leopard.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

Leopards have been known to humans throughout history, and have featured in the art, mythology, and folklore of many countries where they have historically occurred. Leopards were embedded in the history of countries such as Rome, ancient Greece, Persia and England, where they no longer occur.

To this day the pattern of a leopard’s coat still inspired countless trends in fashion, cementing their place as one of the most captivating beings on our planet.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

Let’s for a few minutes pry our attention away from their obvious beauty, and look a little deeper. There’s more to a leopard than merely it’s incredible outward appearance.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

You can learn a vast amount about the mood and state of a leopard, but keeping a close eye on its tail. Leopards often outwardly showcase their inward feelings via their striking tail. By understanding different postures and movement and will be able to not only understand what the leopard’s intentions are, but also be able to have a more enjoyable experience with the big cat.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

Take a look at the image above.

This particular leopard had picked up on something of interest. It could have been a smell, a sound or an instinct. The tail is raised slightly and the tip of the tail twitched slowly from one side, to the other. This often represents interest, and will be observed several times when following a leopard.
The leopard will be thinking of its next move, wether to carry on walking or to investigate a little more. Take your cue from the cat, and scan in the direction the leopard is looking in. It may be something invisible to your eye, but at the same time it could be another predator on approach.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

A leopard that’s annoyed due any reason, will usually showcase this for all to see. The tail will be kept high off the ground. They could even change the way they walked, becoming almost stiff-legged.

If they are disturbed by potential prey, this behaviour will likely follow. Leopards are masters of the shadows and despise being noticed, especially by animals that could draw more attention to it. Impala, Kudu & Bushbuck have loud alarm calls, and birds such as Francolins, Spurfowls and Vervet Monkeys will spare no effort in warning all around about the dangerous presence of the spotted cat.

At times they may be annoyed at your presence. Keep an eye to that tail and perhaps give it some distance when following behind.

A very important function for the tail lies in it’s evenly balanced weight. The tail is thick and heavy and any leopard will use this effectively for balance. Leopard’s are active cats and often find themselves up tree’s, on the run or at play with their mother or siblings. Balance is essential to a leopard’s survival.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

As can be seen in the images depicted above, the strong tail can be utilized rather effectively when leopard’s are in tree’s. The tip of the tail is almost prehensile in nature and becomes like another limb.

Even when on the run, the heavy tail can be used as a “counter weight” in order to turn faster and sharper.

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

Have a look at the images below of two cubs at play. Notice how the cub at the back immediately changed the position of his tail as he swiftly changed direction in an attempt to keep up with his sister.

This is also crucial when hunting. Leopards are often in pursuit of quick-footed impala and other antelope. Split seconds will mean the difference between a full bellied cat or a long night of hunting.

Tails also play a big part between mother and cubs.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

The tip of a leopard’s tail is a striking white, especially underneath the very tip. This feature allows it to be distinguished from the surrounding vegetation. A leopard cub can follow it’s mother with relative easy by keeping an eye on this white tip.

Leopard are often spotted purely because of the distinctive white-coloured tip, even from long distances. Not many things in the bush is pure white, so the tail when raised tends to really stand out.

Interactions between mother and cub are captivating to watch. Their tails are often at the centre of attentions. Cubs absolutely love playing with their mother’s tail. They often also brush the tail past their mother or sibling in a show of affection and kinship.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

When encountering a situation where they would rather stay undetected, a leopard will often conceal its tail, especially the very tip.

Have a look at the interaction below between a leopard and a large rhino bull. Even though the rhino does not pose a threat to the agile leopard, he would much rather stay undetected than have to deal with an inquisitive rhino. Rhino have poor eye-sight and this bull never distinguished the leopard from the surrounding vegetation. As soon as the rhino lost interest the leopard resumed with its normal routine and posture.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

As you can see, there’s always so much to learn. There’s much more to an animal than what meets the eye.

Always take the time to read into an animals behaviour.

They will very rarely do anything if there’s no purpose to it.

 

marlon du toit, leopard, wild eye

 

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About the Author

Marlon duToit

Passion, enthusiasm and an unquenchable thirst to explore and introduce you to our natural world’s wildlife perfectly sums up my ambitions. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. Through my African adventures I kept my photographic passion alive. Behind a camera aimed at a lion or a leopard is where I am most at home, my heart skipping a beat at the mere thought of it. My intention has never been solely for recognition but for the plight of what’s left of our natural recourses. Using my love and understanding of wildlife I am able to convey to the viewer more than an image or a fleeting moment. I aim to tell a story, to bring that moment alive to you and to capture your heart through it.

Comments 11

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  1. terre bzdick

    Marion you have a natural gift in capturing the wonderment of God’s creatures and His country side both in photography and writer. I copied a comment made by a scientist/philosopher who gets it: “Came across this observation in this mornings readings (via Dan Morrow): “Four hundred years ago, the great natural philosopher Francis Bacon was concerned not just about science but also about the social contract between scientists and the rest of the world. He wrote (F. Bacon, The Great Instauration, 1620, as quoted by Ravetz [1971]),
    Lastly, I would address one general admonition to all—that they consider what are the true ends of knowledge, and that they seek it not either for pleasure of the mind, or for contention, or for superiority to others, or for profit, or fame, or power, or any of these inferior things, but for the benefit and use of life, and that they perfect and govern it in charity. For it was from lust of power that the angels fell, from lust of knowledge that man fell; but of charity there can be no excess, neither did angel or man ever come in danger by it.”
    Clearly Bacon saw (and lived) the Missional dimensions of what we’ve come to commonly view as secular . (I can’t help but think that we’ve forgotten as much as we know.)” In lieu of all the these words I think you are now impressing me that you are also a writer. I hope someday you will be international and globally present your heart for the land. I have so enjoyed seeing your work on Facebook. Terre

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      Marlon duToit

      Hi Terre,
      Thank you so much for that quote, really inspiring and eye-opening!
      I love writing and feel that the experience and the images all draw the best out of me I guess?
      Please do stay in touch, really love hearing from everyone!
      All my best,
      Marlon

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  2. Susanne Krüger

    What a very interesting article with stunning photos, Marlon. I love leopards and its great to learn more and more about them.

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  3. David

    Marlon, thank you for a great post. Wonderful images and a very informative description of the leopard’s behaviour. I wish I had read this before my last trip to the Masai Mara where I was fortunate to see these wonderful creatures, as I would have loved to have interpreted the behaviour/mood.

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