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Serval (Leptailurus serval) Fact Sheet: Summary

Serval (Leptailurus serval) Fact Sheet

a serval hunting

Serval (Leptailurus serval)

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons. Creative Commons.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Subfamily: Felinae

Genus: Leptailurus

Species: Leptailurus serval (Schreber, 1776)

Subspecies: Leptailurus serval serval (Schreber, 1777)
Subspecies: *Leptailurus serval constantina (Forster, 1780)
Subspecies: *Leptailurus serval lipostictus (Pocock, 1907)

*Likely distinct but may be synonyms of L. s. serval. Further research needed.

Body Weight:
Male 9-18 kg (20-40 lb);
Female 9-12 kg (20-26 lb)

Body Length: 59-92 cm (23-36 in)

Tail Length: 20-38 cm (8-15 in)

Pelage: Pale yellow fur; solid black spots on sides; bars or bands on neck and shoulders; tail with black bands; tip black.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Range: Wide distribution, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa; small, isolated populations north of Sahara.

Habitat: Grasslands bordering rivers and lakes.

IUCN Status: Least Concern (2014 assessment)

CITES Appendix: Appendix II

Locomotion: Secures prey with fox-like, stiff-legged bouncing jumps, all four feet off ground at once. Can leap a span 4 m (13 ft). Climbs trees when chased.

Activity Cycle: Active dawn and dusk (crepuscular); also nocturnal. Inactive 40% of time in some locations; patterns vary with habitats.

Social Groups: Solitary.

Diet: Mainly eat small rodents; also consume frogs, crabs,small birds, snakes, lizards, shrews, and insects.

Predators: Hyenas and leopards.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: 1-2 years

Gestation: c. 74 days

Litter Size: 1-3 most often; 5 very rarely

Birth weight: 250 g (c. 9 oz)

Age at Weaning: 4-5 months

Typical Life Expectancy:
Wild populations: about 12-17 years
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 14 years

Feature Facts:

  • Very efficient predators; in a typical year a single serval captures around 4,000 rodents, 260 snakes, and 130 birds.
  • Found primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, but small populations recently found north of the Sahara.
  • Longest legs relative to body size of any other cat species. Well suited for hunting in tall grass, not for speed.
  • Most often found solitary exception of mothers with offspring and temporary association of males with females during mating
  • San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance currently cares for 12 Serval at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

About This Fact Sheet

© 2010-2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Minor updates in April 2015. Subspecies (taxonomy) updated Feb 2019.

How to cite: Serval (Leptailurus serval) Fact Sheet. c2010-2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. serval. (note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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