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The Serval



  • Body length: 70 - 100 cm

  • Weight: 7-18kg

  • Life expectancy: 19 years

  • Distribution: Africa

  • Habitat: open savannah, wet areas at the edge of swamps or lakes

  • Species: not endangered




  • Class: Mammals

  • Order: predators

  • Family: cats

  • Genus: Leptailurus

  • Species: Serval (Leptailurus serval)




The serval's coat is mostly yellowish-brown with black-brown spots. However, the color of the short and dense coat varies widely. The serval's build is very slim. Due to the slim body shape and the very long legs, the serval looks like a small leopard. Its long legs enable it to see over the vegetation in the steppes (tall grasses!). Unlike the caracal, for example, the front legs of the serval are longer, not the hind legs. The caracal uses its long hind legs to be able to jump particularly high, the serval has its longer front legs to better look out over the long grass. Its ears are particularly interesting: no other cat species has ears as large as the serval, they are very fine and long, and their inner edges almost touch at the crown.

reproduction and development

Servals live solitary, males and females only meet during the mating season – from February to March. After mating, the male immediately leaves and leaves the rest of the work to the female. The gestation period is 65 to 75 days. To give birth, the female retires to a sheltered place, such as an abandoned burrow belonging to another animal. There it gives birth to two to five young animals. The young are blind at birth and only open their eyes after nine days.

The little nest squatters spend the first four to five weeks in hiding. Only gradually do they begin to accompany their mother on forays into the country. At the age of about two and a half years, the servals become sexually mature. Only then are the females driven out by the mother so that they can look for their own territory.

lifestyle and behavior

The serval is a loner. He mostly hunts at dusk. He prefers to roam through dense tangles of plants and undergrowth of all kinds - the denser and "more opaque", the better. In this terrain, which he just towers over with the tip of his nose, his "super ears" are of course an advantage. With them, he can hear even the faintest noises, such as a bird scurrying on the ground or a rodent scratching in its burrow. He can also find small rodents in their burrows under the ground and pull them out of their hiding place with his claws. It usually sneaks up quietly without being detected, and then attacks its victim at point-blank range. He will often knock smaller rodents unconscious with a few hard smacks of his front paws before killing them with a well-aimed bite.



The diet of the serval consists mainly of fish, birds and small rodents. To get to the birds, he jumps in the air and flaps his paws at them. In order to reach the rodents in their underground burrows, he uses his excellent hearing. It also occasionally eats amphibians and reptiles. Servals usually play with their victims before finally eating them. The urge to play always seems to be greater than hunger. Almost 50 percent of all forays are successful, which is a very high value for cats.

Measured in relation to its body and head size, the serval has the largest ears of any cat!

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