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The Serval Cat - An African Wildcat

The African Serval Cat

The serval cat, resting in the sun.

The serval cat, resting in the sun.

The Serval Cat - (Leptailurus serval)

The serval cat of Africa is a unique and little known wildcat. It only lives south of the Sarah and is mainly nocturnal, so is not seen in the wild often. The serval cat is closely related to the Golden cat and the caracal but has some very unique traits. Learn more about this beautiful African wildcat with photos and video.

Range of the Serval

Range of the Serval

Habitat

The Serval cat, (Leptailurus serval), which in Portuguese means "wolf-deer", it also known as the "tiger forest cat" and the "cat of spare parts". It is native to the Africa regions south of the Sahara. Their primary habitat is the savannah but they can be found in tall grasslands, forest, woods, marshes and some mountainous regions below 10,000 feet. The serval's home will always be near a water source, such as a river or lake. They can swim, but prefer not to. Their habitat overlaps with that of the caracal cat, but there is little competition as the caracal is a larger wildcate and usually hunts larger prey than the serval.

The serval has an elongated neck and disc like ears.

The serval has an elongated neck and disc like ears.

Notice the white bands on the back of the serval's ears.

Notice the white bands on the back of the serval's ears.

Description

The serval is a medium sized wild cat ranging from 23 to 36 inches in body length and a shoulder height of about 21 to 26 inches. Females typically weigh between 15 to 26 pounds and males weigh from 20 to 40 pounds.Their tail is relatively short for their size at approximately 8 to 18 inches in length, with black bands and a black tip.

The serval's coat is a tawney or gold color with bold black rosettes, with their underside being lighter in color. They have 2 to 4 stripes running from the top of their head, down their neck which transition into spots as they reach the back. Servals are many times illegally hunted for the beautiful pelts.

One of the most obvious and interesting traits of the serval, is their ears. They have proportionally large pointed disc-like ears which allows them extraordinarily good hearing. They can hear ultra-sonic sounds omitted by mice, rats, moles and other small rodents. This allows them to "home in" on their prey before they can see them, even those that are burrowing underground. The back of the ears are black with a noticeable white band, which is used to communicate with other servals.

The serval also has an elongated neck which allows them to see over the tall grass of the savannah. The servals legs are longer than any other cat, relative to their size, and the back legs are longer than the front legs. It's long legs also help it to reach an estimated running speed of up to 50 miles per hour.


Serval cat on the savannah.

Serval cat on the savannah.

Hunting and Diet

The serval is mainly a nocturnal cat, but will also hunt in the early morning hours and late dusk. Although the ears of the serval are specialized for hunting rodents, they may also hunt birds, reptiles, frogs, fish and insects. The have been seen hunting small deer, antelope and springbok, but it is rare. The long legs of the serval allow it to jump at heights of 7 to 10 feet to snatch birds right out of the air. They are also able to leap up into the air and pounce on their prey with enough power to stun their catch so it can't try to run away.

With the aid of their unusually large ears, elongated neck and long legs, the serval is an excellent hunter! Most cat species have a 10% success rate in hunting. The serval cat boasts a 50% success rate, which makes it one of the best hunters among wildcat breeds.

Serval kitten.

Serval kitten.

Serval kittens in  the grass.

Serval kittens in the grass.

Reproduction and Life Span

Baby servals are called kittens. The female serval will normally bear more than 1 litter per year. Normal litters are 2 kittens, but sometimes may be only 1 or as many as 4. Shortly after breeding, the female will begin to look for a den in which to have her kittens. She may find the abandoned burrow of an aardvark or, if a den is not available, she may make do with a place beneath a shrub or the hollowed out portion of a tree.

The kittens will weigh approximately 8-9 ounces at birth and are blind and helpless. They will open their eyes around 9 to 13 days of age and will begin to eat solid food at one month old. Their canines will not be fully developed until they are about 5 to 6 months old, at which time they will begin to hunt on their own. They will remain with their mother until and are about 1 year of age at which time they will go out on their own.

The normal life span of the serval is approximately 10 years in the wild. However, the longest living serval, in the wild, lived an estimated 23 years. Their normal life span in captivity is approximately 22 years.

Conservation

The serval cat is not considered as a threatened species. However, their numbers are dwindling due to man encrouching on their habitats and being illegally hunted for their beautifu pelts. The serval as recently been re-introduced into Tunisia, which had previously been a natural haitat for them.

The Serval Cat as a Pet

The serval has become popular by some people who try to keep them as pets. This is not suggested. The serval will likely not trust anyone unless they were raised from a small kitten by them. Unlike a common house cat, if the sesrval is allowed outside on it's own, it is not likely to return to you. Once the serval cat reaches maturity, it's instincts tell it that it is time for it to go out on its own. Remember, this is a wild animal and has very strong hunting instincts. You will not be able to have any other small pets, for the next 20 years! Several states within the US have outlawed keeping a serval as a pet.

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© 2013 Sheila Brown

Comments

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on September 24, 2013:

Thank you thelyricwriter! I'm sorry for the delay in replying to your comment, I have been crazy busy with a few other things lately. I appreciate your kid comment and shares! :)

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on September 13, 2013:

I've never heard of this cat before. It's a beautiful animal. Very well written Sheila, great resource for serval. To live in such an environment, they'd have to be successful animals. I've always had a fascination with wild animals and wanted to visit Africa. Great hub as always Sheila. Voted up, useful, interesting, and shared on FB.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 24, 2013:

Hello Mike! I am glad I could introduce you to the Serval cat. It is a beautiful and not well known wild cat. I am so glad you found my hub interesting. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a comment, it is always appreciated. Have a wonderful day! :)

Mike Robbers from London on June 24, 2013:

Never heard about the serval cat before. It is such a beautiful animal! Thanks for sharing this informative hub and the great pictures.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 18, 2013:

Hello prasetio! I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub on the serval. They are very beautiful wildcats. Thank you for your kind comments and vote! I always enjoy hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on June 17, 2013:

Beautiful. I had never see a wildcat like this before. It looks like tiger, right! Wow...I am glad reading this hub. Nice pictures as well. Good job, my friend. Voted up :-)

Prasetio

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 16, 2013:

Hello Angelo! I found the serval cat very interesting too. All wildlife competes with man these days, I hope we take notice before the serval's population begins to decline. Hopefully the people of Africa are keeping watch on this beautiful wild cat. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on June 16, 2013:

Hi Peggy! I also found the serval very beautiful and interesting. I love the elongated neck and the large ears. I'm glad you enjoyed the video, I did too, wish it was mine! Thank you for all you wonderful support! Have a great day! :)

Angelo52 on June 16, 2013:

The Serval sure is an interesting member of the cat family. It's too bad it competes for land and its life with humans. Perhaps someone in Africa will take notice and do something to help preserve some prime habitat for the Serval.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 16, 2013:

I had heard of the Serval cat previously...probably in a National Geographic magazine. It is truly beautiful. That video was well worth watching! Up, useful and interesting votes and happy to share and will also pin.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on May 16, 2013:

Hi Brett! I love their ears and their long neck, it makes them so unusual. Thank you for stopping in, I always appreciated all your support! Have a wonderful day! :)

Brett C from Asia on May 15, 2013:

A very interesting and unusual creature! What strange ears, especially as they actually use them to communicate and not just listen with.

Shared, pinned, tweeted, up and interesting.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 25, 2013:

Hello Kamalesh! Your welcome. Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I am glad your enjoyed my article. Thank you for your kind comment and votes. Have a wonderful day! :)

Kamalesh Chakraverty from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India on April 24, 2013:

I had heard of this cat before but after reading your hub have learnt a great deal. Thank you for this Wonderful article. Voted Up & Awesome.

Best Wishes, Kamalesh

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 21, 2013:

Hello Vespa! The serval is a beautiful cat, isn't it! Those ears caught my eye the first time I saw one. Many people are trying to keep them as pets, but I too think they need to be left in the wild where they can live as they were meant to. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a great day! :)

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on April 21, 2013:

What a beautiful cat! The photos really caught my eye. I love the elongated neck and over-sized ears. I agree that it wouldn't be the best idea to keep a serval cat as a pet, plus they need to stay in their habitat. Thank you for this interesting Hub.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 21, 2013:

Hi Rajan! I am glad that I could introduce you to the serval. They are very unique and interesting wild cats. I am glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comment! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 21, 2013:

Hello srsddn! I found the serval to be a very interesting wild cat myself. There are so many unique wild cats around the world, I love discovering new ones and writing about them. I appreciate your kind comment, votes and share! Have a wonderful day! :)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 21, 2013:

I have never heard of the serval cat before this. The first thing that struck me was the large ears and then the back of the ears are so unique. It is a beautiful animal and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this info. Thanks, Sheila.

srsddn from Dehra Dun, India on April 20, 2013:

Hi, Sheila. Thanks for picking up such a cute member of the wild life. I liked its coat, the ears, the neck and the very look. The fact that it is nocturnal makes it more interesting. I liked its leaps in the video and it is good that the species is not endangered. There is so much in the wild life for humans to enjoy. Thumbed up and shared.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 14, 2013:

Hello Shyron! I had not heard of the serval either, until I came across one at the zoo. I thought they were a fascinating animal. I would love to play with one of those kittens! There are so many beautiful animals in this world and I love discovering things about them. Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 14, 2013:

Hello Au fait! Yes, they are so beautiful! I hate to see anything in a cage, it is so cruel. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for stopping by and the votes and share. I always enjoy hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)

Shyron E Shenko from Texas on April 13, 2013:

I have never heard of this cat before, they are so beautiful, in one picture it looks like it has rabbit ears. The kittens look so cuddly, makes one want to pet them. I know not a good idea. So many beautiful things in the world.

C E Clark from North Texas on April 13, 2013:

Aren't they beautiful? And the kittens are so cute. Interesting the way the backs of their ears look like they have eyes.

I don't understand why some people want to keep wild animals as pets. Seems to me it is cruel to imprison these animals for one's own pleasure. Yes, the wilderness can be dangerous. Allowing people the freedom to rome as the wish is dangerous too. Wonder how many people would appreciate being confined for their own safety? Animals are no different.

Great hub. Very much enjoyed learning about the serval cat. Voted up, beautiful, and will share!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 10, 2013:

Hi Peg! The serval is a beautiful wildcat with some unusual and amazing traits. I wish I could live in Africa and not necessarily have one for a pet, but at least have it come visit from time to time. I would love to have my own rescue center! Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 10, 2013:

Hi Rosemay! Thank you for your kind comment! I tried to find out more on the white bands on the back of the serval's ears, but nothing much is said about them. Only one place mentioned that it was to let the kittens keep an eye on their mother while she was hunting, but that doesn't sound very reliable to me, so I didn't include it. I may find more information on it somewhere and go back and include it. Thank you for stopping by and your kind comment! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 10, 2013:

Hi Kathy! I enjoy learning more about exotic animals and wildcats are one of my favorites. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and thank you for stopping in and commenting! Have a wonderful day! :)

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on April 09, 2013:

What an awesome animal. Its coloring is gorgeous and the success rate of its hunting abilities is amazing. I can't imagine someone wanting to take this beautiful creature and turn it into a house pet. Very informative article.

Rosemary Sadler from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand on April 09, 2013:

An excellent informative hub. I had never heard of these cats before but they sound fascinating. The black and white on the backs of their ears look like eyes and I am wondering if this is to ward off predators

Well presented hub

KathyH from Waukesha, Wisconsin on April 08, 2013:

This is very cool! I love reading about exotic cat breeds and breeds I never heard of! :) Well done! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 08, 2013:

Hi Bravewarrior! The serval certainly is beautiful! I love the long neck and big ears! Their coat is beautiful too. Those long slender legs really help it jump so high. I would love to watch one hunting, in person. I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for your kind comment and have a wonderful day! :)

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on April 08, 2013:

Shiela, the Serval is so beautiful! It's running and hunting traits are amazing. Thank you for this very informative hub and stunning photos.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Aloha Joe! I was replying to your comment when it just disappeared. That's twice now, I don't know what is happening, but I didn't want you to think I didn't appreciate your comment! I tried to find out more about the white spots on the back of the serval's ears, but can't really find any reliable sources on it. They are amazing leapers! That's where those long legs come in! I'm glad you enjoyed my hub and I thank you for your kind words! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Hi Bill! I didn't know much about them until recently either. I really think they are beautiful and if they weren't so big, I would love to have one, but that is not realistic. I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! :)

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on April 07, 2013:

Hi, Sheila!

I'm fascinated with this unique wild cat. The back of the ears must serve a purpose...like keeping a likely predator at bay because the marks look like eyes that are staring at whatever might be creeping up on the serval. And, oh, that leap! From a standing position, I saw that cat leap about 20 feet or more in one bound! Amazing!

I learn so much here on HubPages, thanks to writers like you. Keep cranking them out, Sheila!

Aloha!

Joe

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Hello phdast7! The serval is beautiful, isn't it! I'm glad you enjoyed my hub. Thank you for stopping by and for sharing! Have a wonderful day! :)

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on April 07, 2013:

What a majestic animal. I have heard of them before but I knew next to nothing until this hub. Thanks for the information.

Theresa Ast from Atlanta, Georgia on April 07, 2013:

They are so interesting and so beautiful. A very nice hub. Sharing.

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Hello baja2013! I am SO jealous! I would love to hear the lions roaring in the background. There is an animal rescue park about 30 miles from where I live. You can rent a cabin in the woods just outside the park. I plan on doing that this year and I will be able to hear the lions roar in the evenings. I can also spend ALL DAY taking pictures of the different animals. This would be very close to my idea of heaven! Thank you for stopping my and commenting! Have a wonderful day! :)

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Hi Bill! They are beautiful aren't they! I have always told my husband that before I get too old to enjoy it, I want to go on an African photo safari. That would just be so awesome! I'm so glad you enjoyed my hub and I thank you for all your support! Have a wonderful day!!! :)

Bajazid from Sarajevo, Bosnia on April 07, 2013:

I live close to Sarajevo Zoo and there are new lions here since last month. Now I wait for summer night to open a window and listen to the howls of lions some hundred meters from my flat :)

Thanks for this interesting hub!

Sheila Brown (author) from Southern Oklahoma on April 07, 2013:

Hi Faith Reaper! I had heard of the serval, but didn't know much about it. I saw one at the zoo last year and thought it was just beautiful, even with the big ears! I regret that I only got one good picture of him. I will be making another trip to the zoo soon, (I'm just like a kid!) and will get more pictures. Thank you so much for your kind comment, votes and share! You know I always love hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 07, 2013:

Hi Sheila. What an interesting and beautiful cat. The coat on this cat is just stunning. Oh how I would love to go on a safari someday to see all of these beautiful animals in the wild, although spotting a Serval certainly might prove difficult as they are nocturnal. This is an excellent hub and certainly an education for me. Voting up, sharing, pinning, etc.

Faith Reaper from southern USA on April 07, 2013:

I have never heard of this particular cat before. Very beautiful cat. Excellent and insightful hub here. Love the photos.

Voted up +++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper

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