Ways to tell the difference between a cheetah and a leopard

It might be challenging to distinguish between a cheetah and a leopard to the untrained eye. The good news is that a few telltale signs will improve your ability to identify the difference between these two big cats. The following clear distinctions between cheetah and leopard should be noted by travellers on an African safari.

Cheetah vs Leopard eyes

You can tell a cheetah and a leopard apart most easily by observing their eyes. The face of a cheetah has a black line running down it. This “tear line” extends from its inner eye all the way to its mouth. The cheetah and leopard differ significantly in this way.

You can truly appreciate these big cats’ feline features when you get up close to them. The eyes of cheetahs are typically amber – quite noticeable and piercing, while those of leopards are commonly blue-green or a pale yellow in certain light. The ideal chance to hone your skills for differentiating between cheetahs and leopards is on a budget safari in Kenya.

Big cat lovers can take a safari in Kenya, organised by African Budget Safaris, starting at around $1100 for two people sharing. For travellers with limited time and budget, this tour is ideal. Scenic game drives frequently feature leopard and cheetah sightings.

Cheetah and leopard markings are different

The markings on cheetahs and leopards are another important distinction. The spots on cheetahs are round or oval in shape and solid black. Leopards have irregularly shaped spots that are clustered together to resemble rose-like markings. These spots have a blotched black outline with a rich brown interior.

In the African bush, both cats are well-camouflaged. Visit a private reserve in South Africa’s Greater Kruger if you want the best chance of sighting one of these amazing animals. Travellers can enjoy a small group private tour at a reasonable price. Regular game drives with an experienced guide who is familiar with the preferred hiding places of leopards and cheetahs are included in the exclusive tented safari at Sabi Sands package from African Budget Safaris.

Habits and habitats of cheetahs and leopards

Leopards are nocturnal animals that prefer to hunt at night and rest during the day. The converse is true for cheetahs, however, they have been known to hunt at night as well. It is quite rare to see one of these big cats because both animals are adept at keeping a low profile.

Keep an eye on the trees at all times, as a knowledgeable guide will advise you to do on African Budget Safaris’ seven-day Botswana budget safari. Leopards can be found there during the day. Grasslands and savannas are the types of wide-open areas that cheetahs love. These environments are suitable for swiftly stalking prey.

What separates cheetahs from leopards around mealtimes

Take note of the size of these big cats’ feet when you come across one in the wild. To aid in acceleration while hunting, cheetahs have larger back paws than front paws. Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, capable of reaching speeds of up to 120 km/h and accelerating from 0 to 100 km/h in about three seconds. Leopards, however, have larger front paws than back paws. This helps them to climb trees with freshly killed prey. 

If tracking a big cat is something you’ve always wanted to do, you should consider going on a four-day safari in Namibia, where you’ll be able to track wild cheetahs at a conservation centre. This comfortable budget safari offers a selection of accommodation options, including fully serviced glamping, guesthouse, or B&B options.


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Written by Taryn Hill

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