50+ Facts About Snow Leopards

Updated on December 29, 2018
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Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Panthera uncia (formerly Uncia uncia)

Classification: Mammal

Size: 2 ft (0.6 m) tall; 3-5 ft (0.91–1.51 m) from head to base of tail

Weight: 60–120 lbs (27–54 kg)

Diet: Carnivore (typically blue sheep and mountain ibexes)

Habitat: Mountains of Central Asia (from India to Russia)

Lifespan: Typically 15–18 years (up to 25 years)

IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable (population still declining)

Population, Habitat, and Range

1. The scientific name for the snow leopard is Panthera uncia. Previously classified in the genus Uncia, recent genetic testing has resulted in a taxonomical shift to the genus Panthera, which consists of other true big cats like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars.

2. In 2016, an estimated 4,500–8,000 snow leopards are left in the wild—much larger than previously thought (4,000–6,500 in 2003).

3. Their population is still considered to be declining, although they have been upgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (last assessed Nov. 2016).

4. China is said to hold 60% of the snow leopard population—mostly along its far western border and across the Himalayas (see table below).

5. Their preferred habitat consists of rocky and rugged terrain in alpine territories. In the summer, they live at an altitude of 9,800–19,700 ft (3,000–6,000 m)—above the tree lines. In the winter, they can be found as low as 4,000 ft (1,200 m).

6. The rocks and snow provide an excellent background and environment for them to hide in.

7. Although concentrated mostly in Central Asia, they have a widespread distribution and can be found in countries like India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan Afghanistan, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Russia.

8. They prefer living in ridges, cliffs and rock outcrops. These locations are convenient because they provide camouflage for stalking and sneaking up on prey.

Estimated Snow Leopard Population by Country

Country
Estimated Population
Afghanistan
100–200
Bhutan
100–200
Burma
China
2,000–2,500
India
200–600
Kazakhstan
180–200
Kyrgyzstan
900–1,400
Mongolia
500–1,000
Nepal
350–500
Pakistan
250–420
Russia
50–150
Tajikistan
120–300
Uzbekistan
10–50
Data from http://snowleopardconservancy.org/kids/text/livingwild.htm
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Biology and Unique Features

9. Although they share a similar name and appearance with the common leopard (Panthera pardus), genetic studies have suggested that snow leopards are more closely related to the tiger (Panthera tigris).

10. Despite the genetic similarities with tigers, snow leopards cannot roar. Instead, they chuff, growl, hiss, mew, and wail.

11. Snow leopards are smaller than other true big cats, weighing only about 27–54 kg.

12. They measure about 91–151 cm long and stand at almost 2 ft tall at the shoulders.

13. They are stocky but muscular and have short limbs—all adaptations for traversing mountainous terrain and hunting their prey.

14. The female is about 30% smaller than the male.

15. Their fur is white/gray with black spots and rosettes throughout their body. The belly tends to be mostly white. They have dense fur, with hairs ranging from 2–5 in long.

16. One of its unique and distinguishing features is its long, furry tail, which helps it walk, run, and leap through the rough terrain. It can also use its tail to blanket its face when resting.

17. They also have specially adapted paws that act like snowshoes to prevent the from sinking in deep snow.

18. Because of their cold, mountainous habitat, they've developed shorter ears for less heat dissipation. They also have wide nostrils to efficiently warm the air as it passes through, increasing the oxygen content of the thin air.

19. They are not known to be aggressive toward humans, although they will defend their territory and cubs.

20. Often described as shy creatures, adults are mostly solitary and are rarely seen out in the open.

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Snow Leopards Playing in the Snow

Behavior

21. As they travel, they scent mark their territory and travel routes, often by scratching themselves on rocks or spraying urine.

22. They are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during dusk and dawn.

23. Adult males tend to be independent and solitary, only socializing during mating season, while adult females tend to stay with their cubs.

24. In areas where prey is abundant, they are closely packed within a range of 30–65 km. In contrast, in flat terrain, where prey may be less abundant, snow leopards are distributed over an area of 1,000 km.

25. They tend to travel along areas with little or no shrubbery—for example, the Tibetan Plateau—which contains many ridges and rocky cliffs that offer protective covering.

26. Unlike other big cats, the snow leopard is a non-aggressive animal that when threatened by another predator, may choose to back away, leaving its well-earned kill to be finished by the invader.

27. When they sense human presence, they become nocturnal animals to avoid unnecessary encounters with humans that may be a threat or danger.

28. Reports of attacks on humans are rare, although they may become aggressive to defend themselves or their cubs when threatened.

29. They stalk their prey from higher grounds, preferring to attack from above. They can be seen chasing prey down steep slopes.

30. They use the gray, broken rocks along the mountainside as cover and camouflage.

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Snow leopard of the zoo of Zurich eating some meat.
Snow leopard of the zoo of Zurich eating some meat.
Snow leopard of the zoo of Zurich eating some meat. | Source
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Hunting and Diet

31. Snow leopards are the only known opportunistic predators among big cats, meaning they will hunt and eat whatever is most readily available.

32. They can hunt prey up to three times their bodyweight.

33. Their common prey include Himalayan blue sheep, mountain ibexes, markhors, and argali. They prefer bigger prey but will also hunt birds, marmots, voles, and rabbits.

34. Snow leopards tend to hunt alone, although when mating, they can hunt as pairs.

35. Larger prey provide enough food for a family, or for an adult male to feed on over several days.

36. After hunting down an animal, some drag their food into snow tunnels for storage and safe keeping.

37. They eat slowly and a kill may last for 2–3 days.

38. Although their diet is mostly meat, they do supplement with grasses and twigs.

39. When wild prey are scarce, they may hunt domestic livestock, prompting farmers to kill snow leopards.

40. On average, snow leopards hunt and kill a large prey every 8–10 days.

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Three siblings: Snow leopard cubs at the Cat Survival Trust, Welwyn, UK.
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Three siblings: Snow leopard cubs at the Cat Survival Trust, Welwyn, UK.
Three siblings: Snow leopard cubs at the Cat Survival Trust, Welwyn, UK. | Source
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Mating, Cubs, and Lifespan

41. Snow leopard mating season falls in the January–March window.

42. Both males and females will scent mark to leave breadcrumbs leading to their territory, and the addition of pheromones indicates they are ready to mate.

43. Their courtship behavior is complex and prolonged, involving increased calls and visual displays, in order to guarantee their commitment to each other—at least during the brief mating period. They will also hunt together at this time.

44. Some studies in captivity suggest that snow leopards mate for life, although this behavior has not been confirmed in the wild.

45. After mating, female searches for a well-sheltered rock crevice as a safe location for giving birth without having to be alert all the time.

Snow Leopard Mating Rituals

46. After a gestational period of 3–4 months, snow leopards give birth to a litter of 1–5 cubs (on average two cubs).

48. Females are left to raise the cubs on their own, with the males leaving after mating.

47. Cubs weigh about 0.75–1.5 lbs at birth.

48. Cubs do not open their eyes until they are 7 days old, and do not begin walking until they are 5 weeks old.

49. During the time spent with their mothers, cubs learn how to stalk and hunt prey.

50. The young cubs live with their mother until two years of age—about the time females reach sexual maturity. Males reach sexual maturity at around four years of age.

51. After leaving their mother, siblings often stay together for a few more months.

52. In the wild, the life expectancy of snow leopards is 8–10 years, although they typically live to around 15–18 years. In captivity, their lifespan increases to 20–25 years.

Adorable Snow Leopard Cub Walking on the Snow: Young Snow Leopard Cubs live with their mothers for up to 2 years. After which they leave their mothers and live independent solitary lives.
Adorable Snow Leopard Cub Walking on the Snow: Young Snow Leopard Cubs live with their mothers for up to 2 years. After which they leave their mothers and live independent solitary lives.

Threats and Conservation

53. Although their conservation status was recently upgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable, their numbers are still declining due to declining prey populations, increased livestock overgrazing (which contributes to the decreased prey populations), hunting by farmers to protect livestock, and poaching for fur and organs (used in traditional medicine).

54. In 2013, the Global Snow Leopard Forum (GSLF)—which includes the nations that encompass the snow leopard's range—was formed to ensure that governments are taking proactive measures to protect the snow leopards and their environment.

55. Today, many national and international agencies exist to conserve the snow leopard population and habitat. These include the Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservancy, Snow Leopard Project, Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union, and the World Wild Fund for Nature.

56. Conservation projects involve raising awareness about their conservation status and educating local governments and citizens about the need to protect these cats. Farmers have been asked to leave land for the snow leopard's prey species to graze and to stop hunting the big cats.

57. An estimated 4,500–8,000 snow leopards are left in the world, with 600–700 in zoos. Population estimates are difficult to attain because of their extreme habitat and elusive nature, resulting in large ranges in population numbers.

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Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        sombody 

        12 hours ago

        i love them

      • profile image

        Zaniyah 

        8 days ago

        Ya cool

      • profile image

        scarface 

        9 days ago

        they are adorable and they need help because they are going extinct

      • profile image

        Jasmine 

        12 days ago

        Snow Leopards are SUPER adorable!!!!!!!!!!

      • profile image

        a rey 

        13 days ago

        snow leopards are pretty

      • profile image

        snow leopard riri 

        13 days ago

        im doing a thing where i have to dress up for my school where i have to dress up as a snow leopard and bring facts about snow leopard

      • profile image

        Artem yo cool 

        2 weeks ago

        these facts are amazing!

        thanks for the very good facts

        about snow leopards!

      • profile image

        NoneOfYourBuisness 

        2 weeks ago

        Thank You For These Facts

      • profile image

        cool 

        2 weeks ago

        cool

      • profile image

        Abdullah 

        3 weeks ago

        I am from chitral i see snow leopard many times in May life i love snow leopard very much

      • profile image

        Jennifer 

        4 weeks ago

        thank you you help me finish mu homework for an endanger species

      • profile image

        cool 

        5 weeks ago

        awsome this helped me do a project

      • profile image

        daddy 

        5 weeks ago

        this facts is very helpful

        l and hope you guys will like it as much as i did and snow leopoards are so cool and cute

      • profile image

        sara 

        5 weeks ago

        I love snow lepers there so cool

      • profile image

        carlito 

        6 weeks ago

        I LOVE SNOW LEOPARDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • profile image

        Gina 

        6 weeks ago

        So cool

      • profile image

        unknown 

        7 weeks ago

        This helped me do a project! Groovy.

      • profile image

        Riley 

        8 weeks ago

        Soooooooooooooo! cute I Love it

      • profile image

        wooooooooooow 

        2 months ago

        woooooooooooow

      • profile image

        hi 

        2 months ago

        We must save these animals!!!

      • profile image

        robert beale 

        2 months ago

        snow leopards are rlly cool

      • profile image

        Vicky 

        2 months ago

        Sooooooo cute

      • profile image

        Yo-yo 

        2 months ago

        Sooooo cute

      • profile image

        boi 

        2 months ago

        so cute

      • profile image

        Frog 

        3 months ago

        Cooll

      • profile image

        Kangaroo 

        3 months ago

        Soooooooooooooooooooooooooooo cute! I luv it❤️!

        The

      • profile image

        Edomite 

        3 months ago

        Cute and cuddly! Now that I read this I want one.

      • profile image

        Person 

        3 months ago

        Snow leopards are so cute and cuddly! I want to have one

      • profile image

        violite 

        3 months ago

        I LOVE SNOW LEOPARDS

      • profile image

        3 months ago

        Never-everknewany of these facts

      • profile image

        Da Greek Myth Guy 

        3 months ago

        This stuff is amazing!!!!!!!!!!1

      • profile image

        Foxygirl 

        3 months ago

        Never knew any of these facts

      • profile image

        Boy 

        3 months ago

        Baby’s ones are cute

      • profile image

        hello leopards! 

        3 months ago

        they are so cute

      • profile image

        jake 

        4 months ago

        these are great facts

      • profile image

        Justin Bieber 

        4 months ago

        People say I’m just a singer but I also have a heart for snow leopards they are my favourite animal.

      • profile image

        Alyce 

        4 months ago

        I love snow leopards they are my new favourite animal.

      • profile image

        Alyce 

        4 months ago

        I have learned lots of facts about snow leopards

      • profile image

        EMMA 

        4 months ago

        so cool!!!!!

      • profile image

        landon 

        4 months ago

        I was doing a proget on snow leperds and be couse of this I got an a plus.

      • profile image

        Juanita 

        4 months ago

        Hello im doing a project on snow leopards and i want some more detailed facts about these amazing animals could some one help me

      • profile image

        Funky facts here 

        4 months ago

        These are so adorable thank you for this site

      • profile image

        jac 

        4 months ago

        they are so ADORABLE

        Thank you for this website!:D=D

      • profile image

        I hate it 

        5 months ago

        I look for a school project on this site and my teacher tells me its fake wtfffff

      • profile image

        5 months ago

        Nice.

      • profile image

        blob 

        6 months ago

        lol i like it

      • profile image

        People 

        6 months ago

        I love leopards

      • profile image

        no one 

        6 months ago

        I love tis so interesting thanks

        I LOVE SNOW LEOPARDS

      • profile image

        jose 

        7 months ago

        good thing

      • profile image

        noah 

        7 months ago

        cool stuff used it for my report!!!

      • profile image

        noone dragon 9999999999999999999999990 

        7 months ago

        like your work

      • profile image

        Mackenzie M. 

        7 months ago

        they are adorable and these are amazing facts.

      • profile image

        Blob 

        7 months ago

        I love it

      • profile image

        Xavier 

        7 months ago

        Thank You

        It is helping me on my work packet

        It is helpful

        Love Xavier

      • profile image

        Kitty lover 

        7 months ago

        Cats are awesome so please do more of other cats to. Thank you. bye!

      • profile image

        amazing 

        7 months ago

        love it

      • profile image

        cool 

        7 months ago

        wow

        cool

      • profile image

        sup 

        7 months ago

        these are some dope facts thanks :)

      • profile image

        jonathan 

        7 months ago

        COOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL

      • profile image

        georgia 

        8 months ago

        cool

      • profile image

        ranidu 

        8 months ago

        cool facts

      • profile image

        one shot one kill 

        8 months ago

        This was really helpful.Thanks

      • profile image

        Gobo 

        8 months ago

        I love your facts kinda

      • profile image

        Jasmine 

        8 months ago

        First Sophie didn't sleep really right and doing snow leopards is a awsome reaport for class and this is awesome what people can be rood

      • profile image

        Kamryn (Natsu) 

        8 months ago

        I think its useful because i'm doing a

        brocher on the animal so thank you for making this.

      • profile image

        ramira 

        8 months ago

        this is awesome

      • profile image

        tori 

        8 months ago

        i love these animals

      • profile image

        hoolio 

        8 months ago

        thanks for the great information :D

      • profile image

        Bio 

        8 months ago

        So cute

      • profile image

        hoi 

        9 months ago

        helped alot on school papers

      • profile image

        Gabriel 

        9 months ago

        that is awesome

      • profile image

        robo dwarf hamster 

        9 months ago

        I love snow leopards and are researching them. I love your tips! Have any more?

      • profile image

        logan 

        9 months ago

        they are cool that's what i think don't you think so to?

      • profile image

        Rose 

        9 months ago

        The female is about 30 percent smaller then the male.

      • profile image

        jazmin 

        9 months ago

        I love your work.

      • profile image

        Anom 

        9 months ago

        Really cute!!

      • profile image

        Jocelyn Porras 

        9 months ago

        They are so cool

      • profile image

        Love 

        9 months ago

        So cute !!!,

      • profile image

        jefff 

        10 months ago

        lovely

      • profile image

        lovely 

        10 months ago

        SO cute When they are babies

      • profile image

        randome 

        10 months ago

        im learning...

      • Layken Sirmans profile image

        Layken Sirmans 

        10 months ago

        They r so cute

      • profile image

        Snow 

        10 months ago

        I like the facts

      • profile image

        TaRee Scott 

        10 months ago

        I love this I learned a lot tnx

      • Layken Sirmans profile image

        Layken Sirmans 

        10 months ago

        Ur welcome thunder

      • Layken Sirmans profile image

        Layken Sirmans 

        10 months ago

        The snow leopard is smaller than common leopards.

      • profile image

        thunder 

        10 months ago

        now finally something helpful thanks for being there for me

      • Layken Sirmans profile image

        Layken Sirmans 

        10 months ago

        snow leopard is really cute.

      • profile image

        Heybro 

        10 months ago

        This helps me

      • profile image

        Geneva 

        10 months ago

        So cute

      • profile image

        HAY 

        10 months ago

        DOOOOOOD SO COOL

      • profile image

        deez nuts 

        10 months ago

        oh my god so cute

        ehhhhh

      • profile image

        oh on 

        10 months ago

        cute af

      • profile image

        Shanellitta 

        10 months ago

        verrrrrrrrry helpful THANKS!!!

      • profile image

        Ava 

        10 months ago

        I'm using this for a school project I admit so helpful

      • profile image

        Dpool 

        10 months ago

        It has great info and helped me with my project

      • profile image

        I think I love it  

        10 months ago

        This is the best

      • profile image

        logan paul 

        10 months ago

        nice

      • profile image

        Aiden Bolden 

        10 months ago

        these fact are pretty good i used it for science

        THANK BRO.

      • profile image

        daejon 

        10 months ago

        cool

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