Serval (Leptailurus serval)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Length: 24 to 38 in (61 to 97 cm)  Height: 20 to 24 in (50 to 61 cm) to shoulder
Weight: 19 to 41 pounds (9 to 19 kg)
Diet: Mainly rodents, but also other small animals including birds, reptiles and fish
Distribution: Africa
Young:  Litter of 1 to 5 kittens
Animal Predators:  Hyenas, leopards and wild dogs
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Kittens
Lifespan: Up to 19 years in captivity



·       The name serval comes from a Portuguese word that means “wolf-deer.”

·       Servals can growl and purr.



Servals are long, thin cats with a small head and powerful legs. They have an orange-beige coat covered with large black spots that sometimes dissolve to stripes on the hind end of their body and/or tail. They have longer legs than any other cats in proportion to their body. Their ears are extremely large and they have excellent hearing. 



Servals live in sub-Saharan and Northern Africa, from grasslands to forests and sometimes even in mountainous regions, as long as the area borders on water. They are not found in rainforests and are rarely found in desert areas. A male serval’s range overlaps that of two to three females. 


Feeding Habits

Rodents make up the major portion of the serval’s diet, making the serval a less annoying predator to farmers than other wild animals, despite the fact that servals occasionally prey on farm animals. Usually, however, they stick to small animals, including birds, reptiles and fish, when there are no rodents present. 



Servals begin breeding at about two years of age. The female prepares a den in dense brush. The pregnancy lasts two to three months and litters number from one to five kittens, each weighing eight to nine ounces and born with eyes closed. At nine to twelve days, their eyes fully open and at three to four weeks, they begin to eat solid food, although they continue to nurse for six to eight months. Male kittens generally leave earlier than their female siblings, who may stay with their mother until they are ready to start breeding (approximately two years).  



Servals are extremely adaptable. They can hunt either day or night, although they tend to be nocturnal, hunting only in the early morning, late afternoon or at night. They dwell mostly on the ground, but are adept tree climbers as well. Servals reportedly can hear a rodent moving as far as 20 feet away. They can also hear their prey underground and their long legs enable servals to reach into a burrow to get at the rodents inside. Servals can leap as high as 10 feet (3 m) off the ground to catch a bird, and have a unique style of pouncing straight up in the air, and then directly down on their prey. Servals have a very high success rate when hunting, twice that of a lion. Females are usually the better hunters, especially when they have kittens to feed. Servals are usually solitary animals, except when they are mating or taking care of their young. Capable swimmers, servals are fond of water and live near water sources such as marshes or rivers surrounded by forest and grasslands. 



A subspecies (Leptailurus serval constantinus) is listed as Endangered in the North African countries of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Servals are partially protected, with hunting prohibited in Algeria, Botswana, Congo, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa (Cape province only); and regulated hunting allowed in Angola, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Tanzania, Togo, Zaïre, Zambia. 



Serval Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US