|Already Alfred Brehm, the German zoologist, considered leopards to be the most beautiful members of the cat family and wrote:
The leopard without doubt is the most immaculate of all cats. … Just as beautiful as dexterous, just as powerful as agile, just as intelligent as cunning, just as daring as sly, he represents the predator on the highest level.Their body is exceptionally well-proportioned and appears graceful and harmonious from the muzzle up to the tip of the tail. Their shorthaired coat, as soft as silk, varies depending on their origin and light conditions - from a bright golden colour to a pale yellow. This basic colouring turns lighter on the throat and merges into white on the chin, belly and inner sides of their legs.
|Small black blotches adorn their face, head and paws; slightly larger ones, their breast and belly. On the back and on the sides they have black rosettes, which are generally darker coloured inside, and merge into black spots on flanks and tail.
The elliptical patches on the backs of their round black ears match the bobbing seed-heads scattered through the grasses, lifting and rippling in light wind.
Their ochre-coloured eyes seem to be surrounded by black kohl, and in low light their round pupils glow fluorescent dark green. Their eyes are equipped with a special layer of cells - the tapetum: a small dished sequin in the centre of the retina. The tapetum concentrates the entering light and enables leopards to see six times as well as humans. They are adept at weighing up the slightest movement in the dark.
|Male leopards reach a shoulder height of up to 75 cm (30 inches) and a body length of up to 2.40 m (96 inches). Their tail makes up slightly less than half of their total body length. They weigh up to 68 kg. Females are a little more delicate.
Leopards are excellent climbers and from a standing start, broad jump up to 15 m, and 5 m high. Over long distances they cannot run particularly fast, but charge their prey with powerful, energetic leaps and vigorous, explosive-like sprints. Frequently they keep their prey in trees, where it lasts much longer than on the ground and is safe from the marauding freebooters of the jungle: scavengers and competing predators.
Cautious, tenacious and extremely flexible, leopards are far more skilled than any other big cats to adapt to their environment and live in the vicinity of settlements. Cat researchers call them survival artists. An Indian proverb says:
When the tiger stalks the jungle like the lowering clouds of a thunderstorm, the leopard moves as silently as mist drifting on a dawn wind.Their perfect beauty shows in their movements - every single one is lithe, agile and elegant. They walk extremely carefully and soft-footed, avoiding any risk of even the faintest crackle of leaves or rustle of dry twigs when hunting. They are silent and invisible.
|For illustration purposes this story shall be told, which was published in London in 1939.|