Subspecies and Types of Leopard

There are few animals in the world more stunning and charismatic than the leopard. Leopards-- including related species that are not "true" leopards-- have long attracted the admiration and amazement of human beings. Many types of leopard exist, and several related species bear the "leopard" label due to their similarity in appearance. These stealthy, spotted cats remain a favorite among all those who admire wild animals, but almost all types of leopard face serious jeopardy in the wild.

True Leopard
The leopard, or Panthera pardus, is the only "true" leopard species in the world. It inhabits a wide range of habitats, from deserts and savannas to rainforests and swamps. Its natural range, including areas in which it has been exterminated, extends through almost all of Africa, most of the Middle East, and a very significant portion of Asia. The African leopard is the most populous of the subspecies, but, due to its extensive geographical range and its ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats, several distinct subspecies of leopards exist today.
Black Panther
All subspecies of true leopard come in both a standard spotted form and in a melanistic, or all-black, form-- which is most commonly called a "black panther." This label can also be applied to melanistic jaguars, which are not leopards, so the term can lead to some confusion. Melanistic leopards are still leopards, and do not belong to a separate species or unique subspecies.
Amur Leopard
The Amur leopard, with its cream-colored coat and dark rosettes, is a critically endangered subspecies of leopard. Unfortunately, the Amur leopard will almost certainly be extinct within your lifetime-- only 14-20 members of the species exist today. Historically, the Amur leopard's habitat ranged from northeastern China, south to Peking, and the Korean Peninsula.
Arabian Leopard
The critically endangered Arabian leopard, which is the smallest subspecies, has fewer than 200 living individuals. It weighs a mere 40-70 pounds in adulthood, far smaller than its cousins in Sub-Saharan Africa. This rare, delicate, and elusive animal will likely be extinct within 50 - 100 years.

Indian Leopard 

Classified as "vulnerable," but not endangered, Indian leopards have short ears and tightly-formed rosettes. They live in a wide variety of regions in India both including hot, marshy rain forests, and mountainous coniferous forests-- and the in-between climates, such as deciduous and temperate forests. Its natural habitat borders the ranges of two other types of "leopard"-- snow leopard and Indochinese leopard.
Sri Lankan Leopard
Sri Lankan leopards have tawny coats and small, tight rosettes, much like Indian leopards. They are the apex predators of Sri Lanka and regarded as integral to the culture and ecology of the region. However, poaching and habitat loss constantly threaten this already-endangered type of leopard, which clings to life in isolated wilderness areas.

Anatolian Leopard
The Anatolian leopard of Southwestern Turkey is the most critically endangered subspecies of leopard, and is most likely extinct. None have been conclusively sighted since 1974, and extensive research has failed to uncover any promising signs of their continued existence. Anatolian leopards never had a large population, and it took only a few greedy trophy-hunters to-- most likely-- destroy the species forever.

Javan Leopards
There are less than 250 mature adults left among the Javan leopards, a type of leopard subspecies confined to the island of Java, in Indonesia. Melanism, or the "black panther" trait, is more common within this subspecies. Due to its naturally small, isolated population, the Javan leopard faces serious problems for long-term survival.

North Chinese Leopards
The North Chinese leopard weighs roughly 70 - 100 pounds on average, and eats a diet containing not only big game, but also insects and rodents. It is somewhat darker than its other Asian relatives and its habitat is more fragmented due to both natural and anthropogenic causes.
Indochinese Leopards
Like most other types of leopard, Indochinese leopards are also rapidly losing habitat, increasing the risk of extinction, due to poaching and habitat loss. They are closely related to, and similar to, North Chinese leopards, and have a very high rate of melanism.
Persian Leopards
The Persian, or Caucasian, leopard naturally inhabits select areas of Turkey, Iran, Georgia, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. It is stunningly handsome, with a light color, broad maw, and muscular build. Today, some 871-1,290 Persian leopards exist in the wild, and their population is on the decline. Tragically, one of the greatest threats to the Persian leopard is human war, as our conflicts invade their natural territory.

Snow Leopard
The snow leopard is not a true type of leopard, but comprises an entirely separate species. However, due to its similarity in appearance and behavior, its common name includes the "leopard" label. Its appearance reflects its habitat within Central and South Asia,-- a smoky base color, with a white belly, dark gray rosettes, and pale gray eyes. Its exact relationship to true leopards remains unknown. It may belong to the same genus, but some evidence suggests that it only bears a very distant relationship to the other big cats.
Clouded Leopard
Native to the Himalayan foothills of Asia, the clouded leopard is also not actually a type of leopard. It has large, irregularly-shaped spots with a hazy, clouded appearance-- hence its common name. Its fur is a brown-gold ranging to gray, while its spots are primarily black. Like true leopards, clouded leopards can rarely display melanistic traits. It is vulnerable, but not yet endangered.
The leopard's vast range and genetic diversity make it one of earth's most admirable and adaptable survivors, but the animals' striking coat patterns make them prone to poaching and other human threats. By educating ourselves about all types of leopards, and their relatives, we can help to prevent the destruction of these endangered and beautiful animals.