Serval (Leptailurus serval)
Serval Hissing by Gerald Hinde from the book Cats of Africa

Serval Key Facts

*   Unique to Africa   *

*  Very large ears   *

*   Pounces on prey   *

Serval Information

SCIENTIFIC NAME Leptailurus serval

COMMON NAMES African Serval, Serval, Serval Cat

NAME ORIGIN The name Serval is derived from a Portuguese word meaning "deerlike wolf" (cervus = deer). In Africa it is commonly referred to as a 'bush cat', and in Afrikaans (South Africa) it is known as a "tierboskat" which means 'tiger bush cat'.

CONSERVATION STATUS Least Concern (Global). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2020-1. <>. Note that within each country the conservation status can differ to the global status.

IDENTIFICATION Serval have a combination of spots and stripes on their coats, and they have very large rounded ears for picking up the sounds of prey in long grasses. More about Serval Description.

DISTRIBUTION Serval only occur in Africa, inhabiting the wetter areas and are absent from the deserts in the north and south west. More about Serval Distribution.

UNIQUE BEHAVIOR The Serval has a very characteristic pouncing technique when hunting rodents. It leaps high into the air and then lands on the prey with its forepaws, stunning the prey in the process (see video).

LIFE CYCLE Serval cats produce litters all through the year with births peaking in the wet season. Gestation is between 67 to 75 days and on average two to three kittens are born on in a litter. More about the life cycle of Servals.

HISTORY The Serval was the symbol of the Italian Tomasi family, princes of the island of Lampedusa. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, wrote the famous Italian novel 'IlGattopardo'. Despite being known as 'The Leopard' in English, the Italian title actually refers to a Serval. The Serval's North African range is near Lampedusa.

Further Information about African Serval Cats

Video: Serval Vs. Guinea Fowl by the Smithsonian Channel