Serval Physical Characteristics

African Servals are similar in size to Caracals and also classed as medium sized cats, however they are more slender and taller.

Size

The average adult Serval cat size dimensions are:

  • Females weigh between 9 and 11 kgs and their body length, including the tail, is 68 to 93 cm.
  • Males weigh between 11 and 13 kgs and their body length, including the tail, is 71 to 95 cm.
  • The tail is usually about a third of the body length, between 25 to 32 cm.
  • Shoulder height is between 53 to 60 cm.

Body

The Serval is a slender cat with long legs and a short tail. The legs are proportionally the longest to its body size of all the wild cats.

Coat

The coat pattern of a Serval cat is variable but usually pale yellow with different sized spots, some of which merge into longitudinal stripes down the back and neck. The underparts are paler but usually also spotted. The tail has black rings and has a black tip.

Melanistic (black) Servals occur with the spotted pattern still showing through on the dark coat.

Serval Physical Characteristics

Serval Cat Facial Characteristics

Serval Facial Characteristics

Head

The Serval cat also has spots on its face, continuing from its body pattern. There are dark 'tear marks' below the eyes, similar to a Cheetah but not as clearly defined. The black colouration of the nose extends to the skin above the nose. As with many cats, there are white stripes around the eyes and the muzzle is white extending below on the chin.

Ears

The large, oval ears are set close together and are a distinguishing feature of Servals. They have the largest ears proportionally to their body size of all the wild cat species. The backs of the ears are black with a distinct white patch across the centre.

 

Serval Identification

When catching a glimpse of wildlife in the bush it is often difficult to identify an animal, especially if lighting is poor, or you do not see the full animal. Here are some pointers to help you confirm whether what you saw was a Serval cat.

Overall the Serval cat is about the size of a medium sized dog with a spotted coat. It can often be confused with Cheetahs and Leopards which also have spotted coats. Servals have a mixture of small and large, often irregular shaped, spots and even stripes on their coats, whereas Cheetahs tend to have similar sized solid circular spots all over their body. Leopards have a rosette shape pattern which is a cluster of smaller spots encircling a dark patch.

The very large ears of Servals are also distinctive compared to the small, rounded ears of Cheetahs and Leopards.

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