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. Adults range from 9 to 13 kgs.
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.
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 Facial Characteristics
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.
The large, rounded 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.
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.