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By Ann Deiterich



If you were a big cat in Africa with spots, what would you be – a leopard or a cheetah? Leopards have spots, and so do cheetahs. Which one is which? These cats often get mixed up, but they are easy to tell apart.

Plain or Fancy

Both cats have yellow or tan fur with black spots, but their spots are not the same. Leopard spots are big, black dots in the shape of a circle. Sometimes the dots are so close together that they form the letter “O”. The circle of dots is called a rosette because it looks like a little flower.

Cheetah spots don't look like little flowers. They are small, plain dots. They are not as fancy as leopard spots. Plus, cheetahs have stripes! A cheetah has stripes on each side of its face from its eyes to its mouth. There are no stripes on a leopard’s face.

Day or Night

Daytime is when cheetahs hunt other animals for food. Scientists think their stripes act like sunglasses so they can see better in bright light. Cheetahs are the fastest animals on earth. They chase their prey. These fast cats can run up to sixty miles per hour.

Nighttime is when the leopards hunt. They do not run after their prey. They creep very quietly in the dark. Then they pounce.

Size or Speed

Leopards have big bodies. They can weigh up to 200 pounds. They are so strong that they can drag heavy prey high into the trees. These powerful animals are the best climbers of all big cats. Not even a lion or tiger can climb better than a leopard.

Cheetahs are skinny and have long legs. They only weigh about 100 pounds. They are made for speed. In one stride, a cheetah can go more than twenty feet.

Here or There

You can find leopards in different areas of the world. Many leopards live throughout all of Africa and Asia. They are found in more places than any other big cat. Leopards can live in dry grassy areas or in deep jungles.

You can only find cheetahs in a few places in Africa. There are not many cheetahs left on earth. They are endangered. They hunt by chasing, so they like to live in wide open grassy areas without many trees. They need a lot of room to run.

So if you could be a big cat in Africa, would you want spots or dots?




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