Scientific Classification
Binomial name
Leptailurus serval
The Serval (Leptailurus serval, sometimes Felis serval) is a medium-sized African wild cat: length 85 cm, plus 40 cm tail. It has long legs and a slender head; the ears are broad and long. The pattern of the fur is variable: while most Servals bear leopard-like spots, some have no markings except for a spot above the eye and the rings around the tail. In addition entirely black servals are known to exist (see black panther).

This cat is quite common in Africa. Its main habitat is the savanna. Servals need watercourses within their territory, so they do not live in semi-deserts or dry steppes. They are able to climb and swim, but they seldom do so.

The serval preys on rodents, hares, hyraxes, small antelopes and birds.

The litter consists of two or three young. They are raised in sheltered locations like abandoned aardvark burrows. If such an ideal location is not available, a place behind a shrub may be sufficient.

Servals are sometimes preyed by leopards. More dangerous for this cat are humans. Servals were extensively hunted for their fur. They are still common in West and East Africa, but they are extinct in the South African Cape Province and very rare north of the Sahara.


  • Leptailurus serval serval, Cape Province (extinct)
  • Leptailurus serval beirae, Mozambique
  • Leptailurus serval brachyura, West Africa, Sahel, Ethiopia
  • Leptailurus serval constantina, Algeria (endangered)
  • Leptailurus serval hamiltoni, eastern Transvaal
  • Leptailurus serval hindeio, Tanzania
  • Leptailurus serval ingridi, Namibia, southern Botswana, Zimbabwe
  • Leptailurus serval kempi, Uganda
  • Leptailurus serval kivuensis, Congo
  • Leptailurus serval liposticta, northern Angola
  • Leptailurus serval lonnbergi, southern Angola
  • Leptailurus serval mababiensis, northern Botswana
  • Leptailurus serval robertsi, western Transvaal
  • Leptailurus serval togoensis, Togo, Benin

Serval is also the name of a commune of the Aisne département in France.