Servals

SERVALS – ALL YOU WANTED TO KNOW

SERVAL comes from the Portuguese word meaning “wolf deer”.  Servals are a slender, medium-sized cat. It stands 23-26 inches tall at the shoulder and weighs up to 40 pounds.  The head-and-body length is typically between 26 and 39 inches. Serval characteristics include the small head, and  the longest legs of any cat, relative to its body size.  The coat is  typically golden yellow marked with black spots and stripes. Melanistic  and snow servals are also known. Serval facial features include varying eye color, white whiskers on the snout and near the ears. Servals have a whitish chin with spots and streaks on the cheeks and forehead. Servals have three to four black stripes run from the back of the head to the shoulders, and then break into rows of spots. Servals are the only cats that have both spots and stripes, which allows them to camouflage perfectly in the grass. This not only helps them stalk their prey, it also helps them hide from larger cats. The serval  has markings on the back of its ears that look like eyes, scaring off potential predators. Servals have excellent vision, smell and hearing. The closely set exceptionally large ears are black on the back with a horizontal white band.  A serval’s ears are the largest of any cat in comparison to its body size. The ears can rotate up to 180 degrees independently of each other, enabling them to hear prey from up to 20 feet away. A serval relies just as much on its hearing as it does on its sight. Once the Serval detects the slightest movement, it leaps as high as it can and pounces on it’s prey, and often doesn’t see its prey until it pounces. It can also hear animals that are underground, and will proceed to dig them out. Their sharp teeth allow them to kill their prey quickly.   Servals are also know to leap into the air and snatch the bird in flight. The Serval is a highly adaptive hunter catching its prey about 50% of the time,  in comparison to most cats that catch prey in 5-6 tries, or  the lion which only catches about 30% of its prey. The Serval diet consists of birds, rabbits, rodents, insects, small reptiles, frogs and fish. They are early morning and late afternoon hunters.  Servals live in grasslands, scrub country, wetlands, and woodlands. Their primary predators are leopards, wild dogs, and humans. A Serval will begin to mate at about 2 years old. The serval  gestation is approximately 73 days, and  give birth to a litter of 1 to 5 kittens, with an average of 2 kittens. Servals weigh  8.5-9 ounces at birth, and it will take 9-12 days until their eyes open. Young Servals nurse for about 3 weeks, and then begin to eat meat. By the time they are 8 months old, they are able to hunt on their own.  They attain sexual maturity between 18-24 months, and it is at this time that they will be forced out of their mother’s territory. In captivity, Servals have lived up to 19 years.

 

… AND MORE

  • Servals can also make horizontal leaps of up to 13 feet
  • Servals can make vertical jumps of up to 10 feet to catch birds right out of the aiR
  • Whether a serval is crepuscular or nocturnal depends on the prey
  • A servals’ hind legs are longer than its front ones
  • The Ancient Egyptians used to worship servals for their grace and power
  • Nicknames for the serval include: “bush cat” and “giraffe cat”
  • The serval is sometimes referred to as a small cheetah
  • The servaline was once assumed to be the same species as the serval until a few years ago
  • The serval is the fastest running cat, other than the cheetah reaching up to 30 MPH
  •  It is against the law in many states to own a serval without the proper permits
  • Servals have been bred with domestic cats to create a new breed called the SAVANNAH CAT
  • No two servals have the exact same markings on their fur
  • The serval is also referred to as the “Savannah Stalker” because of its hunting skills 

 

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