The Wild Cat Serval

Serval is a highly successful feline and hunter. Its beautiful coat and wonderful predatory abilities enable it to stand out among other top predators of the African night. Requiring water constantly for its survival, it lives in grasslands and open plains with water patches, avoiding deserts and arid areas. Extinct from North Africa owing to human interference, they are now seen in sub-Saharan Africa.

Serval coat is generally tawny with black spots on it, sometimes merging to from stripes. Melanism is occasionally seen, along with white Servals, though the latter is only found in captivity. The distinct features of Serval are its long legs (longer in proportion to body size than any other cat) and long ears (rendering it with a hearing ability unrivaled in cat family) that make the Serval a master hunter. Despite being a medium sized cat – thirty to forty pounds in weight, around four feet including tail in length – Serval is often able to take down bigger prey.

Owing to its highly specialized physique, Serval is among the best hunters in Africa, boasting an astounding success rate of 50% in hunting. It takes a wide variety of prey including rodents, birds, fish, hares, insects and frogs. The usual approach is to silently stalk the prey in night, echo-locating it with its sharp ears, then making a final vertical pounce on the animal. Serval also specializes in catching birds out of air by leaping high from the ground and making a clapping movement from its paws to catch the surprised bird out of thin air. At times Serval even takes down deers, though the chief prey animals remain small mammals.

Servals are solitary cats and come together during mating. Pregnancy lasts around two and a half to three months, after which one to five, usually two, cubs are born. Mother hides the young in burrows and bush until they gain independence at seven months and reach maturity at nearly two years of age. In captivity Servals live up to nineteen years.