The snow leopard is a master of camouflage, an outstanding athlete and an expert mountaineer!
An adult snow leopard weighs between 35 and 55 kg (77-121 lbs), and stands approximately 60 cm (24 in) tall at the shoulder. They measure 0.9 to 1.15 m (3 to 4.75 ft) from their head to rump, and have a tail up to 1 meter (40 inches) in length. Males are approximately 30% larger than females, but otherwise the sexes are difficult to tell apart.
The following physical features make the snow leopard uniquely well suited for its mountain habitat:
- Snow leopards have remarkable facial features to suit their cold environment. Round, short ears reduce heat loss and a wide, short nasal cavity heats the chilled outside air before it reaches the sensitive lungs.
- A snow leopard’s extra large paws help keep the cat from sinking into the snow. They act just like a pair of snowshoes!
- Snow leopards have short front limbs and long hind limbs that are used to launch the cat up to 30 feet (6 times its body length) in a single leap! In addition, robust chest muscles aid in steep mountain climbing, and allow the snow leopard to easily keep up with its wild prey.
- A long, thick tail helps the snow leopard keep its balance and acts as a scarf to help warm the cat’s body during the night.
- Year round, snow leopards are covered in soft, dense fur with hair as long as 12 cm (5 in) covering their bellies. This hair grows even thicker during the fall and winter months and helps keep the cat warm in their bitterly cold habitat.
- A snow leopard’s fur pattern is white, yellowish and smoky grey speckled with dark-grey to black spots and rosettes. This helps the cat blend into its natural surroundings and sneak up on prey.