5 sexy facts you didn't know about leopards

On page 31 of the Africa Geographic October 2013 issue, Don Pinnock encounters some loved-up leopards. Following on from that article, here are 5 facts that we bet you didn’t know about the leopard mating ritual!

© Don Pinnock

© Don Pinnock

1. Leopards can mate almost continuously for about 5 days straight, although some leopards have been recorded to continue mating regularly for over a month! With the act happening every 15 minutes or so, they can mate up to 250 times in the 5 day week.

2. Leopard females don’t produce unused eggs like humans do, as this would mean wasted energy. So ovulation only occurs with stimulus. When she is in oestrus her hormones are at a level where she can produce eggs and an unusual scent produced in her urine. She continues to mark her territory, more so than usual, indicating to the male that she is ready for him!

3. Male leopards detect the female urine using their Jacobson’s organ – an amazing olfactory organ that allows them to measure the hormone levels in the females’ urine to determine if she is ready to mate.

4. In order to stimulate female ovulation, the males penis is barbed. This violent affair results in a painful experience for the female and those fantastic photos of her snarling at him while in the act. He does however have weak sperm, note the many times they need to do it before fertilisation can occur.

© Don Pinnock

© Don Pinnock

5. Some research suggests that females can even make themselves less fertile, should the male that arrives not be the dominate male. The reason for this is that she ensures a better life for her cubs, as if they are produced by a weaker male, they may be killed by a more dominate one when he comes into the territory.

© Don Pinnock

© Don Pinnock

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Africa Geographic Editorial

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  • Cam

    Can you shed any light on what evolutionary factors might be behind the male’s weak sperm, thus requiring such a mating ritual? Is it to ensure that only the strongest male’s (the one’s with the greatest stamina) are able to pass on their genes? Fascinating.

    • Judy Beyer

      It would appear that the sperm of male leopards is weak because of gnerations of inbreeding. That’s why the couple have to mate as often as they do, and only in times of oestrus. If the female is not receptive, there is no point in the male wasting his energy. So, when a female comes into oestrus, she leaves her scent in her territory and calls out to attract a male. Once together, they make the most of the occasion.

      • Judy Beyer

        generations, of course…

  • Joshua

    for xure they are

  • james varden

    hi interesting comments re the need for the pair to mate so frequently. is this also the case for lions who also have a long and intensive mating period? i am also intrigued by the idea of the inbreeding theory. surely over the many years of evolution of the species and if one takes into consideration the huge distribution and very broad habitat tolerance of the species, how can there be inbreeding to such an extent that modern day cats have such ineffectual sperm? are there not other factors at play here for both leopard and lion to have such intensive mating sessions?

  • Peter Mwai

    Amazing-these I really didn’t know about!

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