The Indian leopard is most easily recognized by its rosette patterned coat and extremely long, darker tail. This large cat is sometimes confused in appearance with the South American Jaguar - the leopard though is less stocky and unlike the jaguar, its rosette markings are generally smaller and have no internal spots.
The overall size of the leopard depends very much on the subspecies and location, with the largest animals growing to a length of nearly 5 feet with an additional tail length of some 3 feet - generally the male is between 20-40% larger than the female.
The base coloration of the coat also varies greatly depending upon location, ranging from golden/yellow in open grasslands, through yellow/cream in desert areas to deep gold in mountain and forest regions. All black or melanistic leopards, sometimes commonly called Black Panthers are born in the same litter as normally marked cats and also carry the rosette markings, although these are masked by the darkness of the fur. It has been observed that the melanistic leopard is most generally found in the dense, wet forested areas of India and south east Asia, where the coloration advantages the cat in its hunting.
The leopard is a versatile hunter and generally nocturnal in its pursuit of prey - however the increased frequency of hunting found in the female raising young often leads to more opportunist hunting during daylight hours. The type of prey taken by the leopard is again dependant largely upon its locale - in the open grasslands of Africa where roaming herds of large to medium sized herbivores are common the leopard will take young eland and wildebeest, impala and gazelle. However in the same areas the leopard will also take small mammals such as hares and rock hyrax, reptiles and insects.
In contrast, in the west and central forested regions of Africa the leopards prey consists mainly of the smaller antelope such as duiker, small monkeys and various rodents such as rats, squirrels and porcupines.