Serval Serval

Scientific Classification

Common Name
Genus Species
Felis (cat) serval (deer-wolf) or Leptailurus serval

Fast Facts

The serval is a small to medium-sized, slender cat with spots and stripes. It has long legs, large ears, and a yellowish coat with distinct black markings.
Averages about 1 m (40 in.) long and 60 cm (2 ft.) tall at the shoulder.
Approximately 9 to 18 kg (20 to 40 lbs.)
Eats a wide variety of meat such as insects, rodents, birds, lizards; also will hunt small antelope and gazelle
Approximately 75 days
Sexual Maturity
1 to 2 years
Life Span
Averages roughly 13 years
Northwest and sub-Sahara Africa
Found near permanent water on savannas, and in open forests
Global:  Unknown
IUCN: Species not listed; subspecies F.s. constantinus listed as Endangered
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Species not listed; subspecies F.s. constantinus listed as Endangered

Fun Facts

  1. Servals have long, powerful legs that are important for jumping. They have been known to jump as high as 3.6 m (12 ft) to catch birds in mid air.
  2. The spotted coat is important in breaking up the pattern on their body. This is essential for stalking prey. It is a protective camouflage against larger carnivores that will kill and eat the small cats.
  3. Servals' large ears act as radar dishes to locate food. These cats listen for the movement of animals in the grass before they pounce. It is believed that they use their ears as much as their eyes.
  4. Servals, unlike other small cats, are much more diurnal, or crepuscular, meaning they are active in early mornings and late evenings.
  5. Servals, like most cats, live a solitary existence. The only associations formed are during mating and between a mother and her kittens.

Ecology and Conservation

Unfortunately, as with most carnivores, serval populations are at risk. They are not only suffering from loss of habitat, but they are also destroyed when suspected of killing domestic fowl. 

Servals are important small hunters that, unlike large carnivores, eat a wide variety of smaller prey, such as rodents and birds. Because the over-population of rodents poses such a direct threat to the environment and agricultural crops, servals and other small carnivores are extremely important to the balance of many ecosystems.


Estes, R. D. The Safari Companion. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 1993.

Grzimek, B. (ed.). Grzimek's Encyclopedia Mammals. Vol. 2. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., 1990.

Macdonald, D. (ed.). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Vol. 2. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1984.

Nowak, R. M. Walker's Mammals of the World. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Austin Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo