Latin Name
Leptailurus serval




A feline predator, the serval can reach 2–3 feet in length and weigh up to 40 pounds. The species is long-legged and slender, with a small head and large ears. The serval's coat is tan with dark markings. It has a ringed tail.



Servals can be found throughout much of Africa, with the exception of desert regions.


The serval is not endangered, although its numbers have declined in the wild due to hunting for fur and in response to predation on domestic fowl. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Serval Species Survival Plan®, a shared management effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


The species occupies savannas, forests and woods. They are typically found near water.


A carnivore, the serval eats a varied diet, including birds, rodents, insects, reptiles and small hoofed mammals. The cats’ spotted coat helps them to stay camouflaged in grasslands, enabling them to sneak up on prey. The species possesses excellent jumping abilities—they can leap up to 10 feet into the air—helping them catch birds in flight.

Life History

Servals are often solitary, with males and females coming together to breed. Mothers hide their young in dens built in tall, thick grass. Newborns are blind at birth, and a typical litter includes 2–3 cubs.

Special Adaptations
  • The species' forepaws are equipped with long, retractable claws to help grab and hold prey.
  • A well-developed sense of hearing helps the serval locate prey in the tall grass of its habitat.

ARKive Media

ARKive image - Young serval cub in denARKive video - Female serval with suckling kittensARKive video - Female serval with kittens, suckling, grooming and learning to hunt

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Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit