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Cheetah vs. Leopard: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 22, 2023
Cheetahs are known for their incredible speed and spotted coats, while leopards are recognized for their strength, rosette-patterned fur, and climbing abilities.

Key Differences

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, reaching speeds up to 70 mph, while leopards are known for their agility and strength, particularly in climbing trees. Both are large felines but have distinct physical and behavioral characteristics.
The cheetah has a slender, aerodynamic build for speed, whereas the leopard possesses a more muscular and stocky build, suitable for climbing and ambushing prey. Each species has adapted uniquely to its habitat and hunting style.
In terms of coat patterns, cheetahs have distinct black spots and a tear line on their face, while leopards have rosettes and lack the tear line. These markings aid in camouflage but are unique to each species.
Cheetahs are generally diurnal, hunting during the day, while leopards are predominantly nocturnal, preferring to hunt at night. This difference in activity patterns helps reduce competition between these two predators.
Geographically, cheetahs are mainly found in parts of Africa and a small population in Iran, whereas leopards have a wider range, found in various parts of Africa and Asia. Their habitats reflect their adaptability and hunting strategies.

Comparison Chart

Word Type



Two (Chee-tah)
Two (Le-o-pard)




Derived from Hindi 'chita' meaning 'spotted one'
From Greek 'leopardus', a combination of lion (leo) and panther (pard)

Usage in Nature

Refers to a specific species of large, fast feline
Refers to a distinct species known for its strength and agility

Cheetah and Leopard Definitions


A large feline known for its incredible speed.
The cheetah sprinted across the savannah chasing its prey.


A species known for its climbing and swimming abilities.
The leopard effortlessly climbed the tree to rest on a branch.


A species with distinctive black spots on its coat.
The cheetah's spots help it blend into the tall grasses.


A large, powerful feline with rosette-patterned fur.
The leopard stealthily stalked its prey from the treetops.


A member of the cat family with a lean build.
The cheetah's lean build is essential for its high-speed pursuits.


A nocturnal hunter with a varied diet.
The leopard hunts at night, preying on a range of animals.


An animal famous for its acceleration and agility.
The cheetah can accelerate faster than most sports cars.


An adaptable predator found in diverse habitats.
The leopard thrives in both forest and savannah environments.


A carnivorous mammal adapted for speed hunting.
The cheetah relies on its speed to catch fast-moving prey.


A large wild cat (Panthera pardus) of Africa and southern Asia, having either tawny fur with dark rosettelike markings or black fur.


A long-legged, swift-running wild cat (Acinonyx jubatus) of Africa and southwest Asia, having tawny, black-spotted fur and nonretractile claws. The cheetah, the fastest animal on land, can run for short distances at about 96 kilometers (60 miles) per hour.


Any of several similar felines, such as the cheetah or the snow leopard.


A distinctive member (Acinonyx jubatus) of the cat family, slightly smaller than the leopard, but with proportionately longer limbs and a smaller head; native to Africa and southeast Asia (where it is nearly extinct) and also credited with being the fastest terrestrial animal.


(Heraldry) A lion in side view, having one forepaw raised and the head facing the observer.


A species of leopard (Cynælurus jubatus) tamed and used for hunting in India. The woolly cheetah of South Africa is Cynælurus laneus. It runs very fast in short spurts while hunting.


Panthera pardus, a large wild cat with a spotted coat native to Africa and Asia, especially the male of the species (in contrast to leopardess).


Long-legged spotted cat of Africa and southwestern Asia having nonretractile claws; the swiftest mammal; can be trained to run down game


(inexact) A similar-looking, large wild cat named after the leopard.


The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), a large wild cat native to Asia.


The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), a large wild cat native to Asia.


(heraldry) A lion passant guardant.


Any of various nymphalid butterflies of the genus Phalanta, having black markings on an orange base.


A large, savage, carnivorous mammal (Felis leopardus). It is of a yellow or fawn color, with rings or roselike clusters of black spots along the back and sides. It is found in Southern Asia and Africa. By some the panther (Felis pardus) is regarded as a variety of leopard.


The pelt of a leopard


Large feline of African and Asian forests usually having a tawny coat with black spots


A solitary and territorial wild cat species.
Each leopard has its own territory, which it fiercely defends.


What is the habitat of a cheetah?

Cheetahs primarily live in open savannahs in Africa.

What is the cheetah's top speed?

Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 70 mph.

How can you identify a leopard?

Leopards have a muscular build with rosette-shaped spots and no tear lines.

What distinguishes a cheetah's appearance?

Cheetahs have a slender body, distinct spots, and a tear line on their face.

Where can leopards be found?

Leopards inhabit various environments in Africa and Asia.

What is the leopard's hunting strategy?

Leopards typically use stealth and strength to ambush their prey.

How do cheetahs raise their young?

Cheetah mothers raise their cubs alone, teaching them to hunt.

Do cheetahs hunt in groups?

Cheetahs usually hunt alone or sometimes in small family groups.

Are leopards good climbers?

Yes, leopards are excellent climbers and often rest in trees.

What do cheetahs primarily eat?

Cheetahs mainly prey on small to medium-sized ungulates.

Is the leopard's fur pattern unique?

Yes, each leopard has a unique rosette pattern, like a fingerprint.

Are leopards solitary animals?

Yes, leopards are generally solitary except during mating or raising cubs.

Can cheetahs climb trees?

Cheetahs are not adept climbers like leopards.

What role do cheetahs play in the ecosystem?

Cheetahs help maintain the balance by preying on weaker animals.

Are cheetahs endangered?

Yes, cheetahs are classified as vulnerable and are at risk of extinction.

Do leopards adapt well to different environments?

Yes, leopards are highly adaptable to various habitats.

How long do cheetahs live in the wild?

Cheetahs live around 10-12 years in the wild.

How does a leopard protect its food?

Leopards often drag their prey up trees to keep it from scavengers.

What is the leopard's diet?

Leopards have a varied diet, including prey from insects to large mammals.

What threats face leopards in the wild?

Leopards face threats from habitat loss, hunting, and human-wildlife conflict.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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