An act not many individuals get to witness in the wild due to these cats being very shy and elusive by nature, but an act I have been fortunate enough to witness several times. It’s all very good and well reading in a book that a male and a female will come together and mate roughly every 15 minutes during a period of 5 days but living in the bush I was reminded on a regular basis that you cannot always just accept what the book says. After all, this is nature and we all know that anything can happen in nature and there is always an exception to the rules…
Yes, we can go with what the books tell us and majority of the time it is pretty much spot on, but as I mentioned there are always exceptions.
Spending every day out in the field and witnessing animal behavior firsthand was what I loved about being a fulltime guide. I’d often get to see and experience things that could not be found in any book.
Without getting too carried away I want to talk about the mating rituals of leopards, how it works and everything in between.
In humans, females produce an egg every 28 days. If it is not fertilised, the egg and the lining of the uterus will be discarded. This is not the case in leopards.
It takes up a lot of energy for an animal to produce something that is not used and for this reason the female leopard requires stimulus in order to start the ovulation process.
This all takes place when the female leopard’s hormone levels rise enough for her to produce eggs in a process called oestrus.
Once she is in oestrus, she will go about her daily business hunting and marking territory, the only difference is she may scent mark more frequently leaving a trace of her availability to mate wherever she urinates. This is left for the dominant male/males in the area to test on their patrol. The male leopard rubs this scent along the Jacobson’s organ, situated in the mouth, which will then tell him where the female is at and if she is ready to mate.
In order to stimulate the female to ovulate male leopard have barbs on their penises which dig into the female but these barbs make retracting the penis painful for the female which causes her lash out at the male.
She will continue to produce eggs during the mating ritual and as a male leopard’s sperm is weak he will need to mate with the female often to ensure that fertilization of the eggs takes place.
Based on what books tell us, they mate roughly a total of 250 times over a period of five days but from first-hand experience and as mentioned before, there are always those few exceptions. I have personally seen a leopardess mate for the full duration of 13 days. Now you may be wondering why this happened. Well, this female’s territory was positioned over three different dominant male’s territories and to ensure the safety and survival of her cubs she had to mate with all three males. In doing this, when she had a new litter, each male believed they were the father and did not want to harm the cubs.
You can imagine how difficult this must have been for her and just goes to show how smart animals are and to what length they will go to for their young.
Until next time,