Home » Cheetah vs Leopard: 7+ key Differences and Who Would Win?

Cheetah vs Leopard: 7+ key Differences and Who Would Win?

The animal kingdom is replete with fascinating creatures, and among them, leopards and cheetahs stand out for their elegance and prowess. While they may seem similar at a glance, a closer look reveals a world of difference.

This article delves into the nuances of these magnificent animals, comparing them across various aspects such as body structure, pattern, face, eyes, tail, speed, hunting techniques, habitat, behavior, and even who would win the fight.

Differences between Cheetah and Leopard

BodyTaller at the shoulder, more slender, built for speedShorter, more robust and muscular, built for strength
Weightup to 72kgup to 100kg
PatternYellowish-tan coat with black spotsLarger rosette pattern along their sides
FaceDistinctive black “tear marks” from the inside corner of their eyes down to the sides of their mouthNo distinctive facial markings

Eyesamber-colored eyesgreen or blue eyes
Speedup to 113 km/haround 58 km/h
TailFlat tailCylindrical tail

Cheetah vs Leopard: Size

Cheetah in open savannah
Cheetah in open savannah | source: WLDavies @ istockphoto.com

Cheetahs, although taller at the shoulder and standing higher off the ground than leopards, have a more slender physique. Their bodies, which can weigh up to 72 kg, are streamlined for speed.

Cheetahs have long bodies, a flexible spine for quick directional changes, a small rounded head, a high chest with a thin abdomen, and prominent shoulder blades.

Portrait of leopard in the wild on safari track
Portrait of leopard in the wild on safari track | source: Matrishva Vyas @ istockphoto.com

Leopards, in contrast, are the shortest among the big cats but are more robust and heavier than cheetahs, with weights reaching up to 100 kg.

Leopards are muscular cats that use their strength to stalk and ambush their prey, and then haul their kill up trees to safeguard it.

Learn More:
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Cheetah vs Leopard: Pattern

cheetah vs leopard spots
cheetah vs leopard spots

The patterns on their coats are a clear differentiator between cheetahs and leopards.

The coat of a leopard is adorned with rosette-like spots, which provide excellent camouflage in their natural habitat. These spots are clustered in a unique pattern that varies from individual to individual.

Cheetahs, on the other hand, have a tan coat with distinct black spots all over. This spotted pattern aids them in blending into high grasses and staying hidden from both prey and predators.

Cheetah vs Leopard: Face

Leopards have a broader, more powerful face with strong jaws, essential for their hunting style that relies on power and stealth. Their facial structure is built for gripping and holding onto prey.

Cheetah vs Leopard Facial Markings
Cheetah vs Leopard Facial Markings | source: Cheetah by Ben Landy & Leopard by UrmasPhotoCom @ istockphoto.com

Cheetahs have a smaller, more streamlined face, which reduces air resistance during high-speed chases. Their facial structure is more adapted to speed than to strength.

Cheetah vs Leopard: Eyes

Cheetah vs Leopard: Eyes
Cheetah vs Leopard: Eyes

The eyes of a leopard are striking, typically pale green or yellow, providing them excellent night vision for nocturnal hunting.

Cheetahs have a distinctive feature known as the “tear mark” – black lines running from the corner of their eyes down the sides of their nose. This unique trait helps reduce glare from the sun and aids in long-distance vision during daytime hunts.

Cheetah vs Leopard: Speed

When it comes to speed, cheetahs are unrivaled. They are the fastest land animals, capable of accelerating from a 0 to 103km/h in a just 3 seconds, and can achieve short bursts of speed up to 113km/h. This incredible speed is a testament to their streamlined body and powerful muscles.

Adult Cheetah running through Savannah
Adult Cheetah running through Savannah | source: slowmotiongli @ istockphoto.com

Leopards, while not as fast as cheetahs, are no slouches either. They can ramp up their speed and reach up to 60km/h over short distances. However, leopards rely more on their strength and stealth for hunting rather than speed.

Cheetah vs Leopard: Tail

Leopard's Tail
Leopard’s Tail | source: byjus.com

A leopard’s tail is long and bushy, which they use for balance, especially when climbing trees or maneuvering during a chase.

Cheetah's Tail
Cheetah’s Tail | source: byjus.com

The cheetah’s tail is also long but less bushy, with a series of black rings near the end. It acts like a rudder during high-speed chases, helping them make sharp turns.

Feet and Claws

When it comes to feet and claws, cheetahs have semi-retractable claws, unlike other big cats, including leopards, whose claws are fully retractable. This feature provides extra grip for cheetahs when they are sprinting at high speeds.

Hunting & Behavior

Cheetahs and leopards also exhibit different behaviors, particularly in terms of their hunting habits and active times.

Cheetahs are diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They rely on their exceptional speed to chase down prey. Interestingly, unlike most other big cats, cheetahs are known to live in groups called coalitions, typically formed by siblings.

wild african leopard looking down from a branch of a tree
wild african leopard looking down from a branch of a tree | source: lightstock @ istockphoto.com

Leopards, in contrast, are primarily nocturnal and rely on their strength and stealth to ambush prey. They are solitary animals and do most of their hunting at night.

Learn More: How Do Tigers Hunt?

Habitat and Distribution

Leopards are versatile in their habitat preferences, found in forests, savannas, mountains, and grasslands across parts of Africa and Asia.

Cheetahs prefer open fields, savannas, and grasslands, which are conducive to their high-speed pursuits. They are mainly found in Eastern and Southern Africa, with a small population in Iran.


Cheetahs typically live 8 to 10 years in the wild, while leopards have a longer lifespan, usually between 12 and 17 years.

Cheetah vs Leopard: Who Would Win?

Cheetah vs Leopard
Cheetah vs Leopard | source: Leopard by Galyna Andrushko & Cheetah by Thysje Arthur @ shutterstock.com

In a hypothetical encounter, the outcome would largely depend on the circumstances. Leopards, with their strength and powerful jaws, have an advantage in close combat.

Cheetahs, while faster, are less muscular and might struggle in a physical fight. However, in the wild, these animals avoid direct confrontations, as survival takes precedence over combat.


In conclusion, cheetahs and leopards, while seemingly similar, are two distinct species with unique characteristics and behaviors.

Whether it’s the cheetah’s incredible speed or the leopard’s impressive strength, both of these big cats have evolved in remarkable ways to survive in their respective habitats.

So, the next time you’re on a safari or watching a wildlife documentary, you’ll be able to tell these two magnificent creatures apart with ease. They are indeed two of the most fascinating creatures in the animal kingdom.


What are the main differences between a cheetah and a leopard?

Cheetahs and leopards differ in body structurecoat and markingsfacial featuresspeed and behavior.

How do the body structures of cheetahs and leopards differ?

Cheetahs have a more streamlined body built for speed, while leopards have a more robust and muscular build.

What are the differences in the coat and markings of cheetahs and leopards?

Cheetahs have a yellowish-tan coat with black spots, while leopards have a larger rosette pattern along their sides.

How do cheetahs and leopards differ in terms of speed?

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals, capable of reaching speeds up to 113 km/h, while leopards have a top speed of around 58 km/h.

What are the differences in the behavior and lifestyle of cheetahs and leopards?

Cheetahs are diurnal and most active during the day, while leopards are primarily nocturnal. Cheetahs are known to live in groups called coalitions, while leopards are solitary animals.

Where are cheetahs and leopards found?

Cheetahs are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa, with a small population in northeastern Iran. Leopards have a more extensive geographic range, found throughout Africa and parts of Asia.

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