The serval is a little-known but fascinating creature, a lightweight cat living in tall grass where the lions hunt gazelles and buffalo. It does not attempt to compete with the mighty "king of beasts", content to tackle smaller prey. Gliding along on stilt-like limbs, with a long neck and large ears, the serval looks like no other cat, and for a reason... From the tall grass a startled flock of birds takes flight only to be chased in the air. With a spring of its powerful limbs, a serval shoots straight up, battering one of the birds back to earth with its long front limbs.
Where do servals live?
Servals live in the savannahs (grasslands) of Africa. This allows them to see both their prey and their predators. As a medium sized cat they have to be wary of lions and hyenas. Servals are good swimmers, and often live near open water where they can take an occasional dip to hunt for fish or swipe at the birds that stop by.
What do servals look like?
The serval's lanky body gives them the most advantage for their bulk in coping with the tall grass where they roam. It gives them the appearance of being larger than they really are. In fact, the smaller female ranges from less than twenty pounds up to about thirty-five pounds. Males generally weigh thirty to fifty pounds. Their large ears give them an advantage in hearing their prey before it hears them. Their fur is yellow with black spots. On the back of the ears are horizontal gray bars. Servals use the position of their ears to communicate with each other. They also hiss a great deal, but this sound can have friendly meanings too. People often think a captive raised serval is being aggressive that is only trying to say hello.
What do servals eat, and how do they catch their prey?
Servals usually eat birds, fish and small rodents. When hunting a bird, the serval will jump up in the air and bat the bird with its front paws. This stuns the bird and makes it fall to the ground. When hunting rodents, the serval uses its large ears to listen for them under the ground. It then jumps straight up into the air six feet or higher, and comes straight down on its prey. Like most cats, a serval will take advantage of other opportunities that come along, taking on anything it feels it can safely subdue. However a serval never poses a threat to humans.
- Servals can jump up to 10 feet straight up to catch birds.
- Their hearing is so acute they can hear burrowing rodents underground and dig them up.
- A cross between a male serval and a female domestic cat is called a savannah cat.
- The mother will chase her male offspring away as soon as they can hunt, at about 8 to 10 months of age, but will let females stay with her for a little longer, up to a year.