be_ixf;ym_201910 d_20; ct_100

The serval has the longest legs
of all cats, relative to its size

  • Spread the word


Conservation Status:

Least Threatened

  • There are 19 recognized subspecies
  • Can jump up to 1.5 meters in the air
  • Native to more than 35 African countries

Quick Facts

Scientific name

Leptailurus serval


9 to 18 kilograms (19 to 40 pounds)


60 centimeters in length (23 inches)

Life span

Up to 23 years






65 to 75 days


Hyenas, leopards, hunting dogs


Where do servals live?

Servals are common on savannas where there is plenty of water. They prefer areas of bush, tall grass, and dry reed beds near streams, but they are also found in high-altitude moorlands and bamboo thickets. They are found in most parts of Africa, with the exception of Central Equatorial Africa, the very Southern part of the continent, and the Sahara region.

Physical Characteristics

What is a serval?

Servals are medium-sized wild cats with tawny, black-spotted coats and long necks and long legs that allow them to see over savanna grasses. They also have large ears and an acute sense of hearing.

Behavior & Diet

Servals enjoy a diverse diet. 

Servals eat a great variety of prey, including rodents, birds, reptiles, frogs, and insects. They catch much of their prey by leaping high into the air and pouncing. They have also been seen using their long forelimbs to reach into burrows or to hook fish out of the water. They are quite successful hunters and seldom eat carrion.

They lead a solitary existence.

Servals come together in pairs only for a few days when the female is in heat. 

They are single mothers.

Kittens, born in litters of two to four, are difficult to observe, as the mother hides them well and frequently changes the hiding place. Because the female raises the litter alone, she has to hunt frequently to feed them. When the young are large enough to hunt, the mother drives the males out. Young females remain somewhat longer, but when they become sexually mature, they too leave to establish their territories.

  • Serval Paul Lampert
  • Serval Billy Dodson
  • Serval Federico Veronesi
  • Serval Billy Dodson

Servals are hunted by humans.

These cat's spotted coats are sometimes marketed as young leopards or cheetahs and can attract a hearty price on the black market. This, as well as their tendency to attack poultry, makes them a target for hunters. Consequently, servals are no longer found in heavily populated areas.


Our solutions to protecting the serval:

  • Engage wildlife scouts.

    African Wildlife Foundation works with communities who live in close quarters with wildlife and equips scouts with essential tools, such as Global Positioning System (GPS)-monitoring devices and vehicles. As a result, AWF is able to ensure enhanced protection of wildlife in these regions as well as provide additional employment opportunities to local communities.

  • Foster symbiosis between wildlife and people.

    AWF works with communities living in close proximity to wildlife to incentivize conservation. In exchange for refraining from retaliatory killing or killing for products, like fur, communities receive training in sustainable, and more productive, agriculture techniques that lead to enhanced food and economic security.

Get Involved

Become a member

Join African Wildlife Foundation as a member for just $25. Your partnership is vital to our mission to protect Africa’s most precious - and imperiled - creatures.

Join Now

  • Spread the word

Make a gift to protect Africa's most vulnerable species.