The Serval

External characteristics

The Serval is a medium-sized feline with very long legs (relatively the longest legs of all felines), a short tail, long neck and a small head with large, rounded ears and a short muzzle. The coat is yellow-brown in color, with an irregular drawing of black stripes and stains. A black color variety is common in some areas, especially in mountainous regions like the Ethiopian highlands, while in Uganda and eastern Congo Kinshasa a variety with a more speckled fur is common.

The underside is dirty white of colour. The short tail is alternating black and yellow brown ringed. The back of the ears are black, with a clear white spot in the middle. It has a head-hull length of 67 to 100 centimeters. The tail is 24 to 35 centimeters. Males are larger than females. Males weigh 10 to 18 kilograms (on average 13 kilograms), females weigh 6 to 12.5 kilograms (11 kilograms on average).

Distribution and Habitat

The Serval lives mainly in savannas and open grasslands, but also in open forests, along the forest, in Mountain Heidegebieden and in reed fields around marshes. He lives mainly in areas with higher grass. It is found in most of Africa south of the Sahara (except for dense rainforests and very dry deserts) and in northwest Africa. The Serval has disappeared in densely populated areas as most of South Africa.


His diet consists of small mammals (to the size of a hare), lizards, snakes, birds and insects. Sometimes also fruits, fish and frogs are eaten and also young antelopes are sometimes hunted. The most important prey are mice, which he manages to find through his excellent hearing between the high grass or under the ground. Thanks to his long legs he can look over the high grass. The Maned Wolf living in South America, a Hondachtige, has been adapted in a similar way to the hunting of rodents in high grass areas.

His daily rhythm adapts to the prey: if there are many moth mice as Arvicanthis, then the Serval mainly hunts during the daytime, especially nocturnal mice as vlei and Dasymys general, then he hunts mainly at night. Once he has found a prey, he jumps the animal with a quick jump. Underground prey animals are dug out or pulled out of their lair with the long front legs. He can also grab birds with a jump from the air. The captured prey is beaten Parts of larger prey animals are stored underground. Poultry is also eaten. He can cause a lot of damage to poultry farmers.


The Serval is a solitary species. He lives in a small territory that is defended against other servals. However, the surrounding area (up to 30 km²) is shared with other servals. The territory is demarcated with urine. In meetings between servals, the animals nodded their heads up and down. Often the servals make themselves very large by standing on the toes, with curved back. In the case of aggression, the animal makes growling and barking sounds and pulls out with his claws. As shelter an underground hollow, a space between rocks or dense vegetation serves. The Serval is usually thirteen to twenty years old.