The Serval (Leptailurus serval) is a medium-sized African wild cat. It
is closely related to the African Golden Cat and the Caracal. Life
expectancy is about 12-20 years. It is a slender animal, with long
legs and a fairly short tail. The tall, oval ears are set close
together. The pattern of the fur is variable. Usually, the Serval is
boldly spotted black on tawny.
Its main habitat is the savanna, although melanistic individuals are more usually found in mountainous areas. The Serval needs watercourses within its territory, so it does not live in semi-deserts or dry steppes
Although the Serval is highly specialised for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes hares, hyraxes, birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs. The Serval has been observed taking larger animals, such as small antelopes.
As part of its adaptations for hunting in the savannas, the Serval boasts long legs (the longest of all cats, relative to body size) and large ears. The long legs and neck allow the Serval to see over tall grasses, while its ears are used to detect prey, even those burrowing underground. While hunting, the Serval will pause for up to 15 minutes at a time to listen with eyes closed. The Serval's pounce is a distinctive vertical 'hop', which may be an adaptation for catching flushed birds. The Serval is a highly efficient hunter, catching prey on as many as 50% of attempts, compared to around one of ten for most species of cat.