The Serval , Leptailurus serval, is a medium-sized African wild cat. Molecular DNA analysis indicates Servals descended from the same ancient Felid ancestor as the Lion, but the Serval maintains its own unique lineage and does not branch from any other cat species, although they appear to share common traits with the Cheetah. However, similar studies has shown the serval to be closely related to the African Golden Cat and the Caracal. The length is 85-112 cm (33-44 in), plus 30-50 cm (12-20 in) of tail, and the shoulder height is about 54-66 cm (21-26 in). Weight ranges from 9 to 16 kg (20-35 lbs) in females, and from 12 to 26 kg (26-57 lbs) in males. Life expectancy is about 12–16 years in the wild, and up to 20–25 years in captivity. It is a strong yet slender animal, with long legs and a fairly short tail. The head is small in relation to the body, and the tall, oval ears are set close together. The pattern of the fur is variable. Usually, the Serval is boldly spotted black on tawny, with 2 or 4 stripes from the top of the head down the neck and back, transitioning into spots. The "servaline" form has much smaller, freckled spots. In addition, melanism is known to exist in this species, giving a similar appearance to the black panther. White servals are white with silvery grey spots and have only occurred in captivity.
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. It is able to climb and swim, but seldom does so. It has now dwindled in numbers due to human population taking over its habitat and also hunting its pelt. It is protected in most countries. The Serval is listed in CITES Appendix 2, indicating that it is "not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled.
Although the Serval is specialized for catching rodents, it is an opportunistic predator whose diet also includes birds, hares, hyraxes, reptiles, insects, fish, and frogs. The Serval has been observed taking larger animals, such as deer, gazelle, and springbok, but over 90% of the Serval's prey weighs less than 200g (7 oz). The Serval eats very quickly, and if its food is big enough, it sometimes eats too quickly, causing it to regurgitate the food due to clogging in the throat. Small prey are devoured whole. With larger prey, small bones are consumed but organs and intestines are avoided, as well as fur, feathers, beaks, feet and hooves. The Serval utilizes an effective plucking technique in which they repeatedly toss captured birds in the air while simultaneously thrashing their head side-to-side, removing mouthfuls of feathers, which they discard.
As part of its adaptations for hunting in the savannas, the Serval boasts long legs (the longest of all cats, relative to body size) for jumping, which also help it achieve a top speed of 50 mph, and large ears with acute hearing. 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. The Serval has been known to dig into burrows in search of underground prey, and to leap 8-16 feet in the air to grab birds in flight. While hunting, the Serval may pause for up to 15 minutes at a time to listen with eyes closed. The Serval's pounce is a distinctive and precise vertical 'hop', which may be an adaptation for capturing flushed birds. The Serval is an efficient killer, catching prey on an average of 50% of attempts (with a 67% success rate at night), compared to around one in ten attempts for most species of cat.
Servals are extremely intelligent, and demonstrate remarkable problem-solving ability, making them notorious for getting into mischief, as well as easily outwitting their prey, and eluding other predators. The Serval will often play with its captured prey for several minutes, before consuming it. In most situations, Servals will ferociously defend their food against attempted theft by others. Males can be more aggressive than females.
The Serval is reputed to be the most effective hunter of all mammals in the animal kingdom.
Info from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serval