Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have had an opportunity to see wild animals in their natural habitats. And if you have gotten the opportunity, you know that it’s a pretty amazing experience.
Learning about these elusive animals is the next best thing — who doesn’t love a good nature documentary? And when it comes to an animal like the snow leopard, they seem so far removed from reality that any information about them can be extremely interesting. With that being said, here are five fun facts about snow leopards that will make you feel like you know them a little bit better.
They can’t roar.
Since snow leopards are large, wild cats, you might’ve imagined them roaring like lions or tigers. But in reality, they actually can’t roar — they can only yowl, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The snow leopard’s piercing yowl has been described as a loud, drawn-out meow.
Discover Wildlife explains that snow leopards can’t roar because their vocal cords are missing a layer of elasticated tissue. This tissue is what creates the deep, rumbling sound of a roar. While yowling might seem less intimidating, it can actually be more frightening in the sense that it could be hard to identify in the wild.
Snow leopards should reconsider their name.
Even though ‘leopard’ is right in the name, snow leopards are actually more closely related to tigers. A study published in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution found that these two big cats have a sister species relationship, which means that they shared an ancestor.
Their tails double as scarves.
It’s normal and expected for cats to have tails, so it’s not surprising that we don’t think about them that much. But tails actually serve a lot of important purposes, especially for snow leopards.
A snow leopard’s tail can be up to 1 meter long, according to WWF. Their tails help them with balance, which is essential since they tend to live in rocky, mountainous regions. Along with agility, tails can help them keep warm too. A Snow leopard can use their long tail as scarves by wrapping it around its body.
How nice would that be during the winter?
Snow leopards are… shy?
According to National Geographic, snow leopards are extremely reclusive. They aren’t seen very often, which makes it hard to know how many are even left in the wild.
But if you did happen to see a snow leopard in the wild, you’d probably be pretty terrified. Similar to how sloths are incorrectly characterized as lazy, snow leopards are incorrectly characterized as dangerous.
The Sloth Conservation Foundation describes it like this:
“Snow leopards are incorrectly thought to be dangerous to humans and a threat to livestock, when in fact snow leopards are very shy and try to avoid confrontations with humans at almost all costs. These big cats would stay away from people if they had anywhere to go.”
Now, this isn’t to say you should approach one if you ever happen to be in this situation, but it is good to know.
Not only do snow leopards have tails, but they also have tales.
As a result of the snow leopards’ shy behavior, they often appear in local folklore, according to the San Diego Zoo. Their reclusive behavior and uncanny ability to disappear into their environment have earned them the description of ‘shape-changing mountain spirits.’