What is a Serval? Learn more about this incredible species

Posted on December 15, 2021


  • Servals are wild cats native to Africa and widespread in sub-Saharan countries, except rainforest regions.
  • They are medium-sized, slender cats with long legs, a lean body, a short tail, and a small head. They also have particularly large ears that give them an acute sense of hearing.
  • Servals have a coat that is tawny with both black lines and spots, while their belly is a soft white.
  • The serval is a solitary carnivore and active both by day and at night.
  • They are adept and highly successful hunters - while other wild cats are successful in just one of every five or six attempts to kill prey, servals make a kill in about half of all tries.
  • They catch much of their prey by leaping high into the air and pouncing. Standing on its hind legs, a serval can jump more than 9 feet straight up to grab a bird right out of the air – oh beware ye plump pigeons of Sandown!
  • They have also been seen using their long forelimbs to reach into burrows or to hook fish and frogs out of the water.
  • "Wait and see" is the serval's main hunting strategy. A hungry cat waits in the tall grass at dawn or dusk, using its huge ears to listen for approaching prey before pouncing on its meal. Instead of chasing down a target like a cheetah would, the serval takes a giant leap up into the air and then forces its body weight down upon the victim, trapping it beneath the front paws until the cat can deliver a deadly bite to the neck. This method is efficient and quick.
  • The serval has a varied diet, eating birds, reptiles, frogs, crabs, and large insects but small rodents are its most frequent prey item. A serval doesn’t hesitate to reach a long leg down into a rodent's burrow to snatch a meal out of the tunnel!