The serval (Felis serval) has been called the "spare parts" cat. It has the longest legs of any feline in proportion to its body, a long neck, a small head, and large oval ears. They live in the tall grass and woodlands of Africa, so these ears help them detect available prey, especially as they are nocturnal. They eat whatever small animals they can catch -- hares, guinea fowl (even jumping up to catch them in the air), rats, lizards, fish, even livestock. They will even sit at the entrance to a burrow waiting for its occupant to come out. It has been estimated that one serval would eat 4000 rodents, 260 snakes, and 130 birds per year.

They have golden fur with black spots, which has made them a target of hunters; they are also eaten by some African cultures, and attacked by leopards and dogs. Habitat depletion also affects them.

Ser"val (?), n. [Cf. F. serval.] Zool.

An African wild cat (Felis serval) of moderate size. It has rather long legs and a tail of moderate length. Its color is tawny, with black spots on the body and rings of black on the tail.

 

© Webster 1913.

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