Height and build
The cheetah is the largest of our 3 wild cats, measuring between 26 and 37 inches (67-94 cm) at the shoulder. Cheetahs are very slender. They have long, thin legs and a long tail that helps them change direction in the blink of an eye while running.
The jaguar is slightly smaller than the cheetah with a shoulder height between 26 and 29.5 inches (67-75 cm). Jaguars have a compact, muscular body with a bulky, square-looking head and short legs. Unlike their African cat friends, jaguars are excellent swimmers.
The leopard is a fierce hunter, though looks a little chubbier than the other species. They measure between 22.4 and 27.6 inches (57-70 cm) at the shoulder and can often be spotted having a nap up in a tree.
The color of a leopard’s coat depends on where they live. The snow leopard, for example, lives in cold and snowy areas, and is greyish to fit in with their surroundings. Leopards that live in arid regions are a pale yellow, while those who live in the jungle are a much deeper golden color. Did you know that leopards have a distinct white tip at the end of their tail? Leopards, as well as jaguars and cheetahs have a white belly with dark spots. The same goes for these big cats’ inner legs. Both jaguars and cheetahs have pale-yellow fur, but the markings on their coat will make distinguishing these species a breeze.
If you compare the furry coat of the cheetah to that of the leopard and the jaguar, you notice the cheetah is the odd one out.
Cheetahs have black facial streaks that run from the corner of their eye to their chin, while the others don’t. In addition, the spots on a cheetah are solid black, while the leopard and the jaguar sport rosettes. In jaguars, the rosettes are large and have one or more central dots in them, except for on their head, their legs and their paws, where they have solid spots. In leopards, the rosettes are smaller and have no central dots.