Serval Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Servals are small wild cats with long legs. This lesson will teach you about these cats, including what they look like, where they live, what they like to eat, how they hunt and some other cool facts about them.

What Are Servals?

Imagine walking through tall grass as the sun sets. You don't notice the small wild cat hiding in the distance, sitting very still, watching everything around it, including you. Suddenly, it jumps straight into the air and pounces on something close to where it was waiting. You've just watched a serval catch its dinner!

Servals are small wild cats that have thin bodies, short tails, big ears, long necks and long legs. Compared to the size of its body, the serval has the longest legs of any kind of cat. Because of its long legs and neck, it is sometimes called the 'giraffe cat'.

The biggest servals weigh about 40 pounds, which is around the same as a small bulldog. Their fur is usually light tan with black spots and white tummies, and sometimes a few stripes on their back, though servals with all black fur are common, too.

Serval with big ears
Serval with big ears

When you look at a serval's small head, the first thing you'll probably notice is its gigantic ears. If your ears were as big as the serval's compared to the size of your head, they would be a little bit bigger than basketballs!

What Do Servals Eat?

Servals are carnivores, which means they eat meat. Those enormous ears help them listen for snacks sneaking around nearby. Some of their favorite meals are small rodents, frogs, birds, insects, fish and crabs.

But servals don't stalk and chase their food like some wild cats do. They wait and listen until they find a tasty treat. Then they jump up, pounce on it and hold it with their front feet. And these wild cats can really leap, shooting more than 9 feet up straight off the ground. That's more than 3 feet longer than the leg of a giraffe!

Zoo demonstration of a jumping serval
Zoo demonstration of a jumping serval

Because they can jump even higher than the tallest professional basketball players, they can also catch low-flying birds! And they also use their long legs and claws like fishing poles, snagging frogs and fish swimming in the water.

Where Do Servals Live?

Most servals live in southern and central African savannahs close to streams and rivers where there are a lot of tall grasses and plants. They are also sometimes found in open woods and forest borders.

Serval in its habitat
Serval in its habitat

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