IT is almost unnecessary to say that the animal commonly spoken of in Ceylon as the "cheetah" is really the leopard, felis pardus, It is known to most men that the two animals are quite distinct, and that the former, felis jubata, is not found in the Island, nevertheless almost everybody, even including well-known sportsmen, persists in misnaming the only large feline we have in our forests. The Sinhalese name of the creature is "kotiya" and the Tamil name "pulý."

It has been asserted by men whose opinions are entitled to respect that both the panther and the leopard are to be met with in the Ceylon forests. The former is said to be the larger and to have twenty-eight caudal vertebrae and the latter to have only twenty two. There appears to be nothing else in their structure to differentiate them, and it is difficult to believe that two species of the cat-tribe, not to be distinguished from one another by sight, could live together in the same forests and remain distinct. Inter-breeding must, in the course of centuries, have merged both species into one. The idea probably rose through the well known variations in size, length of limbs and tail and especially in colour to be observed in individuals according to locality and age. Natives who shoot at least fifty leopards for every one shot by Europeans, do not recognise more than one kind.

Leopards are fairly numerous in the low-country and are to be found wherever there is cover, and game for them to live on. In the hills they are now comparatively rare, owing to the conversion of the forests which they once infested in numbers, into coffee and tea estates. lfhey are to be met with in all kinds of cover, in high forest, scrub, and bushy plains, but they prefer low hills, ravines and rocky ground. Their ranges are larger than those of most other animals, both because they have to search for their prey and because they have no reason to fear other animals except stronger males of their own species. A well-known peculiarity of these creatures is their habit of wandering along roads, jungle paths and game-tracks sometimes for considerable distances. Every traveller in the low-country forest is familiar with its "pugs" or round foot prints owing to this habit.

Young leopards as soon as they are, old enough to hunt alone, will leave their dams and lead solitary lives, two or three leopards are often seen together, in which case they are either a male and female pairing or a she-leopard with one or more half-grown cubs.

The leopards of the low-country are, its a rule, larger than those found in the hills. Adult males will measure from six to seven feet from muzzle to tip of tail, stand from twenty-two to twenty-six inches high and weigh from 100 to 175 lbs. The females are of course smaller than the males. The ground colour of leopards varies from dark cinnamon red to rufous fawn with black spots arranged in rosettes and black rings on the tail. When seen in the shady forest they appear to be of a dark grey colour, and if standing still are not easily to be distinguised. Old animals will generally be found to have very light skins, the colour having faded from age, just as grey horses when aged often become almost white. Black leopards are said to have been shot but are extremely rare. They are believed to be merely freaks of nature.

Leopards are ordinarily cowardly sneaking brutes, but when driven by hunger will often act in the most daring way. They have been known to lie in the jungle a few yards from the "kill," quietly listening to men putting up the ambush and to come out and begin to eat within a minute after the men had left, also to enter native "compounds" and carry off calves and goats in broad daylight, also to snap up dogs trotting at the heels of their master's horses. As a rule, however, they can be safely driven away with stones ; they will only snarl as they slink off. They are only dangerous when starving, cornered, or wounded and are then very dangerous indeed.

No other wild animals have keener sight or a sharper sense of hearing. It is to these two senses and their wonderful agility that leopards have to trust to find and secure their food. There seems little doubt that their power of smell is very poor. If they possessed this sense in the same perfection as their other senses, the forests would soon be depopulated of game. It is, nevertheless, beyond question that they often go days without food, being unable to catch game. They are hardly ever seen to put their noses to the ground to sniff as other animals do, and appear to have no instinctive knowledge of the advantage of stalking up-wind. When lying in wait for deer and pigs coming to drink, they may often be found to have posted themselves dead to windward of the path they were watching.

They are very active climbers and often climb into trees alongside game-tracks, from which they spring down on deer and other animals passing below. If pressed by hunting-dogs or other foes they usually spring into the nearest tree. They have often been shot in this position, but it is dangerous to fire at them under such circumstances as, if only wounded, they will drop down, all teeth and claws, when it is well not to be within reach. Like all the cat-tribe they dislike getting wet and avoid muddy places.

Deer of different kinds, pigs and monkeys are their principal prey but they will eat any animal, bird or reptile they can catch ; even iguanas, tortoises, and rats when hungry. The remains of wild pigs killed by these creatures are not often found, the reason being probably that leopards are often afraid to attack them owing to their clannish and courageous disposition. Three or four old sows shewing a bold united front would probably succeed in driving off any but a very ravenous brute. A full-grown old boar would be a formidable antagonist to even a powerful leopard. They sometimes succeed in pouncing on peafowl in long grass and in bounding after and striking down jackals and hares in open places.