Although sharing its name with the common leopard, the snow leopard is not believed to be closely related to the Leopard or the other members of the Pantherine group and is classified as the sole member of the genus Uncia uncia. Due to the under-development of the fibro-elastic tissue that forms part of the vocal apparatus the snow leopard cannot give a full, deep roar and this along with differences in skull characteristics help to separate it from its fellow ‘big cats’.
In appearance, the snow leopard is strikingly different from the common leopard. Although it has similar rosettes and broken-spot markings, they appear less well defined and are spaced further apart. The fur is long and woolly and helps protect the cat from the extreme cold of its generally mountainous habitat. The general ground coloration of the cat is predominantly grey with brownish/yellow tinges on its flanks and lighter, often white fur on its belly, chest and chin. The head, which sports small ears and a distinctive heavy brow, is rounded and comparatively small for its body size, which can be up to 1.3 meters length and weigh up to around 70kg. The long tail, which can measure as much as 900cm, helps the cat balance as it moves over rugged and often snowy terrain. The powerful limbs of the snow leopard are relatively short for its body size and are supported by large, powerful paws.
The snow leopard is to be found in the mountainous regions of central Asia, ranging in the north from Russia and Mongolia down through China and Tibet into the Himalayan regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Although the total area of its range is extremely large the actual areas in which the cat is found are relatively small and notably fragmented. This has led to disagreements amongst experts as to the subspecies of the snow leopard. The cats found in the north of the range are generally classified as Uncia uncia uncia whilst those in the south, Uncia uncia uncioides. However some suggest that due to the fragmentation of the species within those broad areas, genetic differences may exist and further subspecies may well be necessary
CANON 400D LENS 18-200