Leopard – Spirit Animal, Symbolism, Totem and Meaning

Beautiful, agile and elegant big feline, leopard is an extraordinary member of animal kingdom. This magnificent animal is present in many native African tales and legends and possesses great spiritual power as a totem and symbolic motif in other cultural systems.

Leopards are easily recognized by their fashionable fur, but this is certainly not the only characteristic making them attractive and inspiring. Leopards are silent, dangerous and efficient predators, worth of worship and admiration.

Native Africans find them amazing and fear them, at the same time. Leopards have powerful symbolical significance all around the world, even in areas they do not inhabit. They are often present in heraldic art and artworks of all sorts.

Leopards inhabit southern hemisphere of our planet. They live mostly in sub-Saharan African areas and inhabit some parts of Asia.

Some archaeological evidence suggest leopards inhabited some areas of Europe, far back into pre-historical past. Leopards belong to the family of Felidae; they are recognizable by their strong, agile body with relatively short legs and big skull.

Their appearance is similar to jaguar, only leopards are somewhat lighter and smaller cats. Black panthers are also leopards, only they are melanistic, which makes their fur – black.

If you look carefully, black panthers actually do have the same spotty pattern as leopards, only they appear as they have another black ‘clothing’ layer.

In shade, they look completely black, while in bright sunshine you could notice the pattern beneath;Leopards were known to humans from all parts of the world all throughout our history.

These beautiful big cats are present as motifs in different cultures, in legends and myths, folktales, heraldry etc. In modern times, leopard motif is still commonly used; it is featured in logos or coats of arms for some companies, sport clubs and such. These motifs are very common in contemporary Africa, one of leopards’ natural habitats.

Leopards have always been associated with royalty and kingship. You could see many portraits of African chiefs or kings wearing leopard fur, as a symbol of their rank and position. Leopard hunt is forbidden in most of African countries today.

Talking about leopards’ hunting habits, these cats are not so attracted to humans to be their prey. Healthy cats would rather hunt wild animals, but animals that are old, injured or sick would attack humans.

Leopard related folktales and legends

There are many interesting folk tales and legends about this beautiful, lovely, but dangerous animal. The most inspiring are probably those about how leopards got their spots.

Different African societies have various legends about that. According to old Ethiopian folk tale, here is an explanation about leopards’ fabulous spotty coat.

Once upon a time, an Ethiopian hunter and leopard lived together in a vast plain where all was in color of sand. Those two were also of the same shade. They hunted zebras and giraffes, together. After a while, prey animals decided to leave the area and hide into bushes and forests, so they changed their coat and got different camouflage patterns that made them hard to spot between trees and brushwood.

Sandy colored leopard and the hunter changed their colors, too. The man became black and he used his freshly colored fingers to mark leopard’s coat. Now, they were able to successfully hide and sneak up to catch prey animals.
Another native African story goes differently and also has an interesting explanation.

Long time ago, leopards’ fur was of the purest white. However, their beautiful coat was easy to spot and they were having difficult times catching their prey. Their hunt was often exhausting, so leopards would lie beneath the trees and rest in their shade.


Another animal lived there. It was the wart hog, who has always been enjoying splattering the muddy pond nearby. It happened once wart hogs heard lions’ roaring while they were enjoying their usual play. They have got so scared they ran over the leopard resting next to the pond! Their feet marked leopard’s snowy white fur.

At first, leopard was not happy his beautiful fur was stained, but then he realized it could be an incredible advantage for hunting, so he decided to keep his new appearance forever.

Apart from these, there are other interesting leopard related folk tales, such as the Gazelle and the Leopard, The Leopard Man, The Leopard and the Rabbit and many others.

These stories explain different natural processes and relations between members of animal kingdom and connection of animals with humans. Leopard is very popular animal in African folklore.

Leopards’ symbolism and spiritual meaning

You have to admit leopards are simply amazing creatures. They have elegant moves, agile bodies and silent pace. They are vicious and very skillful hunters. They have beautiful yellow eyes and remarkable spotted fur.

Leopards do have an aura, definitely. It is not strange these felines have always been associated with elegance, luxury, royalty and power. They are intelligent animals, great fighters and natural born survivors.

Power and activity – Leopards are active predators. They have to be strong, determined and extremely skillful to catch their prey. They represent movement and action, because leopards do not wait for their meal to be served, they act to get it.

Leopards are fierce fighters, if needed. They appear impressive and royal, so they have always been associated to concepts of wealth, luxury and material power. In heraldic works, leopard stands for noble titles and bravery, so they are often featured on coats of arms.

Leopards are powerful and dangerous. People do admire them, but they are also afraid of these strong animals. A sight of leopard triggers ambivalent feelings, a mixture of admiration and fear. These cats could be violent and even attack humans.

Symbolically, they represent active life, power and authority. Even if some leopards are usually physically smaller than humans are, they do not lack boldness to attack. Their impressive and incredibly strong jaws, claws and muscular bodies do all the work.

Beauty and elegance – Leopards look amazing. Their remarkable coat is outstanding and enchanting to us.

It is not strange there are so many tales about the origin of their beautiful pattern. Leopard fur is a luxurious and fashionable item for highborn individuals; many African authority personalities, such as chieftains and kings, would wear real leopard fur to accent their might and powerful position. Leopards’ coat appears elegant, luxurious and extraordinary.

Leopard pattern and, of course, fake fur, is a common motif in modern fashion industry. It represents elegance and good taste, if worn in a right manner. Many designers often use it as a sophisticated motif for their collections. Leopard print is commonly seen on ladies’ dresses, suits, fashion accessories of all sorts, shoes etc.

Uniqueness and individuality – Leopards remind us to stand for ourselves and be proud of our personality. Their spots help them hide in African brushwood, but are a remarkable sight and make leopards distinctive from other animals.

It is often our first association of this beautiful big cat. Leopard spots are a symbol of uniqueness and extravagance. Therefore, this amazing elegant creature is a powerful symbol of individuality.

Silence and patience – Leopards are masters of stealth and hunt. They are large, but able to move without making any noise, which make them incredibly skilful hunters. Their every move is carefully planned and extremely silent. Leopards are also true lurking magicians.

They are very patient and calculated while hunting. It is a skill worth of praise. All cats are precise and skilful strategists and dangerous hunters and leopards are no exception.

In symbolical sense, leopards represent the magic of stealth, silence, watchfulness and patience. These traits and characteristics make leopards good spiritual guides and powerful totem animals. For centuries, people have always admired these spotted beauties for these characteristics.

Strength and boldness – These amazing felines have strong and muscular bodies, legs and jaws. They are fast and fierce fighters and hunters. Leopards are bold creatures; they do not hesitate while hunting and are likely to attack their enemies.

They sometimes do attack humans, especially if they feel threatened. However, leopards are well aware they are not the strongest of all predators around.

They know how to avoid danger and escape bigger animals, such as adult lions, for example. When faced with danger, they do not give up, but fiercely fight for their food or territory.

Therefore, leopards are seen as symbol of courage, boldness and strength. In European heraldry, leopard motif stands for a ‘brave and fierce warrior’.

Perseverance and survival – Leopards are natural born survivors. They are brave fighters and would never give up, until the very end. Leopards always stand for themselves and are extremely defensive. They are solitary animals, and territorial.

Evolution made them able to survive on their own. Leopards rarely starve to death and their enemies almost never defeat them. These felines are able to stand their ground and successfully defend their territory.

Leopards do have many rivals. They have to compete with other predators for their prey and territory. Some of them are much stronger and larger than leopards; for example, lions and tigers.

There are many other creatures competing over food and shelter in leopards’ habitat: hyenas, cheetahs, wild dogs and others. Leopards usually avoid bigger predators or decide hunt different types of prey animals. They are also skilful climbers and love to hide in treetops and watch over from above.

Intelligence and tactics – Leopards are intelligent animals. They have to use all of their skills in order to survive merciless Mother Nature challenges. They have many rivals and enemies. They need to be clever to outsmart animals they are not likely to defeat in fight.

Leopards are able to evaluate the situation and retreat if needed. They would climb up the tree and wait. They would also carry their prey and keep it for themselves on tree branches. Their amazingly strong jaws make them able to do that.

Leopards act instinctively, such as other felines and carnivores do, in general. However, they think about their action. Leopards might be bold and courageous, but they are not imprudent.

They would fight an enemy they know they could defeat. If found in a situation they are unable to avoid much stronger enemy, they stand their ground and defend themselves.

Leopard as spirit and totem animal

These qualities make leopards powerful spirit animals. However, this fierce and dangerous predator could be a challenging one, even in spiritual sense.

Its aura and energy are very strong, so Leopard people must learn how to channel them in right direction. These people are charismatic and attractive personalities, unique characters and inspiring individuals.

However, they could become egoistic, selfish and completely self-obsessed.

Positive traits of Leopard people

Leopard people could express great qualities. This amazing spirit animal teaches us to be bold and brave, to stand for ourselves and be proud of whom we are. It could be a little challenging, though. Leopards also teach us to be still, patient and silent when needed.

It is a powerful lesson to be learned; leopard totem offers the gift of perfect intuition and observance. Those are the main positive traits of Leopard totem people:

  • Patient and careful
  • Good intuition
  • Intelligent and self-aware
  • Brave and unshaken
  • Elegant and of a good taste

Leopard personalities are patient and careful. They always think before they act and are able to evaluate their situation properly. They would never harm other people, if unnecessary.

However, if they feel under a threat, they would not hesitate to stand for their cause and defend their integrity. These people could be loners, but not asocial. They are good friends and loyal partners, but they always have to mark their individuality. They are never easily seduced or ‘tamed’.

These people could express great creative energy, they love arts and beautiful things. Leopard totem also teaches them a common ‘cat’ lesson – relax, enjoy and rest. Act when the situation demands it.

They are not lazy, however. Leopard people are often sporty and active. They are athletic and enjoy adventure. They could be passionate for different sports.

Leopard totem gives its pupils a gift of self-consciousness and good intuition. Those people are aware of their own skills and abilities, so they are natural born survivors, just as these beautiful cats are.

Negative or dual traits of leopard people

This spirit animal has incredible energy, which is sometimes hard to channel. It offers amazing gifts and lessons, but you have to be very careful with them. You should calculate and balance them, in order to take the best from your ‘leopard guidelines’.

  • Proud
  • Aggressive
  • Unique and individual

Leopard people tend to be proud, which makes them powerful authorities and people you would gladly look up to. However, they could become self-obsessed, narcissistic and egoistic. They become reckless about other peoples’ feelings and completely neglect others’ needs or desires.

They have a great ego, but they need to nurture it in a right manner. If they listen to their inner sense and their amazing leopard totem, they could become inspiring and charismatic individuals, much appreciated and loved.

Sometimes, your leopard totem could lead you in wrong direction. This amazing spirit animal possesses great strength and expresses its fighting nature. Leopard people could become aggressive and hurt others.

Always think before you do or say something. Try to stay calm and practice leopard’s lesson about patience. You do not always have to be right. Calm down your ego and think about your words and deeds.

Leopard people often express great sense of art and aesthetics. They love to stand out and catch the spotlight. It has also a lot to do with their strong personality and ego. Just use your gift of individuality and self-awareness so that you stand out of the masses, but not on behalf of other (dear) peoples’ feelings.

They will love you for your inspiring nature and appreciate your prudence.