Though it’s called a leopard—and certainly resembles a frosted version of those spotted habitués of more equatorial regions—the snow leopard is actually more closely related to the tiger, at least per genetic analysis.
These spotted leopards live in the mountains across a vast range of Asia. They are insulated by thick hair—in shades of gray or creamy yellow and covered with grayish black spots—and their wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes. Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous jumpers, able to leap as far as 50 feet. These big cats use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill. They are shy and reclusive, and rarely seen in the wild.Snow leopards can be found throughout high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the southern Siberian mountains in Russia. They can also be found in the Tibetan Plateau and across a range that stretches from China to the mountains of Central Asia. They prefer steep, rugged terrain with rocky outcrops where prey can be hard to come by. That’s why these carnivores require an enormous amount of space to roam: Male leopards require up to 80 square miles—an area bigger than three Manhattans—while females have ranges of up to 48 square miles.