Leopards Were Once Housecats

Unearthed fossils reveal that farmers likely domesticated leopards 5,000 years ago.

Leopard Cat Via Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute

If you’ve ever wanted a leopard for a pet your dreams aren’t too far from reality. In China, 5,000 years ago, farmers had leopard pets to help with pest control and the big cats got cozy in these farmers’ homes.

An article earlier this month in PLOS One identified the first domesticated cats in China as Leopard Cats. Scientists analyzed small felid bones from China, dating from 5,500 to 4,900 BCE, reveal these and other remains to be that of the leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis).

From the article: “These data clearly indicate that the origins of a human-cat ‘domestic’ relationship in Neolithic China began independently from South-West Asia and involved a different wild felid species altogether. The leopard cat’s ‘domestic’ status, however, appears to have been short-lived — its apparent subsequent replacement shown by the fact that today all domestic cats in China are genetically related to F. silvestris.”

Would you want to have a leopard as a pet?

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