serval, medium-sized African cat, Leptailurus serval, found S of the Sahara in scrub country close to water. The serval is lightly built with very long legs; it has a small head with large eyes and ears, set on a long neck. Its coat is yellow-orange with black spots. The head and body are about 3 ft (91 cm) long and the ringed tail about 12 in. (30 cm) long. The serval is among the swiftest and most agile of cats and catches birds flying as much as 6 ft (1.8 m) from the ground. It also hunts insects, lizards, rodents, hares, and small antelopes. It is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.