Because of the relatively huge size of the clouded leopard’s fangs, this cat has evolved a long, slender skull with large and well-developed sagittal and occipital crests to support massive jaw muscles. This skull is very similar to that of the ancient sabre-toothed cats, and like their extinct cousins, the clouded leopard has a gape of around 100 degrees, in contrast to a lion’s 65. Some specialists believe this may provide a clue as to how the elusive clouded leopard hunts; most big cats kill by biting the muzzle or throat of an animal to suffocate it. The sabre-toothed cats, however, would bite through the prey’s neck, severing arteries and nerves as well as the windpipe, resulting in an instant kill. No one has ever seen a clouded leopard take large prey, but these large fangs and gape suggest that it may kill in a similar fashion.
We mentioned before that the clouded leopard has an extremely long and thick tail to serve as a counterbalance as it climbs through the trees. This tail, which is as long as the cat’s entire body, is the longest in relation to body size of any feline species. The clouded leopard’s teeth, particularly its canines (or fangs), are another unique feature of this animal. These canine teeth can grow over four centimetres in length; that’s as long as the fangs of an adult tiger! To put this into perspective, a tiger is over ten times larger than a clouded leopard. Much like the tail, these teeth are the longest in relation to body size of any cat species. This has lead to the clouded leopard being referred to as “the modern day sabretooth”.