Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

A Leopard Named “Hollywood”

A leopard in the wild

In South Africa’s Thornybush Game Reserve lives a little cat with big ambitions. Our group named this 18-month-old leopard ‘Hollywood’, on account of his readiness to amuse and entertain us.

He appeared during our first game drive, putting on a brave show stalking a Cape buffalo bull. Adult buffalo are not typical prey for leopards, which are solitary predators that must bring down their prey singlehandedly. Weighing in at around 1500lbs, the lone bull had little to fear from an 80lb young leopard.

But our intrepid film star had obviously not read the textbook. He spent nearly half an hour carefully stalking the buffalo. Each time the bull turned his head to see if the pesky little cat was still following him, Hollywood would duck behind a bush to conceal himself.

Eventually, bored with that adventure, Hollywood wandered over to our open game drive vehicle to sniff out the shoes of our tracker sitting on the front hood. After that, he plonked himself down in the dust and rolled on his back, all four paws in the air, as if to say, ‘that’s it, folks, show’s over’.

The following day he was seen stalking a white rhinoceros, before switching back to his favourite quarry – Cape buffalo. This time, however, the pregnant cow he was stalking was not so amused. She turned on him, charging him until he scarpered up a tall thorn tree. At which point, Hollywood wisely decided to end his show for the day.