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Leopard and cow are friends, but no evidence leopard thinks cow is its mother

A series of three night-time photos shared on Facebook in South Africa show a leopard approaching a cow, and then the two animals snuggling together.

“The leopard comes daily at night to meet the cow and the cow licks him with her tongue,” their caption reads. “The leopard's mom died when he was 20 days old and the cow fed her milk to the leopard. Since then the leopard thinks that the cow is his Mom and he comes daily at night to see her.”

Leopards are predators, far more likely to eat a cow than think it is their mother. What’s going on here? We investigated. 

‘Cow would lick cat on its head and neck’

Using Google’s reverse image search tool, we traced the photos to a 2014 article on the blog On Forest.

The article reports on a leopard coming to the village of Antoli, in India, and coming near the cow every night where “both had a fearless interaction”. 

Video footage of the cow and leopard

The reverse search of the image also found a YouTube video by ZEE TV on 26 September 2008 showing footage of the leopard and cow.

The video called the duo a “leopard love story” and showed the leopard slowly approaching the cow.

After some time the leopard can be seen lying by the cow for some time, then walking away for the night.

Unlikely animal companionships are rare, but there are other incidences reported from across the world.

The National Geographic features several videos of unlikely animal pairs, including a Great Dane dog and a deer and a badger and a fox.

The photos showing the friendship between the leopard and cow are real, although there’s no evidence the leopard thinks the cow is its mother - that would be difficult to verify. – Taryn Willows


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