Leopard (heraldic animal)

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Leopards in the coat of arms of England

The leopard is a frequently used heraldic animal.

Heraldic and zoological leopards

Heraldic leopard is very different from the leopard(Panthera pardus). It has no spots, and often has a mane. In heraldry, the leopard therefore also generally resembles a lion more. The reason for this is that in the Middle Ages mongrels of male lions and female panthers were called leopards. This assumption has persisted in heraldry.
The coat of arms of Barenburg shows nevertheless a spotted animal.

Difference between lion and leopard

Heraldry distinguishes between lion and leopard only by the position of the heraldic figure to the viewer. In the old heraldry, however, no distinction was made.

Coat of arms of the von Pentz family


  • The leopard is always depicted striding and with its head turned towards the viewer.
  • The lion is shown rising or running with the view to the right (heraldically, i.e. from the point of view of the bearer of the coat of arms).


  • Later, the lion standing on its hind feet and looking sideways (towards the viewer) was called a lionized leopard.
  • A leopardized lion is one that strides and looks straight ahead.


  • Based on the posture or direction of the gaze, the heraldist determines the focus for the designation.
  • However, this cannot be applied to the ancestral lion of the von Pentz family: this lion is looking like the leopard, but is not striding, but standing on all four paws( it would only bestriding if it had raised the right front paw and pushed the right hind paw more forward). If the focus were on the line of sight, this lion would be called a standing, leopardized lion. This is indeed how it happened in the Genealogical Handbook of the Nobility. However, this is diametrical to the standard designation of leopardized lion and thus a contradiction in terms. Therefore, the lion of the von Pentz family must be described as standing and facing (looking at the viewer).

In the coat of arms

Three leopards

There are many countries with leopards on their national coat of arms. In some states leopards indicate the former colonial rule of the British.

  • Coat of arms of Denmark (lions looking forward)
  • Coat of arms of the United Kingdom* (as a symbol for England, see also Coat of arms of England)
  • Coat of arms of Canada
  • Estonian coat of arms
  • Coat of arms Dalmatia

* and all modified versions (see also Coat of Arms of Scotland and Coat of Arms of Canada)

Two leopards

  • Normandy coat of arms
  • Coat of arms of the House of Hohenlohe
  • Coat of arms of Nenzing

A leopard

  • Coat of arms Fiji
  • Ghana coat of arms

(Real) Leopards

  • Coat of arms of Benin
  • Coat of arms of Gabon (Black Panther)
  • Malawi coat of arms
  • Somalia coat of arms
  • Coat of arms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire)

In literature

Many older translations of the novel “The Gattopardo” by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa mistakenly translate the title and the heraldic animal of the main character as “The Leopard”. In fact, however, it is an ocelot (Pardelkatze), a type of cat that cannot roar – in an ironic allusion to the character’s behavior. The family coat of arms of the Tomasi di Lampedusa, on the other hand, is actually adorned with a leopard.

Web links

Commons: Leopard (heraldic animal)– Collection of images, videos and audio files

Wiktionary: Leopard– Explanation of meaning, word origin, synonyms, translations