It is most common to describe Panther and Leppard (or Leopard) as two distinct species. However, this is more a misconception in the wider public than a recognized biological classification. Both words should be used interchangeably even if old habits never die (For all the kids, Bagheera will always be the black panther of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and cannot become a black leppard).
More importantly, if the common leopard/panther really is an identifiable species (Panthera pardus), many other species holding a leopard name belong to à completely different order:
- The Snow leopard should probably be called Uncia (Panthera uncia).
- The Clouded panther is actually a Neofelis nebulosa and belongs to a distinct genre (Neofelis) which is only remotely linked to lions, tigers and true leopards.
As a matter of fact, the most attentive (or trained) eye could distinguish morphologies between those animals even without looking at their pelt colored patterns (which is still very distinctive for most of them).
Only the China Panther is of the same family as the common leopard and keeps most of its characteristics.