What did you think when you saw the animal in the photo? You probably thought, “Hey, cool, a black panther!” Just one problem—black panthers don’t exist! At least, not as an actual species.
What are commonly referred to as black panthers are actually two different species of cat—either black leopards, which live in Asia and Africa, or black jaguars, which live in Central and South America.
Most leopards are golden with dark brown or black spots known as “rosettes” because they look like little roses. Black leopards have a special gene that makes their skin and fur black. Even though they still have their spots, it can be hard to see them because the dark browns and blacks blend together.
Do you know why God gave leopards spots? Leopards spend much of their time in trees, and their spots allow them to blend in with the leaves. This isn’t so they can hide from dangerous predators—they’re pretty dangerous themselves! It’s to help them hunt for food.
Even though leopards can run at high speeds and jump up to 10 feet (3 meters) in the air, they don’t chase their prey like lions or cheetahs. Instead, they hide in a bush or tree and wait for their prey to walk by. Then they pounce! Leopards will eat anything from birds and monkeys to warthogs and porcupines. Some people have even spotted leopards eating animals as big as giraffes!
Because a black leopard’s spots can be hard to see, many people don’t recognize these cats as leopards. Sometimes Christians can be hard to recognize too—other people can’t always tell that we belong to Jesus based on our actions.
The Bible says that even though a leopard can’t change its spots (Jeremiah 13:23), Jesus can take away our spots—He removes our sin and makes us clean. If you’re doing something that makes it hard for others to recognize you as a Christian, ask Jesus to forgive you. Then depend on Him to guide you in the way you live so others can see that you belong to Him.