Group Get-Together in the Gobi

Research and observation point towards snow leopards being solitary creatures. But in March, three of the cats we’re tracking with GPS collars seem to have staged a little get-together that lasted over three days!

Ariun, captured by a research camera in 2012

First, Ariun, one of the males in our study, and Agnes, a female cat, seem to have overlapped in a very small area (called cluster). Potentially, one of the cats had caught a prey there. The next day, Dagina (previously known as F-8) joined the party – and for 3 full days, the trio remained in the same area before each cat went its separate way. We don’t know at this point what may have caused this unprecedented get-together in the Gobi – but we’ll continue to study the cats to better understand their behavior in the future.

What to Call a Group of Cats?

Agnes and her cubs
Agnes, with her two cubs

We didn’t think it would come to this, but it looks like it may be time to coin a phrase to describe a group of snow leopards. A group of tigers is known as an ambush, a group of regular leopards is called a leap. Lions form prides. There is no term for a group of snow leopards though – most likely because it was assumed that they didn’t ever form groups. Maybe we could refer to a cloud of snow leopards? An avalanche? A drift? Perhaps even a banana of snow leopards, as one scientist (who, for understandable reasons, has asked to remain anonymous) has suggested?

What’s your idea? Share it with us in the comments!


  1. I second the term ‘cloud’. Nice reference to their perceived mystique, and also it’s close to ‘crowd’… I’d consider it weird to speak of an ‘avalanche of snow leopards’ when you have three snow leopards in one spot. Avalanche might need to be reserved for big clan meetings of 30plus (though that would be a veritable avalanche then…) 😉

  2. I just did a google search for names for groups of cats and found that a group of kittens may be called an “intrigue”. While the observed group were adults, “intrigue” seems like a great term for such an enigmatic species as the snow leopard. This newly observed behavior is indeed “intriguing”. Reference:

  3. Put me down as another fan of “flurry.” It mirrors the temporary nature of the gathering.

  4. I am going to post this question to my 5th grade reading students who are studying the snow leopard curriculum. They will be so excited to be a part of it. I will return with posts from the four of them with their opinions.

  5. My 5th grade reading group is awesome.!! The votes are in. I retyped this page, and wrote 4 questions for them to answer. After a terrific discussion on how rare this event is, and how important their vote is, with much eagerness, they cast their votes. Sydney voted for Avalanche. Tayler, Talaija, and Isaiah voted for Moraine. Osni wrote in the ‘other’ column, Maglore. Osni felt this was a beautiful and exotic word for a beautiful endangered cat. We love the snow leopards!!!!–5th grade reading groups, Salem Elementary School, Fredericksburg, VA.

  6. Dear Eileen
    We haven’t yet decided – and we also feel like we should include more people in the decision. We’ll talk about it internally this week – the most likely idea for now is to do a public Facebook voting on 3 or 4 suggestions that have been popular. Would you say “Moraine” is the clear winner from your group? We definitely want to include at least one of your kids’ ideas in any voting.

    Thanks so much – and we’ll keep you posted!

  7. Wiki-answers seems to already provide ‘drift’ as the collective noun for snow leopards but since another site talks of ‘a drift of hogs’ it is fun to come up with a new one. A ‘ghost’ of snow leopards? An ‘elusiveness’? or a ‘subtlety’ of snow leopards? I also like our friend Toby’s suggestion – a ‘blizzard’ of snow leopards.

  8. or a ‘silence’ of snow leopards, in homage to to George Schaller and his moving comment -“When the last snow leopard has stalked among the crags, a spark of life will have gone, turning the mountains into stones of silence.”

  9. My suggestion for the collective noun: an ‘ounce’ of snow leopards. ‘Ounce’ seems appropriate because it refers to a small amount of something besides being a little-used alternative common name for the cat (Panthera uncia or Uncia uncia). The name ‘ounce’–apparently originating from ‘lonce’ and based on the lynx (Oxford English Dictionary)–is not often used today to refer to snow leopards. In its other meaning, ‘ounce’ is used both for a specific small weight (~28 grams) as well as to refer more generally to a small quantity. It is a delightful little word, soft and stealthy in sound. It seems timely and useful to revive and reinvent ‘ounce’ to refer to a group of snow leopards.

  10. My suggestion would be “ball”. Why? When I think of Snow Leopards I think of snow and from snow you form balls so the word snowball comes to mind rather quick in my head. And it would also be a ball to actually see them in the wild.

  11. I quite like a rosette of snow leopards, just seen that someone else has suggested it as well. I think it is quite fitting for those magnificent rosettes they have on their coat that aid them in blending into their surroundings so well.

  12. I also agree with snow’s term of flurry of snow leopards to represent a group of snow leopards. I think it’s perfect for a group of snow leopards. This is the term flurry defined by wikipedia: A snow flurry is a brief instance of “snow” with thin, single flaked showers. When hitting the ground the first burst is still referred to as a flurry. When flurries accumulate, they become a layer of snow. Being that each snow leopard is as individual as a snowflake is. Flurry brings to mind the late Masaru Emoto’s project the Emoto Peace project. Snow leopards bring to mind snowflakes & snow whenever I think of them.

  13. Has there been a decision? My elementary school mascot is the snow leopard and we are going to start cross age “family groups.” It would be nice to name them after whatever was decided.

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