Park News

The Park’s breeding pair of majestic Pallas’s Cats, Tull and Penelope, have produced their first litter at the Park.

Rare Pallas’s Cat kittens make their debut at Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

September 2022

Rare Pallas’s Cat kittens make their debut

The Park’s breeding pair of majestic Pallas’s Cats, Tull and Penelope, have produced their first litter at the Park. Their as-yet-unnamed and unsexed kittens are the first Pallas’s Cats to be born at Cotswold Wildlife Park since 2010. The new kittens have now left their nest box and visitors can see the youngsters exploring their exhibit opposite the Grey Owls enclosure.

Eight-year-old Tull and six-year-old Penelope were introduced to each other in 2018. Tull arrived from Highland Safari Park in 2015 and Penelope joined him in 2018 from a zoological collection in Italy. Both are part of the European Breeding Programme (EEP) and keepers hoped this shy species would one day produce a litter of their own. In the wild, their breeding season is incredibly short due to the extreme climate in their native range of Central Asia. Oestrus only lasts between 26 and 42 hours, which is considered shorter than many other felids. Births in captivity are considered rare – only four other European zoological collections have successfully bred this enigmatic species in the last 12 months. These new additions are encouraging news for the species. Wild populations are disappearing from much of their former range around the Caspian Sea due to habitat loss, hunting and climate change.

Rare Pallas’s Cat kittens make their debut

Jamie Craig, Curator of Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens, said: “We are delighted that our pair of Pallas’s Cats have produced their first litter together. Every birth of this species is an achievement and keepers are very proud watching them grow. This interesting and active species are sadly declining in numbers in their wild habitat and it is great to be contributing to their captive breeding programme“.

Mum Penelope

The Park is home to more than 1,500 animals from 250 different species and the Pallas’s Cats are arguably one of the most elusive animals in the collection. Their shy nature in the wild means there is very little known about these creatures. German naturalist Peter Simon Pallas originally classified the cat as ‘Felis manul‘ in 1776. The word ‘manul’ has its roots in the Mongolian language. Its current scientific name, Otocolobus manul, comes from the Greek language and can be translated to ‘ugly-eared’.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park Conservation Trust proudly supports the Pallas’s Cat International Conservation Alliance (PICA). To find out more about their work, please visit:

Additional information:

  • This is only the second time this species has successfully bred at the Park. The first time was back in 2010 when our original breeding pair, Hopalong and Tsara, produced twins.
  • Pallas’s Cats have unusual pupils. Unlike most felines, their pupils contract into small circles rather than vertical slits.
  • This species occurs primarily in the central Asian steppe grassland regions of Mongolia, China and the Tibetan Plateau, where an elevational record of 5,050 metres was reported.
  • Pallas’s Cats are ambush hunters. They are well adapted for their cold, rocky environment in the wild, with a thick fur coat and flat heads with side-positioned ears that allow them to peek over rocks without being seen by prey. In the wild they prey mainly upon Pikas as well as other small rodents, birds and the occasional insect.
  • They possess one of the longest and densest fur of any cat, perfectly suited for the chilly climate of their native homeland of Central Asia.
  • Their fur is nearly twice as long on their belly and tail as on their top and sides. The length and density of their fur also changes seasonally, growing longer and heavier in the winter.
  • Pallas’s Cats go through two major colour phases. In the winter, their coats are greyer and more uniform in colour, while in the summer they have more stripes and ochre colours in their fur. They have black rings on their tails, scattered black spots on their foreheads, and dark stripes running from their eyes down their cheeks.
  • It is believed that this species diverged from a Leopard Cat ancestor approximately 5.19 million years ago. The Pallas’s Cat is the oldest living species of a clade of felids and is the sole member of its own genus.
  • They have an unusual threat display, raising and then quivering the upper lip on one side of the muzzle, displaying the large canine tooth.

Pallas Cat Kitten

Special thanks to Mammal keeper Willemijn for these great photos and also to regular visitor Stephen Woodham who very kindly shared his images with us. Stephen spent many hours patiently waiting for the perfect moment to photograph the shy kittens and we’re incredibly grateful that he did.

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens

Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens