Sabor (Tarzan)

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Sabor the leopard.jpg
Sabor in Disney's Tarzan film.
First appearance Tarzan
Last appearance Tarzan II
Created by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Aliases The leopard
Species lion
Gender unstated

Sabor is a generic name for lionesses (originally tigers) in Mangani, the fictional language of the great apes in the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. In Burroughs' works innumerable lionesses appear under the name of Sabor. In the Walt Disney animated movie Tarzan, Sabor is a term for leopards, more specifically the leopard that killed Tarzan's parents.

Evolution of the term[edit]

In the initial magazine publication of the original Tarzan novel Tarzan of the Apes, Sabor meant "tiger". Burroughs subsequently altered the meaning to "lioness" for book publication after being informed that there are no tigers in Africa. He substituted "lioness" rather than "lion" because there was an existing Mangani term for lions in the story, Numa. Lions thus attained the distinction of being the only creatures with separate terms in Mangani for the male and female. An ex post facto explanation rationalizing the distinction has been found in the fact that lions are sexually dimorphic; male lions are maned and female lions are not, providing a marked visual distinction between the two.


In the Walt Disney produced animated movie Tarzan, the meaning of the word was changed yet again, to "leopard", despite the prior existence of a different Mangani term for leopard (Sheeta). The alteration appears to have been made for two reasons. The first was for factual accuracy; lions are in fact creatures of the veldt, not the jungle as portrayed in Burroughs's tales; in African jungles, the dominant (and only) large predator is indeed the leopard. The second was more aesthetic; Sabor, they felt, is simply a more evocative and interesting word than Sheeta.

The specific Sabor appearing in the film is the leopard that killed Tarzan's parents and killed Kala and Kerchak's child and is later killed by Tarzan as a result.[1] This occurs during a running fight between the two that culminates when Sabor leaps down on Tarzan and plunges them both into a pit, and is incidentally impaled on the head of Tarzan's spear tip as the ape man raises it against the leopard.[2] Tarzan then calls out the famous ape man cry, by lifting up Sabor's corpse.

Sabor also made a brief appearance in Tarzan II, in chasing Tarzan into a valley. Sabor nearly kills Tarzan, but she is frightened off by the sudden cry of the Zugor.

Sheeta, the discarded original Burroughs designation, was later used in The Legend of Tarzan show as the name for one of two black panthers that attack together (the name of the other was Noru). Black panthers are actually a color variety of leopards and they do exist in African jungles, although they are rare. Sabor has been mentioned in the series.

Despite being a leopard Sabor was portrayed in a very stylized way, with a body and head with strange angles, very long thin fangs, and scarce spots unlike those of a real leopard but of a jaguar. This design contrasts sharply with that of other characters in the movie (like Kerchak) who were designed on a relatively more realistic style. As usual in film depictions of big cats, Sabor's roars are a mixture of sounds of several felines, including leopards, lions, and tigers but especially cougars. Sabor is noticeably one of the more feral and violent animals created by Disney, a clear contrast to the typical kid-friendly character style of other Disney characters, and is the only major animal character in Tarzan to not talk.

Kingdom Hearts[edit]

Sabor appears as a boss in the Deep Jungle world in the 2002 Disney-Square video game Kingdom Hearts. After the main character, Sora, crash-lands in the treehouse, Sabor charges at Sora, but Sora is able to bear the leopard back until Tarzan appears and drives Sabor away. Sabor later attacks Sora, Donald, Goofy and Tarzan several times but is always forced to retreat. Eventually, just when Clayton goes missing, Sabor appears for one final battle with Sora, who kills the leopard. In Jiminy's diary, a masculine pronoun ("He") is used for Sabor, indicating that the character is male.