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 Female

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 several lionesses appear under the name of Sabor. In the 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 in 1912, Sabor meant "tiger". Burroughs subsequently altered the meaning to "lioness" for the story's 1914 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, explainable ex post facto due to the marked visual distinction between the sexes, male lions being maned and female lions not.


In Tarzan of the Apes there are four major incidents involving lionesses, representing at least two and likely four separate individuals. In Chapter 5 a Sabor attacks the young Tarzan at a lake, prompting the latter to jump in to escape, and incidentally learn to swim.[1] In Chapter 8, Tarzan attempts but fails to kill a Sabor by using his rope to lasso the creature.[1] In Chapter 11, Tarzan kills a Sabor with his bow and arrow, prompting a jealous attack on the ape man from Kerchak, the ape king, which results in Tarzan killing Kerchak and becoming king of the apes in his stead.[1] In Chapter 14 a Sabor tries to break into Tarzan's cabin, in which Jane Porter and her maid Esmeralda are hiding; Tarzan drags the beast from the window and kills it in Chapter 15, rescuing the two women.[1]

Burroughs uses lionesses more sparingly in later volumes in the series. In Chapter 5 of the sixth book, Jungle Tales of Tarzan (1919), the ape man observes a Sabor mourning her dead cub.[2] In Chapter 1 of the ninth book, Tarzan and the Golden Lion (1923), a Sabor is killed by a black warrior, leaving an orphan cub that Tarzan names Jad-bal-ja, raises, and makes one of his principal animal allies.[3] Another Sabor features as the mate of Jad-bal-ja in Tarzan and the Lion Man (1934), the seventeenth book, appearing in Chapters 14 and 16.[4]


In the 1999 Disney animated movie Tarzan, the term Sabor was changed to mean "leopard", notwithstanding the prior existence of a different Mangani term for leopard (Sheeta). The alteration may have been made for factual accuracy; lions are creatures of the veldt, not the jungle as portrayed in Burroughs; in African jungles, the dominant (and only) large predator is indeed the leopard.

One specific Sabor appears in the film; the leopard that kills both Tarzan's parents and Kala and Kerchak's child and is later killed in turn by Tarzan in a running fight in which both plung into a pit and the leopard is impaled on the tip of Tarzan's broken spear. Tarzan then calls out the famous ape man cry as he raises up the dead body of his foe.[5] Visually, the Disney Sabor is highly stylized in design, with body and head at strange angles, very long thin fangs, and scarce spots unlike those of a real leopard. Sabor is a feral and violent character, contrasting sharply with the more realistic and kid-friendly design of other animal characters in the movie, and is the only major animal character in Tarzan to not talk.

Sabor makes a brief appearance in the 2005 Disney prequel film Tarzan II, and is also mentioned in Disney's 2001 animated television series The Legend of Tarzan. Sheeta, the original Burroughs designation for leopards the films discard, is also used in the show as the name for one of a pair of black panthers (the other being named Noru). Black panthers are a color variety of leopards relatively rare in African jungles.

Sabor also appears as a boss in the Deep Jungle world in the 2002 Disney-Square video game Kingdom Hearts. Sabor attacks the main character, Sora, but is beaten back until Tarzan comes to the rescue. Sabor subsequently attacks Sora, Donald, Goofy and Tarzan several times before a final battle with Sora, who kills the creature. In Jiminy's diary, the masculine pronoun "he" is used for Sabor, indicating that the Disney character is male.


  1. ^ a b c d Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan of the Apes, A. C. McClurg & Co., 1914.
  2. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Jungle Tales of Tarzan, A. C. McClurg & Co., 1919.
  3. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan and the Golden Lion, A. C. McClurg & Co., 1923.
  4. ^ Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan and the Lion Man, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., 1934.
  5. ^