Puma, Leopard, Jaguar: What Is It?

by Anna P. | July 15th, 2009 | Cats, Mammals

picNext time you’re at the zoo and you’re inside the big cat habitat, take note of the many distinct types of big cats. Like your pet cats, big cats come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. And except for lions and tigers, many of us often confuse the types (like jaguars, pumas, and cheetahs). Think of this as a brief crash course on how to differentiate wild felines.

Adult male lions are easiest to recognize, as they are one of the biggest cats out there (only second to tigers). Male lions also grow a lot bigger than the female lion.  All lions usually stay in groups called prides.

White tigers are the same as most of your tigers, the only difference is the coloring. Most tigers are yellow, but some are white, and both types are often striped. And did you know that white tigers are actually descendants from bengals?

Jaguars and leopards may look quite similar, but there are ways to tell them apart. For instance, jaguars have larger heads and blotchy spots. Leopards generally are smaller in size and their spots are more clustered.

Here are two more types of leopards. The snow leopard has thicker white fur (to help them survive the cold weather that they often inhabit) and closely placed spots. The black leopards are to leopards as white tigers are to tigers: exact same type just different coloring.

Pumas look similar to small lions, except for the fact that pumas have long dark streaks running from their nose to mouth.

Cheetahs have long, slender bodies and small heads.

Bobcats are roughly twice the size of the ordinary housecat. They have reddish yellow fur with dark brown spots.

Ever hear of tigons and ligers? Tigons are a cross between a male tiger and a female lion, and a liger is a cross between a male lion and female tiger.

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