Big cats


Taxonomy

Class: Mammalia (mammals)

Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

Family: Felidae (felines)

Genus: Panthera

 

The Felidae family consists of feline predators and can be divided into two subfamilies: the Pantherinae and the Felinae. The Pantherinae family includes the big cats, subdivided in the genus Panthera (including five species) and the genus Neofelis (including two species). The Felinae are all other felines, including the house cat. FOUR PAWS and FELIDA focus on the big cats belonging to the Panthera genus; which are the following species:

  • Lion (Panthera leo)
  • Tiger (Panthera tigris)
  • Jaguar (Panthera onca)
  • Leopard (Panthera pardus)
  • Snow leopard (Panthera uncia)

Lion

Maximum life expectancy: ♀19 years ♂16 years (rarely older than 12 years), in captivity 30 years

Average size: body ♀158-192 cm ♂172-250 cm, tail 60-100 cm, shoulder height 100-128 cm, ♀110-168 kg ♂150-272 kg

IUCN-status: Vulnerable / CITES: Appendix I (A) & II (B)

Subspecies (2): P. I. leo (African lion), P. I. persica (Asian lion)

 

The colour of the coat varies from yellow-brown and grey to orange and dark brown. The lion has a muscular body that is built for powerful and short efforts. Especially the shoulders and front legs are massive and powerful, so lions are able to grab and subjugate large prey. As lions grow older, the colour of the nose becomes darker and the manes of the males become darker and more prominent. White lions are no subspecies or albinos, but the result of a recessive mutation. Due to selective breeding of this feature the white coat mainly occurs in captivity. Lions are the most social big cats, with complex social groups exhibiting territorial behaviour.


Lion Saba in LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary.
© FOUR PAWS

Tiger

Maximum life expectancy: ♀16 years ♂12 years, in captivity 26 years

Average size: body ♀146-177 cm ♂189-300 cm, tail 72-109 cm, shoulder height 80-110 cm, ♀75-177 kg ♂100-261 kg

IUCN-status: Endangered / CITES I: Appendix I (A)

Subspecies (9): The 6 living subspecies are P. t. tigris (Bengal tiger), P. t. altaica (Amur/Siberian tiger), P. t. amoyenis (South Chinese tiger), P. t. corbetti (Indo-Chinese tiger), P. t. sumatrae (Sumatran tiger), P. t. jacksoni (Malayan tiger). The 3 extinct subspecies are P. t. balica (Balinese tiger), P. t. sondaica (Javan tiger), P. t. virgata (Caspian tiger).

 

The basic colour of the coat varies from dark red to pale yellow and the pattern and darkness of the stripes vary. In general, tigers from northern regions are lighter with fewer stripes. The coat is short, with the exception of the thick, long winter fur in far eastern Russian regions. The patterns on the flanks and the head are unique per individual. White tigers are no subspecies or albinos, but the result of a recessive mutation. This mainly occurs in captivity, where people selectively breed for this feature. Tigers are solitary animals and in the wild they can walk 15 to 20 km per day while looking for prey and marking their territories. They can swim well and in hot days they like to submerge in water.


Tiger Rhadja in FELIDA Big Cat Centre.
© FOUR PAWS

Jaguar

Maximum life expectancy: 14 years, in captivity 22 years

Average size: body ♀116-219 cm ♂110-270 cm, tail 40-80 cm, shoulder height 68-75 cm, ♀36-100 kg ♂36-158 kg.

IUCN-status: Near threatened / CITES I: Appendix I (A)

Subspecies: There is no general consensus about the existence and possible number of jaguar subspecies.

 

The basic colour of the coat varies from pale gold to a rust red and is covered with a series of round dark spots or rosettes with smaller dots within them (unlike leopards). A row of black spots on the back can form a black line. Short and round ears, black at the back. Melanistic forms, known as black jaguars or black panthers, are common. The jaguar is sturdy with a large head and short legs. During dry and warm weather, they like to be submerged in water. They avoid open forests and lawns.


Jaguar Onca in FELIDA Big Cat Centre (passed away in 2016).
© FOUR PAWS | Jeanine Noordermeer

Leopard

Maximum life expectation: ♀19 years ♂14 years, in captivity 23 years

Average size: body ♀95-123 cm ♂91-191 cm, tail 51-101 cm, shoulder height 55-82 cm, ♀17-42 kg ♂20-90 kg

IUCN-status: Vulnerable / CITES: Appendix I (A)

Subspecies (9): P. p. pardusP. p. nimrP. p. saxicolorP. p. melasP. p. kotiyaP. p. fuscaP. p. delacouriP. p. japonensis and P. p. orientalis.

 

The coat colour varies from bright golden yellow to pale yellow and rust red yellow, with a white belly. The coat is short with black spots on the head, neck, shoulders, legs and back side. On the side and the back, the black spots form broken circles or rosettes. Melanistic forms, known as black leopards or black panthers, also occur in Africa and Thailand. Leopards are solitary and extremely territorial.


Leopard Bakari in LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary.
© FOUR PAWS | Bogdan Baraghin

Snow leopard

Maximum life expectancy: presumably 12 years, in captivity 20 years

Average size: body ♀86-117 cm ♂104-125 cm, tail 78-105 cm, shoulder height up to 60 cm, ♀21-53 kg ♂52-55 kg

IUCN-status: Vulnerable / CITES: Appendix I (A)

Subspecies: There is no general consensus about the existence and possible number of subspecies of the snow leopard.

 

The basic colour varies from smoke grey to tan, with a white belly. Covered with dark grey to black open rosettes with small spots of the same colour on the head and larger spots on the legs and tail. Snow leopards have pale green or grey eyes, which is an unusual eye colour for felines. They have a long, thick coat and are smaller than the other big cats. Their bodies are adapted for living in a cold and mountainous environment: sturdy, small, round ears and stocky legs with fur on the paws. Thick tail due to fat storage and a thick fur. Snow leopards are solitary and have a clearly marked territory.

 


Snow leopard

print

LR-Spendenbutton.jpg

Social Media

Newsletter