The Cutest Most Dangerous Big Cats
The Jaguar is a large felid species and the only living member of the genus Panthera native to the Americas. Its distinctively marked coat features pale yellow to tan colored fur covered by spots that transition to rosettes on the sides. With a body length of up to 6 feet 1 inch, it is the largest cat species in the Americas and the third largest in the world. Its powerful bite allows it to pierce the carapaces of turtles and tortoises, and to employ an unusual killing method: it bites directly through the skull of mammalian prey between the ears to deliver a fatal blow to the brain.
The cheetah is a large cat native to Africa and central Iran. It is the fastest land animal, estimated to be capable of running at 50 to 80 mph with the fastest reliably recorded speeds being 58 and 61 mph, and as such has several adaptations for speed, including a light build, long thin legs and a long tail. It typically reaches 26–37 inches at the shoulder, and the head-and-body length is between 3 feet 7 inches and 4 feet 11 inches. Adults weigh between 46 and 159 pounds. Its head is small, rounded, and has a short snout and black tear-like facial streaks. The coat is typically tawny to creamy white or pale buff and is mostly covered with evenly spaced, solid black spots.
Compared to other wild cats, the leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. Its fur is marked with rosettes. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but has a smaller, lighter physique, and its rosettes are generally smaller, more densely packed and without central spots. The leopard is distinguished by its well-camouflaged fur, opportunistic hunting behaviour, broad diet, strength, and its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats ranging from rainforest to steppe, including arid and montane areas. It can run at speeds of up to 36 mph.
Pumas are large, secretive cats. They are also commonly known as cougars and mountain lions, and are able to reach larger sizes than some other “big” cat individuals. Despite their large size, they are thought to be more closely related to smaller feline species. The seven subspecies of pumas all have similar characteristics, but tend to vary in color and size. Pumas are thought to be one of the most adaptable of felines on the American continents, because they are found in a variety of different habitats, unlike other various cat species.
A black panther is the melanistic color variant of the leopard (Panthera pardus) and the jaguar (Panthera onca). Black panthers of both species have excess black pigments, but their typical rosettes are also present. They have been documented mostly in tropical forests.
The snow leopard’s fur is whitish grey with black spots on the head and neck, with larger rosettes on the back, flanks and bushy tail. The belly is whitish. Its eyes are pale green or grey in color. Its muzzle is short and its forehead domed. Its nasal cavities are large. The fur is thick with hairs between 2 and 4+1⁄2 inches long. Its body is stocky and short-legged reaching a shoulder height of 22 inches, and ranging in head to body size from 30 to 59 in. Its tail is 31 to 41 inches long. It weighs between 49 and 121 pounds, with an occasional large male reaching 165 pounds, and small female of under 55 pounds.
The snow leopard shows several adaptations for living in a cold, mountainous environment. Its small rounded ears help to minimize heat loss. Its broad paws well distribute the body weight for walking on snow, and have fur on their undersides to increase the grip on steep and unstable surfaces; it also helps to minimize heat loss. Its long and flexible tail helps to maintain balance in the rocky terrain. The tail is also very thick due to fat storage, and is covered in a thick layer of fur, which allows the cat to use it like a blanket to protect its face when it sleeps.
The tiger has a muscular body with powerful forelimbs, a large head and a tail that is about half the length of its body. Its pelage is dense and heavy, and coloration varies between shades of orange and brown with white ventral areas and distinctive vertical black stripes that are unique in each individual. Stripes are likely advantageous for camouflage in vegetation such as long grass with strong vertical patterns of light and shade. The tiger is one of only a few striped cat species; it is not known why spotted patterns and rosettes are the more common camouflage pattern among felids. The orangish color may also aid in camouflage as the tiger’s prey are dichromates, and thus may perceive the cat as green and blended in with the vegetation.