I am a fan of nature and animals. These are the top 5 big cats from around the globe that are still around today.
#5 Cougar – This large predatory cat is the second largest New World Felidae behind the Jaguar, but it is the largest of the genus Puma (which only has two members, the Cougar and the Jaguarundi). It’s found all over South America and it ranges over the western half of North America. Here in South Florida, we have a subspecies of the North American Cougar called the floridana or Florida Panther which is critically endangered with only about 100 left in the wild. I would love to see one in the wild, and there have been reports that a female has been seen roaming the Turkey Point area. Genetically, this cat cannot survive without new blood which is why a group of females were shipped in from out west to put a little water in the gene pool. This cat can grow up to about the same size as the leopard, but is typically smaller. They have spots when born that fade or completely disappear as they mature. They are both stalk and ambush predators, feeding on ungulates, birds, or rodents.
#4. Leopard – This is the smallest of the Panthera. It’s a beautiful animal with spotted markings that keep its body outline broken up and blended in with its surroundings. It can reach as large as 75 inches head and body weighing up to 200 lbs (males). This cat is extremely fast reaching a top speed of 37 miles per hour. It is the “jack of all trades” when it comes to hunting. It’s considered opportunistic in that it hunts and eats whatever it can find, from small rodents and birds up to ungulates almost twice as big as itself. It hunts by stalking or ambushing, depending on it’s habitat. The leopard also lives in diverse habitats ranging from plains, to jungle, to rain forrest, to desert terrain. It has to stuff it’s dinner up into a tree to protect it from scavengers and larger predators. It’s not considered threatened at this time.
#3. Jaguar – The jaguar is the only member of the genus Panthera found in the New World. It’s the third largest of the big cats. Males can reach a body size of 6 feet and weigh as much as 350 lbs. The size greatly varies depending on it’s habitat and diet, with the lower end of the range being as low as 80 lbs. It is easily capable of hunting and eating the largest species of animals in South America. It also has a unique kill technique. It’s jaws and canine teeth are designed to crack into very hard objects. Because of this, it can eat turtles and other reptiles that have protective scales. It uses its teeth to crush the skull of its dinner killing it instantly. It does not typically suffocate its prey as most other predatory cats do. It is an ambush predator, and is considered near threatened.
#2. Lion – Lions are pretty much unique in that the male grows a mane and the females live in a group called a pride. The pride does all the work, from hunting to child bearing/rearing. What does the male provide? Protection from other males, and fertilization for reproduction. The male lion is a huge animal which can grow about 8 feet head and body, and weigh up to 550 lbs. They hunt by stalking their prey to position themselves for the best attack. They chase down their dinner and either break the neck with their huge jaws, or suffocate their prey from the neck or nose. If the poor critter is small enough, they will just eat it alive. The male eats first. This species is considered vulnerable, but is not endangered.
#1. Tiger – The tiger is not only the largest of the natural big cats, but to me is also the most beautiful. It’s pretty much a solitary animal and it hunts by ambush, waiting for an unsuspecting critter to pass by it’s location and it pounces on the creature and quickly kills it. It’s powerful jaws rip the meat right off the bone, and some bones are just crush completely. The lateral stripes help them to blend into their surroundings whether it’s grassland, forrest, or jungle underbrush. Unfortunately, these huge predators are endangered and disappearing from the wild, and several subspecies are critically endangered with no real possibility of being saved. A few have recently become extinct. The largest subspecies of tiger is the Siberian Tiger which can grow 90 inches long and up to 700 lbs.