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Cougar vs Cougar – What's the Difference?

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key point

  • Cougars and mountain lions are usually the same animal, but vary slightly depending on geographic location and climate. They are also known as pumas, panthers, panthers, and painters.
  • In North and Central America, the species is more commonly known as the mountain lion, while the label puma is more commonly used in South America.
  • The cougar has a tawny coat with a lighter belly, which varies in color depending on the climate. Cougars can have slightly longer silvery fur. Florida leopards and South American pumas have reddish fur.

Cougars, cougars and cougars, oh my! Depending on where you live or what you watch, you may hear America's big cats by many different names.

Is there a difference between a cougar and a cougar? where do they live Read on to find out.

cougar
Cougar and Cougar are actually two different names for the same animal!

© Jim Cumming/Shutterstock.com

Cougars vs. Mountain Lions

Cougar and puma are actually two different names for the same animal. The puma has a very wide range, spanning most of North and South America. Different groups of people call them by different names.

Comparing Cougars vs Cougars

The same descriptive traits apply to this animal, whether you call it a cougar or a cougar. Here are some quick facts:

Scientific name – Puma concolor
Common Names – Puma, Puma, Cougar, Panther, Painter, Puma Size – 2.8 to 5 feet (86 to 155 cm) long, 75 to 158 lbs (34 to 72 kg)
Habitat – Mountains, Forests, Deserts, Swamps Range – North and South America Lifespan – up to 20 years Body – Feline Temperament – Secretive, solitary

The term "mountain lion" is most commonly applied to the North American subspecies (Puma concolor cougar), while "cougar" is used to the South American subspecies (Puma concolor concolor). Starting from the same species, there are very few differences between these cats, but include:

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mountain lion cougar
scope North and Central America South America
total measurement slightly larger slightly smaller
diet deer wild camel
climate cool Warm
coloring silver Reddish
mountain lion screaming
Cougars weigh twice as much as pumas.

©Chris Alcock/Shutterstock.com

Key Differences Between Cougars and Mountain Lions

Cougars and mountain lions are the same species, Puma concolor. This big cat has the largest range of any land mammal (other than humans) in the Western Hemisphere, so it's no surprise that isolated populations have developed into subspecies. These include:

The North American Cougar <br>This subspecies is classified as the Puma concolor puma and has a range from Canada to the southernmost tip of the United States, through Mexico and Central America, and possibly into South America.

The Florida panther <br>This subspecies was once found throughout the southern United States. Hunted almost to extinction, there are now about 50 individuals living in south Florida. Conservation efforts aim to help the population make a comeback. Florida panthers are generally smaller than their western cousins. Although distinct, it is still part of the Puma concolor puma or North American puma subspecies.

South American Puma <br>This subspecies is classified as Puma concolor concolor. It is known to inhabit South American countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

Consider these differences in more detail.

scope

The North American cougar ranges across Canada, across the western United States, east into the Florida Panhandle, and into Central America. Some populations are believed to also inhabit South America.

South American pumas live throughout South America, including Brazil and the Andes.

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total measurement

Adults of the Florida panther and South American cougar breeds may weigh half as much as an adult North American cougar.

diet

Cougars and pumas are opportunistic predators. They will eat any mammal and bird they can catch, but diets vary according to the prey available in each geographic region. Cougars eat a lot of deer and goats. Pumas in South America prey on wild camelids, including llamas, alpacas, llamas and guanacos, as well as the capybara, the world's largest rodent.

Cougars like to inhabit tropical forests.

©BorneoRimbawan/Shutterstock.com

climate

Cougars generally live in cooler mountainous regions, while pumas inhabit tropical forests. Again, the exception is the northern subspecies of the Florida leopard, which inhabits hot, humid, swampy habitats.

coloring

All cougars have a tawny coat with a lighter underbelly. However, depending on the climate, the color will vary. Cougars may have silvery, slightly longer fur, while cougars from warmer regions—the Florida panther and the South American puma—have redder hues.

cougar
Cougars and pumas tend to run away or hide rather than attack humans.

©Evgeniyqw/Shutterstock.com

Is it normal for cougars and mountain lions to attack humans?

Both the cougar and the mountain lion are considered the least aggressive feral cats to humans. They fear human encounters and are more likely to run or hide than attack. In North America, only 126 mountain lion attacks have been recorded in the past 100 years, 27 of which were fatal. If an attack does occur, it's likely due to loss of territory, lack of food, or the cougar seeing a human as prey.

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Cougar vs Cougar
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about the author


Krishna is a lifelong animal owner and advocate. She owns and operates a small farm in upstate New York where she lives with three dogs, four donkeys, a mule and a cat. She holds a BA in Agricultural Technology and has extensive experience in animal health and welfare. When not working with her own animals and tending her farm, Krishna is helping other animal owners with behavior or management issues and teaching regenerative farming practices to nearby farmers.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is there a difference between a cougar and a cougar?

Yes. Cougars and pumas are the same species of big cat , the puma. However, they belong to different subspecies.

Why are cougars called cougars?

In the local South American language, the cat is called cuguacuarana. The settlers shortened the word to "cuguar" and later changed the spelling to "cougar".

When settlers from Spain came to North America, they called the puma gato monte, which means "cat of the mountains," and leon, the Spanish word for lion. These terms describe the puma's appearance—similar to the female African lion, but smaller—and its mountain habitat. In English, these terms are combined to form "mountain lion".

What are some other names for puma and cougar?

The Incas called pumas "cougars." "Black panther" is the term Europeans use to describe big cats with thick fur. Thus, the name was given to the sand-colored cougar and a related species, the pure black variant of the jaguar. In some places they are also known as painters or catamounts.

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