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As solitary and stealthy predators, bobcats are rarely seen by humans.
The Canadian lynx is one of the largest wild cats in North America, but other species of these cats also inhabit Europe and Asia. Bobcats are easily recognizable by their large, furry paws, stubby tail, and long ear hair. Huge claws act like natural snowshoes, helping them navigate the snowy, frigid forests and mountains it calls home.
Incredible Animals: 4 Facts About Bobcats!
- Bobcats are solitary animals and usually come together only for mating
- Four of these cats are found all over the world, including North America, Russia, Europe and Asia
- The bobcat is an opportunistic predator and will generally eat any prey it can
- Bobcats are animals easily recognizable by their large paws, tufted ears, stubby tail and taupe coat color
You can check out more incredible facts about bobcats.
Bobcats refer to four species of short-tailed wild cats that live in the cold forests of North America, Europe and Asia. All of these animals belong to the class Mammalia, order Carnivora, suborder Feliformes, family Felidae, and subfamily Felidae. The name lynx is part of the scientific names of these four species. It originates from an ancient Greek word meaning light or brightness. The term is thought to refer to the bobcat's bright, reflective eyes.
The four species of these animals are as follows:
- Canadian lynx ( L canadensis ) This wild cat has broad horseshoe-shaped paws and a bushy coat, adapted to the snowy Canadian climate. The preferred prey is the snowshoe rabbit.
- Native to North America and adapted to the warmer climates of the United States, the bobcat ( L rufus ) lacks the tufted ears and broad paws of its Canadian cousin.
- Eurasian Lynx ( Lynx ) This solitary cat is nocturnal and sleeps during the day in dense undergrowth. Their excellent eyesight allows them to spot mice up to 250 feet away. They are found throughout Europe, Russia and Asia.
- Iberian lynx ( L pardinus ) This endangered feline was once widespread but can only be found in Spain.
The first mammals are believed to have lived 208 million years ago – after the extinction of the dinosaurs. The first carnivores came from animals known as apes about 60 million years ago. These tree-dwelling creatures were about the size of a house cat and had sharp, crushing teeth. Miacoids are the oldest relatives of the modern bobcat.
About 40 million years ago, carnivores were divided into two groups – Carnivora and Feliformes . The Carniformia group was more bear-like and evolved into bears, dogs, weasels, raccoons, skunks, badgers, sea lions, walruses, and seals. Feliformia is more feline-like and has evolved into felines , hyenas, and mongooses.
Proailurus, the oldest known cat, appeared in France 30 million years ago. The northern creature weighed about 25 pounds and had eight more teeth than modern cats. 20 million years ago, the Pseudaelurines, the direct ancestors of modern cats, were found in the fossil record. About 1.6 million years ago, the saber-toothed cat Smilodon was identified in the fossil record from the discovery of the La Brea Tar Pits in California. These big cats became extinct about 10,000 years ago.
The oldest lynx remains have been found in Africa, approximately 4 million years old. The ancestor of the four bobcat species is thought to be Lynx issiodorensis, which is distributed throughout the northern hemisphere. About 2.5 million years ago, the Eurasian lynx crossed the Bering Strait land bridge into North America. Different bobcat species evolved to adapt to their environments—leading to the four species that exist today.
The most notable features of these cats are their huge paws, tufted ears and stubby tails. Animal colors vary by species. Body color follows a gradation of medium brown to golden brown to light grayish white. All species have furry scarves. It's usually marked with a black bar that looks like a bow tie, but it's not always visible. All species have white fur on the underside of their bodies.
The size and weight of the animal depends on the species. Eurasian lynxes are the largest, with males weighing between 40 and 66 pounds. It stands approximately 27 inches tall at the shoulders. Canadian bobcats weigh between 18 and 31 pounds and stand between 19 and 22 inches at the shoulder. Iberian lynx males weigh 28 pounds and females 20 pounds. Height at the shoulders is between 23 and 27 inches. Bobcats weigh between 16 and 30 pounds and stand between 20 and 24 inches tall at the shoulder.
Bobcats are technically part of the bobcat species, but they look a bit different compared to the other three species. They usually don't have long ear hairs, and their paws are not as noticeably large and padded due to their common habitat in warmer climates. The bobcat's scientific name, rufus, alludes to its reddish-brown color, and it often has prominent black spots as well.
These cats are usually solitary animals. Rarely, small groups of these cats will travel together and hunt prey. They usually live in nests burrowed into ledges or crevices in rocks. This is also where they raise their kittens. A bobcat will not usually bring its food back to its den unless it is a mother who needs to feed her kittens. These animals are very stealthy and good at avoiding human settlements, which is why they are rare.
Most species roam in high-elevation forests that provide ample protection from dense shrubs, trees, and tall grasses. Although this feral cat usually hunts on the ground, it is perfectly capable of climbing trees and swimming. Eurasian lynxes live in central and northern Europe, as well as in India, northern Pakistan, and Iran near the Damavand Mountains. The species is most commonly found in the Nordic countries of Norway, Finland and Sweden, as well as in most of Russia.
The Iberian lynx is even rarer and only lives in southern Spain. It once lived in eastern Portugal as well, but became extinct there.
Canadian bobcats are found primarily in Canada and Alaska, but are also found in some northern US states such as Washington, Montana, and Maine. Its habitat is primarily boreal forest, also known as snow forest, consisting mainly of coniferous trees.
Bobcats have a farther range than Canadian Bobcats. It is found in southern Canada, most of the continental United States, and as far south as northern Mexico. It lives in forests and grasslands.
This animal is an opportunistic predator that can hunt a wide range of animals. It is a strict carnivore. Canadian bobcats are very fond of snowshoe rabbits, and their population fluctuates with the availability of snowshoe rabbits. However, it will also prey on fish, squirrels, rabbits, birds, grouse, turkeys, and more. The larger Eurasian lynx often preys on larger animals such as deer, reindeer and even elk.
Predators and Threats
These animals are mainly threatened by other predators larger than it as well as humans. The Eurasian lynx is one of the largest carnivores in Europe, second only to gray wolves and brown bears. In North America, mountain lions, gray wolves, and coyotes pose threats to bobcats. Humans often hunt bobcats for their fur, but some species are now protected, depending on the region. The Eurasian lynx and the Canadian lynx are the most vulnerable to habitat loss. Both also depend on maintaining healthy prey populations. Bobcats are the least endangered of all bobcat species, with numbers remaining in the hundreds of thousands despite active hunting by humans.
The Iberian lynx is the most threatened of these cats. In 2004, there were only 100 animals in southern Spain. They have recovered somewhat thanks to conservation efforts by the Spanish government. As of 2014, more than 300 animals have been found in the same area.
Reproduction, Babies and Longevity
Eurasian lynxes mate between January and April, during which time the females have a four to seven day estrus. Males emit low-pitched growls to alert potential mates of their presence, while females emit a softer meow. Pregnant females seek out secret locations to nest, usually in burrows or dens. Gestation lasts 67 to 74 days and usually results in two kittens. Litters of three or more bobcats are rare. These small bobcats or kittens weigh between 8.5 and 15.2 ounces. They are covered in taupe fur and acquire full adult color at 11 weeks. After about 10 days, their eyes will open. They can eat solid food at about six weeks, but are not fully weaned until at least five months. The bobcat mother leaves the den two or three months after birth, and the kittens stay with them until they are 10 months old.
Canadian bobcats have a month-long mating season between March and April. Mating calls and urine marking are typical mating behaviors. The gestation period is between two and three months, and the litter may be a single kitten or as many as eight. Litter size appears to vary with prey availability. The kittens weighed between 6.2 and 8.3 ounces and did not open their eyes for 14 days. These kittens also leave their mothers for about 10 months.
Iberian lynx kittens are born between March and September after a two-month gestation period. Most are born in March and April. These kittens weigh between 7 and 8.8 ounces. By 10 months of age, kittens are mostly independent, but many remain with their mother until about 20 months of age. They were known to have violent fights among themselves, which often resulted in death. This starts to happen between 30 and 60 days.
Bobcats usually mate between February and March. A male bobcat will travel with a female and mate with her several times. After the mother bobcat is born, she will raise her kittens alone. A bobcat litter usually consists of two to four kittens, but may have as many as six. Pregnancy lasts 60 to 70 days and usually results in April or May. Lynx kittens open their eyes at around nine days and are weaned at two months. At three to five months old, they begin to leave the den to travel with the bobcat mother.
Eurasian Lynx can live up to 21 years in captivity. Canadian bobcats are known to live up to 27 years in captivity and 10 to 16 years in the wild. Bobcats live between 7 and 10 years in the wild, with the notable exception of 16 years. In captivity, the oldest bobcat lived to be 32 years old. The longest wild lifespan of the Iberian lynx is 13 years.
The conservation status of the Canadian and Eurasian lynxes and bobcats has received the least attention. The Iberian lynx is considered an endangered species. As of 2015, there were 400 Iberian lynx living on the Iberian Peninsula. The number of American bobcats is estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. The Eurasian Lynx population is thought to be around 45,000 individuals, generally stable. The Canadian bobcat population is also stable, thought to number in the tens of thousands.
At the Zoo – Where to Find Bobcats
Canadian lynxes and bobcats are the most common felines found in U.S. zoos. They're easy to find in zoos across the country, including:
- san diego zoo
- louisville zoo
- stone zoo new england
- minnesota zoo
- Smithsonian's National Zoo
- northwest trek
bobcat vs lynx
The lynx is a species of lynx, but it is easily distinguished by its appearance from the Canadian lynx, with which they share a certain range. Bobcats typically have prominent black spots and tawny fur. It also doesn't have as thick fur and doesn't have the long ear tufts or the large paws of the Canadian bobcat. Bobcats can be found in almost any type of habitat and range throughout the entire United States and southern Canada. The Canadian lynx is mainly distributed in the snow forests of Canada and parts of the northern United States
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about the author
After a career providing opportunities for local communities to experience and create art, I enjoy having time to write about two of my favorite things – nature and animals. I spend half my life outside, usually with my husband and adorable 14 year old puppy. We enjoyed walking around the lake and taking photos of the animals we encountered including: otters, osprey, Canada geese, ducks and nesting bald eagles. I also enjoy reading, discovering books to add to my library, collecting and playing vinyl records, and listening to my son's music.
Lynx FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What is a bobcat?
The lynx is a medium-sized wild cat found in North America, Russia, parts of Europe, and parts of Asia.
How fast can a bobcat run?
The Bobcat has a top speed of 50 mph.
Where do bobcats live?
Canadian bobcats live mainly in Canada, Alaska, and some parts of the northern United States. Bobcats are found throughout the United States as well as southern Canada and most of Mexico. The Iberian lynx is only found in southern Spain. Eurasian lynxes live in Russia, Scandinavia, parts of Europe, parts of Turkey, and northern China and Tibet.
What do bobcats eat?
Bobcats eat deer, rabbits, rodents, sheep, squirrels, ground birds, other birds, goats, reptiles, and fish. Canadian bobcats are very fond of snowshoe hares, while other species are more opportunistic and will eat whatever is in their habitat.
Can you keep a bobcat as a pet?
Most states in the United States have outlawed the possession of bobcats of any kind. However, bobcats are allowed as pets in Alabama, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
Are bobcats dangerous/will it kill you?
Bobcats will defend themselves when cornered, but there are no records of unprovoked attacks on humans. In theory, a bobcat can kill a human.
Do bobcats eat cats?
The bobcat is an opportunistic predator, while the domestic cat is about the same size as the prey it usually eats.
What kingdom does Lynx belong to?
Bobcats belong to the animal kingdom.
What category does Lynx belong to?
Bobcats belong to the class Mammalia.
What door do bobcats belong to?
Bobcats belong to the phylum Chordate.
What family does Lynx belong to?
Bobcats belong to the cat family.
What order do bobcats belong to?
Bobcats belong to the order Carnivora.
What type of mulch does Lynx have?
Bobcats are covered with fur.
What genus do bobcats belong to?
Bobcats belong to the genus Lynx.
Who are Lynx's natural enemies?
Natural enemies of bobcats include wolves, coyotes, humans, and mountain lions.
How many children does Lynx have?
The average number of babies a bobcat has is 4.
Any interesting facts about Lynx?
Lynx lives in lairs under rocks and ledges!
What is the scientific name for Lynx?
The bobcat's scientific name is Felis lynx.
What is the lifespan of a bobcat?
Bobcats can live 12 to 20 years.
What's the difference between a caracal and a bobcat?
The key differences between caracals and bobcats are size, color, physical characteristics, danger, habitat, lifespan, and diet.
How to say Bobcat in…
Lynx d'Eurasie, Lynx commune
Euraziatische Lynx, Los Angeles
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- David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
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- Encyclopedia Britannica, available here: https://www.britannica.com/animal/lynx-mammal
- Wikipedia, available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynx
- Find the answer, available here: https://findanyanswer.com/do-lynx-eat-cats