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Are Panthers and Jaguars the same thing? How about Leopards? Cougars? Panther FAQ and Panther Facts...


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Wikipedia says:

The black jaguar is one of three animals called "panther" ...

The others are the black leopard and the cougar.

Wikipedia also says:

black panther is typically a melanistic color variant of any of several species of larger cat. In the Americas, wild 'black panthers' may be black jaguars (Panthera onca), while in Asia and Africa, black leopards (Panthera pardus); in Asia, possibly the very rare black tigers (Panthera tigris). Smaller wild cats, like jaguarundi, may also be black.

Captive black panthers may be black jaguars, or more commonly black leopards.

Will Wister on Quora says leopards, cougars, mountain lions, and jaguars are all panthers even though leopards and jaguars are in a different genus than cougars and mountain lions:

There are 4 species of big cats of the felidae family in panthera genus: lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. 

Panther is a versatile word that can refer to different leopards, cougars, or mountain lions. It usually refers to a melanistic or black cat. That's why the phrase "black panther" is common. In Africa and Asia, panther refers to leopards. In North America, it refers to mountain lion. In South America, it refers to jaguars.

Melanistic Leopard = Panther:

melanistic leopard panther

Melanistic Jaguar = Panther:

melanistic jaguar panther

Although there are some claims that melanistic cougars have not been found yet, others claim they simply do not exist.

Leopards and jaguars are two distinct species, but they are similar. The leopard has relatively short legs and a long body with a large skull. It is similar in appearance to the jaguar, but is smaller and more slightly built. Its fur is marked with rosettes similar to those of the jaguar, but the leopard's rosettes are smaller and more densely packed, and do not usually have central spots as the jaguars do:

leopard panther

Also leopards are found in Asia and Africa while jaguars are found in south America.

Cheetahs are in the felidae family and the only member of the acinonyx genus. Therefore cheetahs are not panthers.

Cheetahs have solid spots versus a rosette pattern for a leopard. Cheetahs have longer legs and a longer tail. Leopards are much more solid and heavy. Cheetahs are the fastest animals in the world, able to run up to 75 mph in short bursts, and accelerate from 0 to 60 in 3 seconds.

cheetah panther

Cougars are also members of the Felidae family and they are also a distinct species. They belong to the puma genus. Alternative terms for cougar include puma, mountain lion, mountain cat, catamount. Unlike leopards, cougars typically don't have spots, and they are also smaller than leopards. Genetically, they're also more related to domestic cats than the four big cats.

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Summary:

Lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars are all in the Panther genus.

But "Panther" is a generic term that includes leopards and jaguars (Panthera genus) and cougars and mountain lions (Puma genus). Also, mountain lions are not lions; they're pumas.

Here's what I found on Yahoo answers:

There is no actual species called a panther. The term generally refers to black (melanistic) leopards, Panthera pardus. It was once thought that black leopards were a species of their own, known as the 'pard', and that spotted leopards were a cross between pards and lions (hence 'leopard' - lion-pard).

Melanistic jaguars (Panthera onca) are somtimes incorrectly referred to as panthers, and the Florida subspecies of the puma, Felis concolor (also known as the cougar, mountain lion or catamount) is often called the Florida panther.

...

I haven't researched on this yet, but I think the term "panther" is general and is another name for puma, cougar, or mountain lion (Felis concolor).If you are referring to the black panther (like Bagheera of Rudyard Kipling's "The Jungle Book"), well, it is a large cat (be it jaguar, puma or leopard) that has a condition where its coat has a dominantly black color. The term for this is melanism (akin to melanin, the pigment responsible for the dark color of blacks and to a lesser extent, the Malay race).

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Panther is just a common name for several different species of cats. In North America, panther usually refers to the cougar.In Latin America, panther usually refers to the jaguar. Elsewhere, panther is a name given to leopards.

Don't forget the ocelot.

An ocelot is just a housecat, right?

If the house is a forest.  :-)  

The ocelot (/ ˈ ɒ s əl ɒ t /; Leopardus pardalis), also known as the dwarf leopard, is a wild cat distributed extensively over South America including the islands of Trinidad and Margarita, Central America, and Mexico. They have been reported as far north as Texas.[3] [4] North of Mexico, they are found regularly only in the extreme southern part of Texas,[5] although there are rare sightings in southern Arizona.[6]

The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from 1972 until 1996, and is now rated "least concern" by the 2008 IUCN Red List.

The ocelot's genus Leopardus consists of nine species similar to the ocelot, such as Geoffroy's cat and the margay, which are also endemic to South and Central America. All of the cats in Leopardus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the ocelot being the biggest.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocelot#Taxonomy

Well, I've been schooled. These big cats are all so fascinating!