Cougar. Mountain Lion. Puma. Three of the overall 40 English names for one species of cat. That number doesn’t include the 18 native South American names or the 25 native North American names. That’s a grand total of 83 names for one animal! Cougars currently hold the Guinness World Record for mammals with the most names.
But why so many names?
Cougars have a historical range covering the entire American continent. They have been found as far north as the Northwest Territories in Canada and as far south as the bottom tip of Chile in South America. That covers a lot of ground and a lot of different people.
Some names identify these animals by where they live. Names like Mountain Lion, Tall Grass Creeper, Slough Walker and Swamp Devil place cougars in certain environments. Also, names like Florida Panther, California Lion, and Rocky Mountain Lion relate cougars to where they’re found in the United States. While names like Brazilian Puma, Argentinian Puma, and Mexican Lion put them in certain countries.
Whereas other names reference the sounds cougars make. They’re known for a terrifying mating cry that can sound like a woman screaming. For instance, in areas of Florida, they call this cat a Night Screamer, Swamp Screamer, Swamp Crier, and Night Crier.
As Europeans traveled to the Americas, however, they called these strange new cats familiar names. Cougars have been mislabeled many times as Lions, Tigers, and Leopards. They are even referred to as Panthers. This is not a species of cat but an umbrella term for any cat that falls into the Panthera family.
Tribes native to the Americas have names for these cats as well. Katalgar, the name used by the Cree people, means Greatest of Wild Hunters. Ko-Licto, used by the Chickasaw people, means Cat of God. The Mexican Aztec called the cougar Mitzli, the killer.
Whereas here at TCWR, we call them cougars. And we currently have three of them! We have two cougar sisters named Marissa and Louisa and another younger cougar named Sasha. Marissa and Lousia were rescued from Colorado in 2016. They were only three months old at the time of this rescue. Because of the facility they were at, Marissa and Lousia were likely used in the cub petting industry. Sasha was rescued in 2021 from a New York apartment where she was being kept as a pet. All three of these girls enjoy a large grassy habitat now, where they can run, play, and undoubtedly stalk their neighbors.
Come visit our cougars at TCWR! They assure you, regardless of what you call them, they’ll love any name.