What Makes a Big Cat a Big Cat?

Did you know there are classifications on if a cat can be a big cat or not? Just because you […]

Did you know there are classifications on if a cat can be a big cat or not? Just because you see a large cat like a cougar, doesn’t always mean that it is necessarily a big cat!

A big cat is categorized by 2 different ways. The first identifier is that they belong in the Panthera family. Some examples are, Panthera tigris (tiger), Panthera pardus (leopard), Panthera onca (jaguar), Panthera leo (lion), and Panthera uncia (snow leopard). A cat also must have a special 2-piece hyoid bone that is located in their throat. This allows them to actually roar, not just meow.

What about Cheetahs and Cougars

Cheetahs and cougars technically are not classified as part of the big cat family. Now don’t get us wrong, they are very large cats, but they both don’t fall under the Panthera family and they both don’t have the 2-piece hyoid bone. This means they can’t actually roar, both of them can be heard chirping instead. Cougars are classified as part under the genus Puma while cheetahs are classified as part of the genus Acinonyx.

These cats do have some characteristics however that make them a strong candidate to be classified as a big cat. They both are a vital part in a healthy ecosystem and they have to face the same dangers in poaching and hunting as the big cats.

Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Here at Turpentine, we have a variety of big cats! We have mostly tigers, but we also have lions, a black jaguar, and some leopards! Next time you are out here, try and see which cats you can find whether that be a big cat or not!



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