are cheetahs considered big cats

There are 38 species of cats on the planet. Most, like the margay, are relatively small. But some—the lion, tiger, leopard, snow leopard, clouded leopard, jaguar, lynx, and cheetah—are big. These big cats are among the most beloved and recognizable animals on the planet.

Cheetahs differ from Big Cats and most other animals in another way because they have less genetic diversity. There are about 8,000 cheetahs left in the world, and they are genetically identical. This differentiating factor is not a good thing. It reduces their capacity to adapt to shifting environments and makes them more prone to illness.

Dobrynin, Pavel, et. Al. December 10, 2017. Genomic legacy of the African cheetah, Acinonyx jubatus. Genome Biology201516:277. https://genomebiology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13059-015-0837-4 . Accessed September 19, 2017.

Cheetah Info book. Scientific Classification. Seaworld Parks and Entertainment. https://seaworld.org/en/animal-info/animal-infobooks/cheetah/scientific-classification . Accessed September 20, 2017.

Because of their spots, cheetahs and leopards may initially appear to be most similar, but a cheetah’s markings are very different from a leopard’s. Cheetahs have distinct black spots that help them blend in with the tall grasses of their hunting grounds, while leopards have two-toned, rosette-shaped spots that help them hide in the dark jungle. Cheetahs have developed black tear lines down their faces to protect themselves from the sun’s glare when they hunt during the day. A leopard only has spots on its face, so it doesn’t require this protection.

For Canadians, the voice of cheetah conservation is the Cheetah Conservation Fund Canada. We provide funding for the creative cheetah conservation initiatives in Namibia, including community development, education, and research, under the direction of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. Visit our website’s You Can Help pages to find out more about how you can contribute to the cheetah’s continued survival.

So are jaguars and leopards also the same species?

Nope! Panthera onca and Panthera pardus are the two different species of jaguars and leopards. Even though they may appear to be quite similar at first glance, there are a few key indicators that will help you tell them apart. The two large cats are spread across different parts of the globe. The Americas are home to jaguars, which can be found from Mexico’s forests and scrublands to South America’s tropical rainforests. Leopards are found in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa; they primarily inhabit deserts, grasslands, and rainforests. The pattern on their coats is one of the simplest ways to tell a jaguar from a leopard visually. Whereas leopards lack black dots in their rose-shaped spots, jaguar coats do. Jaguars have a thicker head and a bulkier body than leopards, so body type can also be helpful.

Speaking of cougars, what’s up with the cougar/puma/mountain lion/panther lingo?

We hear you. Keeping track of all these names can be difficult. The good news? They all refer to the same animal. Due to its extensive geographic range, the wild cat has been given many names by various nations and cultures. With over 40 names in English alone, it actually holds the Guinness record for the animal with the most names! (Keep that in mind for your next trivia night.) ).

FAQ

Why are cheetahs not classified as big cats?

Cheetahs and cougars were left off the list because they don’t belong to the genus Panthera. Cheetahs are the only living species that belong to the genus Acinonyx, while cougars belong to the genus Puma. Both cats also lack a hyoid bone, setting them apart once again from the roaring big cats.

What qualifies as a big cat?

Sometimes, the phrase “big cat” just refers to any member of the cat family (Felidae) that is large, such as the cougar (genus Puma), the cheetah (genus Acinonyx), and the Eurasian lynx (genus Lynx, species lynx). Tigers, Lions, Jaguars, Leopards, and Snow Leopards are the extant (or currently living) members.

What are the 5 big cats?

The Pantherinae family includes the five big cat species, found within the genus Panthera: the lion (Panthera leo), tiger (Panthera tigris), jaguar (Panthera onca), leopard (Panthera pardus) and snow leopard (Panthera uncia).