Big cat

Big cat

The term big cat is used to distinguish the larger cat species from smaller ones. One definition of "big cat" includes only the four species of cat in the genus "Panthera": the tiger, lion, leopard, and jaguar. Members of this genus are the only cats able to roar, and this is sometimes considered a distinguishing characteristic of big cats. A more expansive definition also includes the cheetah, snow leopard, clouded leopard, and cougar. The roaring cats may also be distinguished from the other big cats by referring to them as "great cats".

Three of the four largest cats are members of the genus "Panthera"; the cougar is the fourth largest cat, exceeding the leopard in size. Some medium-sized cats like the Eurasian lynx may weigh as much as 30 kg (66 lb), but they are not considered big cats.

Despite enormous differences in size, the various species of cat are amazingly similar in both structure and behavior. All cats are carnivores and efficient predators. Their range includes the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe; Australia and Antarctica have no indigenous species of cats.


The ability to roar comes from an elongated and specially adapted larynx and hyoid apparatus. [cite web | last = Weissengruber | first = GE | coauthors = G Forstenpointner, G Peters, A Kübber-Heiss, and WT Fitch | title = Hyoid apparatus and pharynx in the lion (Panthera leo), jaguar (Panthera onca), tiger (Panthera tigris), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and domestic cat (Felis silvestris f. catus) | work = Journal of Anatomy | publisher = Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland | pages=195–209 | volume=201|issue=201 | year =2002 |month=September| url = | doi =10.1046/j.1469-7580.2002.00088.x | accessdate = 2007-05-20] When air passes through the larynx on the way to the lungs, the cartilage walls of the larynx vibrate, producing sound. The lion's larynx is longest, giving it the most robust roar. Only four cats have the physical structure of the throat needed for making the deep, loud, and resonant sound of a roar. They are jaguars, leopards, lions, and tigers.


The principal threats to big cats are habitat destruction and poaching. In the United States, 19 states have banned ownership of big cats and other dangerous exotic animals as pets, and the Captive Wildlife Safety Act bans the interstate sale and transportation of these animals [cite web | last = Pacelle | first = Wayne | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Captive Wildlife Safety Act: A Good Start in Banning Exotics as Pets | work = | publisher = The Humane Society of the United States | date = | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2007-04-01] . Nevertheless, there are still an estimated 15,000 big cats kept captive in the United States, and only a small percentage of them are in accredited zoos.Fact|date=July 2008 The remainder are in private homes and nonaccredited roadside zoos.


Family Felidae
* Genus "Panthera" (roaring or great cats)
** Leopard, "Panthera pardus" (Asia and Africa)
** Lion, "Panthera leo" (Africa, Gir Forest in India; extinct in former range of southeast Europe, Middle East, much of Asia, and North America)
** Jaguar, "Panthera onca" (the Americas; from Mexico to northern Argentina)
** Tiger, "Panthera tigris" (Asia)
* Genus "Acinonyx"
** Cheetah, "Acinonyx jubatus" (Africa and Iran)
* Genus "Puma"
** Cougar, "Puma concolor" (North and South America)
* Genus "Uncia"
** Snow Leopard, "Uncia uncia" (mountains of central and south Asia)
* Genus "Neofelis"
** Bornean Clouded Leopard, "Neofelis diardi" (Borneo and Sumatra)
** Clouded Leopard, "Neofelis nebulosa" (southeast and south Asia)


External links

*NatureFootage [ Big Cat pictures and video clips]
* [ How big are the Big Cats] - an article at Big Cats Online which includes a chart comparing the body lengths of several cat species.
*ARKive - [ images and movies of endangered big cats]
* [ Humane Society of the United States] -- article on big cats as pets
* [ Big Cat Rescue] -- sanctuary dedicated to care and conservation of big cats
* [ FCF Big Cat Policy] -- recommendations against casual private ownership
* [ WHF] -- Wildlife Heritage Foundation (European Endangered Species Breeding Programmes (EEP))
* [ WHF Photos] -- Wildlife Heritage Foundation photos
* [] -- Exotic Cat Conservation

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • big cat — n a large animal of the cat family, such as a lion or tiger …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • big cat — noun count a large wild cat such as a lion or a TIGER …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Big Cat — ist der Spitzname folgender Personen: Ernie Ladd (1938 2007), US amerikanischer American Football Spieler und Leon Lett (* 1968), US amerikanischer American Football Spieler Cleveland Williams (1933–1999), US amerikanischer Boxer Rayfield Wright… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • big cat — noun any of several large cats typically able to roar and living in the wild • Syn: ↑cat • Hypernyms: ↑feline, ↑felid • Hyponyms: ↑leopard, ↑Panthera pardus, ↑snow le …   Useful english dictionary

  • big cat — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms big cat : singular big cat plural big cats a large wild cat such as a lion or a tiger …   English dictionary

  • big cat — big cats N COUNT Big cats are lions, tigers, and other large wild animals in the cat family …   English dictionary

  • big cat — noun any of the large members of the cat family, including the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah, and puma …   English new terms dictionary

  • big cat — noun (C) not technical a large animal of the cat family, such as a lion or tiger …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • big cat — /bɪg ˈkæt/ (say big kat) noun any of the larger species of the family Felidae, as the lion, tiger, leopard, panther, etc …   Australian English dictionary

  • big cat — noun Any large feline animal, such as the lion, tiger etc …   Wiktionary

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