You have probably seen a cat on the street, in a shelter, or even have one as a pet. In this lesson you will learn about a type of cat that lives in the wild and would make a dangerous pet. These cats are called Panthers.

Types of Panthers

You might think a panther is just one type of big cat, but this is actually a pretty complicated term! In this lesson, we’ll review three major definitions of what we can mean when we say ‘panther.’

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First, the term panther can mean any large cat. When it comes to large cats, the ones you probably see at the zoo are lions and tigers, but there are also jaguars, and leopards. All together, these beautiful cats fall under the category of panther. The category of ‘panther’ comes from the genus ‘panthera’ which describes any large cats. ‘Genus’ is a way we categorize multiple species into a single group.

Something else we might mean when we say panther is the ‘black panther.’ Now, you might think that a black panther is actually its own species, but this isn’t the case! A black panther can be any type of big cat that is melanistic. When we say melanistic, we mean that an animal’s fur or skin is black. While ‘black panther’ can technically mean any melanistic big cat, we almost always mean black jaguars or leopards when we use this term.

A black panther
panther

A third thing we can mean when we say ‘panther’ is a mountain lion. A mountain lion can be called a cougar, a puma, or simply a panther. Unlike leopards and jaguars, mountain lions don’t have to be melanistic to be called panthers. In fact, a mountain lion isn’t even part of the genus panther, but we still call it a panther! Confusing, right?

Baby mountain lions
puma

So now we know that when we say panther, we can mean: 1) any large cat of the genus ‘panthera,’ 2) a melanistic leopard or jaguar, 3) a mountain lion.

Physical Traits of Panthers

You might be able to run very fast, or know someone who can sprint quickly, but leopards can definitely outrun you easily because they run at 36 miles per hour (regular road speed for a car). They are also heavier weighing about 198 pounds, and generally live about 17 years. But if this isn’t fast and big enough for you, then you would probably love the Jaguar. Jaguars weigh up to 348 pounds and can reach a speed of 64 miles per hour (regular expressway speed for a car).

Spotted Leopard
panther1

Mountain lions are smaller than leopards and jaguars, weighing only between 48 and 176 pounds, but they can still catch up to you quickly when they are chasing you at 40 miles per hour. These mountain lions live about 16 years.

Habitat and Diet of Panthers

If you wanted to visit these beautiful cats in their natural habitats, you would need to travel to Africa and Asia to try and spot Leopards. But if you are interested in jaguars and mountain lions, then you will need to travel to the Americas. Mountain lions live in both North and South America, while jaguars live in Central and South America. But be careful, these panthers are carnivores which means they eat meat. Their diets vary widely based on location, but some of the animals they eat include deer, rabbits, and goats.

Lesson Summary

Panther is a complicated term that can mean several different things. The term panther can refer to any big cat in the genus (category of species) ‘panthera,’ which includes lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Melanistic (black fur) leopards and jaguars are commonly called ‘black panthers,’ while mountain lions are also referred to as panthers even though they are not part of the panther genus.