The name is the “bobcat” because of the bobbed (shortened) tail. “American bobcat” is commonly used. This is the most common wild cat species of North America which with Mexico and Canada is its geographic range. This wild cat is one of four of the Genus: lynx. The others are Canada lynx, Eurasian lynx and Iberian lynx. The bobcat is a relative of the Canada lynx.
It is about the size of a cocker spaniel. Its fur is thick and soft, which has made it desirable as a commercial product. The bobcat is similar to the Canada lynx in appearance. The bobcat is adaptable and is found, therefore, in a wide range of habitats including forests, swamps, sagebush grassland, brushland and agricultural forest. The bobcat shares habitat with the puma and coyote. Pumas occasionally kill bobcats. The bobcat mainly feeds on hare and rabbit but also preys on deer and beaver depending on the region.
Scientific Name: Lynx rufus (Schreber, 1777)
Other non-scientific names are: bay lynx, lynx cat, red lynx, chat sauvage.
I have a page on the description of the bobcat. This is a wildcat with a tanned coat and spots. Larger males weigh up to 29 lbs (13.2 kg). Females can be quite small at 13 lbs, the weight of a domestic cat.
There is a range map below. The American bobcat is found from southern Canada to central Mexico and is most common in the western states of the USA. It lives in a wide range of habitats: forests, mountains, semi-deserts and subtropical swamps.
Bobcats live in dens that are in rocks, hollow trees and bushes etc.
The wide range of habitats leads to a similar range of prey items. The American bobcat feeds on: rabbits (60-65%), rodents (20-25%), reptiles and insects (2%). Prey includes: deer, beaver, prairie dogs, bats, snakes, bettles, grasshoppers, porcupines, birds, domestic cats, dogs, sheep, poultry, goats and fruit such as apples and pears.
See a page on the Bobcat cat range.
It is interesting to see the small wildcats that are currently populating this world and make comparisons to our beloved domestic cat. This is because our domestic cat is a wild cat that domesticated himself some 9,500 years ago.
A comparison between current domestic and wild cats opens a window through which we can get an indication as to how much we have changed the wild cat through selective breeding and indeed how much the domestic cat has naturally evolved without our intervention over the past 9,500 years.
When I look at this picture of the American Bobcat I can see a domestic cat in there – bobcats like catnip just like domestic cats. The difference is one of size mainly but there is a large overlap in the size of domestic cats and medium to small wild cats. There is also the naturally more rugged appearance of the wild cat. The bobcat is slightly more “thick set”, meaning heavy set and stocky looking and lacks the cosseted refinement of the pampered domestic cat.
Two bobcats in a tree by my house: We live on top of a wilderness ridge in north central Alabama. Last week just before sunrise I heard a commotion in the forest adjacent to our home and saw two animals up in a tree that seemed to be scuffling.
At first I thought they were raccoons but the tails were too short. I grabbed a telescope and saw a bobcat looking back at me.
The one higher in the tree was trying to discourage the lower one from approaching it, and the lower one finally gave up and left.
The remaining one stayed for a while and I tried to get a photo of it but it was still too dark and it eventually climbed down and left too.
Larry (North Alabama)
At the back of the right ear you see white marking. This is to frighten foe when she turns the backs of the ears forward and flattens them in an aggressive/defensive mode. The Serval has very distinctive ear markings like these.
Domestic cats look relatively delicate. Some, of course, have been bred to extremely delicate levels (perhaps extreme levels). This breeding-in of elegance (away from coarseness) and delicacy is amply demonstrated in the development of the Modern Siamese.
Other than the differences born out of living in the wild, their lives, manners and eating habits are essentially the same as the domestic cat. There is thought to be a tenuous connection between the American Bobcat and the rare domestic cat the Pixie Bob, which you can read about here. See a Bobcat catching prey.
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