Bobcats cannot have long tails. All true bobcats have a genetic mutation which shortens the length of the tail. The tail is usually about 14 cm long (5 inches), white underneath and marked with dark bands above. I’ve been unable to find the exact genetic mutation which causes the shortened tail. It is referred to as the “bobcat gene”. However, the length of the bobcat’s tail varies. One observer says that he has seen around 200 bobcats in the wild. He states that some bobcats have a little powder puff of a tail but most bobcat tails “stretch out 3-4 inches.
The relatively long tail in the photograph which is a screenshot from a video that he made is about 9 inches in length, he said.
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What he says squares up with my reference books. So back to the question in the title. If the maximum length of a bobcat tail is around 9 inches as shown in the photograph on this page, it cannot be said that they have long tails.
My reference book (Wild Cats of the World) usefully provides me with the tail lengths of 167 bobcats, both male and female.
In Minnesota, 16 male bobcats had an average tail length of 138.9 mm and 15 females had an average tail length of 125.5 mm.
In Michigan, 32 males had an average tail length of 159.6 mm and 24 females had an average tail length of 146.4 mm.
In North Carolina, 21 males had an average tail length of 142.7 mm and 26 females had an average tail length of 129.7 mm.
In Kentucky, 12 males had an average tail length of 145 mm and eight females had an average tail length of 128.4 mm.
In Florida, six males had a tail length of 158.3 mm and seven females had a tail length of 157.4 mm.
To convert millimetres to inches, divide the length value by 25.4.
Interestingly, he says that some people mistake bobcats with longer than usual tails for cougars. This sounds extraordinary because the cougar (puma) has a very long tail and very much longer than the tail of the cat that we see in the photograph.
This mistaken assessment is down to inexperience. Also, when people see wild cats in the wild, they often make mistakes about identification. They don’t assess the size very well and often exaggerate the size perhaps because of a fear of the wild cats.
It’s a bit like seeing a domestic tabby cat in a field in the UK and somebody claiming that they saw a tiger or a panther roaming around the British countryside. People do tend exaggerate. They might also exaggerate with respect to tail length 😉.
Note: This is a video from another website which is embedded here. Sometimes they are deleted at source which stops them working on this site. If that has happened, I apologise but I have no control over it.
Some on the bobcat can be seen below.