What does ‘tigrillo’ mean?

“Tigrillo” can mean at least two things! It can mean a high-energy coastal breakfast from South America with a bite made with green plantains. It is a traditional breakfast recipe from Ecuador. But note the word “bite” in that sentence. The word ‘tigrillo’ to describe this breakfast meal has been borrowed, I would argue, from its true meaning which is any small spotted jungle cat (with a hard bite).

Jaguarundi in its biome
Jaguarundi in its biome. This looks like the black morph called Tigrillo Negro. Photo in public domain.
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The word normally refers to two small wild cats: the oncilla or margay (tree orientated cat). And the word “tigrillo” is used in one of the many alternative names for the jaguarundi. Even the name “jaguarundi” is spelt in three different ways: jaguarundi, jaguarondi and Yaguarundi. Among local people it is known as the Gato Moro, Gato Pardo, Gato Eyra, Gato Cerban, Gato Mourisco, Tigrillo Negro or Tigrillo Congo. This is a very wide range of names and the last two contain the word ‘tigrillo’ meaning a small spotted jungle cat. The tigrillo Negro would have to mean the dark variant of this strange small wildcat.

There are actually two main colour phases, and iron-gray morph and a red-brown morph. The grey phase varies from ashy grey to a brownish black or occasionally all-black. It is the all-black version of this cat which is described as being the Tigrillo Negro, I believe, or the brownish-black version.

This is one of the most unusual of the small cats because its appearance is peculiar among the family of cats. Sometimes people say that they look more like a weasel because of their long neck, pointed head and small round ears attached to a slender body and short legs. People have had difficulty in classifying this cat being halfway between a cat and a mustelid.

Here is a little bit more about the tigrillo breakfast and there is some more about the jaguarundi at the base of the page! It is gluten free and is made with green plantains, smooth peanut butter, whole milk, unsalted butter, olive oil, streaky bacon, spring onions, paprika, mozzarella, coriander leaves and eggs. There you go…that is tigrillo, the breakfast, but the word is all about a small wild cat which is why I’m writing about it 🙂


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