Which wild cat is the best hunter?

Black-footed cat great hunter
Black-footed cat — great hunter
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The black-footed cat is arguably the best hunter of all the wild cats. They are incredibly active and highly successful hunters. They can make one hunting attempt every 30 minutes. Their success rate is 60%. A male was seen to catch 12 rodents in three and a half hours. During a normal night’s hunting they kill a bird or mammal every fifty minutes. This equates to 10-15 animals per night. This is 20% of the cat’s body weight. The stats on this page come from the renowned Wild Cats of the World by Mel and Fiona Sunquist.

By comparison when a single lioness hunts she is successful 2.3% of the time. When hunting in a group the success rate climbs to 27%.

Cheetah - a better hunter than most wild cat species
Cheetah – a better hunter than most wild cat species

The cheetah is also a more successful hunter than other wild cat species and may be the best hunter of all the wild cats. Their hunting success rate varies. It depends on the prey and the age/sex of the cheetah. Adult cheetahs preying on gazelle fawns are 100% successful. When hunting older gazelles the success rate falls to 53.5%. Other studies have concluded that 37% of all cheetah hunts are successful (Nairobu NP). Again when chasing young animals the success rate improves to 76%.

In another study female cheetahs of varying ages recorded a very high success rate of 81-100% when chasing newborn Thomson’s gazelles. When siblings hunted adult and subadult Thomson’s gazelles together their success rate was higher (52%) then when hunting alone (15%). About 75% of hunts by males acting alone or in pairs were successful.

By comparison, for example, the leopard is relatively unsuccessful in daytime hunts at 5-16% based on various studies. Nighttime hunting is more successful. In northeast Namibia a study recorded a 38.1% success rate (I don’t know if this is daytime or nighttime hunting).

In conclusion, my research indicates that the black-footed cat is probably the best hunter of all the wild cats because the high cheetah success rate is for young gazelles, which are easy prey.

Note: it is difficult to study wild cat hunting succcess rates. There is not a lot of data. This affects accuracy. The reason why I have not included tiger, lion or jaguar success rates is because I don’t have readily accessible data for those figures but I strongly suspect that they would be considerably worse than for the black-footed cat partly because these big cats chase large prey.

Anyone who can add some detail is welcome to and if it is good enough I’ll add it to the article.




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