…Did You Know?
The word “panther” has been used all sorts of ways, and can mean all sorts of things. Here they are:
- The scientific term Panthera refers to the “big cats,” which includes all the cats that can roar: lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Grrr.
- Some of the Panthera cats, like leopards and jaguars, are sometimes called panthers, instead of their regular name.
- In North America, the cougar, also called a mountain lion, is sometimes called a panther, especially in Florida. Cougars don’t actually belong to the group Panthera, since they can’t roar. They actually purr!
- Panther can also be used when talking about black panthers, which can be a cougar, leopard, or jaguar, but with all black fur, instead of the usual yellow or orange with spots.
- It can also mean a white panther, which is a cougar, leopard, or jaguar, but with all white fur, or very pale fur.
A few very rare cats have a condition called melanism, which makes their fur entirely black, and these cats are called black panthers. Even though their fur is black, they actually still have spots, which are even darker than the regular fur.
Black panthers are most often leopards, but can also be jaguars. A few cases of black tigers and cougars have been reported, but they have not been confirmed, or weren’t entirely black.
White panthers also include leopards and jaguars, and their white fur can be caused by albinism (being an albino), but also leucism, or something called the chinchilla mutation. These cats are extremely rare. Although some cases of white cougars have been reported, these cases have been disputed.
Probably the most scientific use of the word panther is the genus Panthera, the group of cats which includes lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards, which makes it one of the most ferocious groups of hunters anywhere on the planet. These are some of the biggest, most powerful felines in the world, and wherever they’re found, they’re usually at the top of the food chain.
These four cats are the only ones in the world that can roar, using special structures in the throat that no other cats have. It also changes their purring sounds, so they don’t sound like a house cat when they purr.