What is the Difference between a Cougar and Bobcat?

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Similar to lions and tigers, both the bobcat and cougar belong to the Felinae family. Despite them being of the same family, they are two very different species. The question to tackle on this piece will be what the difference between a cougar and bobcat is. The main difference between the two being their sizes, the cougar is more prominent than a bobcat.

These two species tend to share a few physical similarities; however, the differences between them are enough to distinguish with one look. Their looks and behaviors are different as one of them is spotted while the other has a uniform color. Each of these species has different tastes when it comes to their diet. Before getting to understand their different characteristics, you need to have the general knowledge of each of these animals.


The cougar is a native species to the Americas, going by its scientific name Puma Concolour. This is an adaptable species, and because of this feature, it is spread out through most American habitats. The cougar goes by a handful of names in different regions. It’s currently holding the Guinness world record of the species having the most names.

The cougar is the second heaviest specie in the cat family, the first being the Jaguar. It is an ambush predator feasting on a variety of prey, but it’s favorite prey being the deer. Despite being an obligate carnivore, they do not consider humans as prey.


Scientifically, the bobcat goes by Lynx Rufus. It is a medium-sized cat and is a native to southern Canada and North America. This species stopped being considered as endangered back in 2002; currently, they are abundant in the wild and are widely distributed.

Its name is from its black-tipped tail. The overall size of the bobcat is about twice that of a domestic cat and mostly prefers woody habitats. They are also found in semi-deserts and quickly adapt to their surroundings. Rabbits and hares are their preferred source of food; at times, they prey on insects, chicken, geese, and small deer.

Differences between the Cougar and Bobcat


The bobcat has a tan to grey- brown coating entirely covered with black streaks and spots. On its legs and tail, there are dark bars. This spotting on its fur is the main feature distinguishing it from most cats in the wild, as they also act as camouflage. Its ears are short, black-tipped, and pointy.

An off-white coloring is visible on the bobcat’s lips, chin and underparts. Those that inhabit the desert and colder regions tend to have a light coating as compared to the darker layers on those inhabiting humid regions. The kittens are born already spotted, and this spotting is maintained even after maturity. It has a pink-red nose and round black pupils grace their eyeballs.

On the other hand, the cougar has plain coloring. Spots are only visible on young cubs, and they tend to fade away depending on the maturity of the species. It has a tan coating resembling that of a lion, and this is where the name mountain lion was derived. This species has lighter patches on its underbody, including its chin and throat.


When we consider their sizes, the cougar is bigger than its comparative counterpart. A cougar’s shoulder height is 60-90cm. Male adults weigh from 116 to 220 pounds, averaging at 168pounds, whereas the females have an average weight of 120 pounds. A mature female weighs from 63-to 141 pounds. From its nose to tail tip, the male species measures 2.4 meters while the female measures 2.04 meters.

The bobcat is smaller in height and weight when compared with the cougar. A fully mature adult will weigh 6.4 to 18.3 kg averaging to 9.6 kg while the female is 4 to 15.3 kg, averaging to 6.8 kg. The length of this animal is 47.5 to 125 cm from its head to tail tip. Of this length, the tail takes up 9-20 cm and is “bobbed.”


Cougars do not have a limited diet, and they will eat any prey they can chase down and kill. This ranges from small insects and rodents to large ungulates twice the specie’s size. The victim attacked depends on the cougar’s body size. Concerning the body size of the cougar, its proximity to the equator determines its size. Ones close to the poles are greater than those nearing the equator.

The most favored prey for the cougar the deer. In recently conducted research, the deer comprises over 60% of a cougar’s diet. Only the Florida panther has shown a unique character by preferring feral hogs and armadillos.

Bobcats portray a varied meat diet as compared to the cougar. Its primary prey being rodents, rabbits, and hares, all these are small-sized animals. They do not feed on their kills immediately after killing it, they drag and hide it, then return later to feed on it. Bobcats prefer its prey weighing 1.5 to 12.5 lbs, their main prey varying in the regions they inhabit. 

In the United States, the cottontail rabbit is the main prey of this species. This changes to the species located in the northern areas as they mainly feed on the hare.


Bobcats first breed by the second summer; females may kick-off as early as their first year. Their anatomy allows them to mature faster than their male counterparts in the species. Each year, the male sperm production begins by October, others as early as late September. 

The mating season in the bobcats is between February and March. The male and female travel together, copulating several times. The pair are said to undergo courting, where they chase each other around and, at times, even ambush prey together. After the two separate, both of them go ahead and mate with other partners. This proves the specie’s polygamy in both sexes. The average litter size is three kittens, and their gestation period is 70 days.

On the other hand, female cougars attain sexual maturity very late as compared to the bobcat. At 1½-3 years of age is when the female may begin its estrous cycle and possibly conceive. Unlike the bobcat, females in this species are monogamous while the males are polygamous. Their gestation period is 90 days; the average litter size is two cubs. While a bobcat’s young one is called a kitten, the offspring of this animal is a puma.


Both of these species share most of their habitats in North America. However, for the cougar, its range extends to Mexico and the western half of the US from Western Canada. There are claims of its sighting in parts of South and Central America.

Bobcats seem to constrict their ranges within North America and parts of America. Regardless of this, both species can thrive in vast habitats as they easily adapt to any environment they find themselves in.


The differences between these two animals outweigh their similarities. The easiest and straight forward means of distinguishing is by observing their coatings. This approach might be difficult when observing the offsprings of both the species as they are both spotted. However, a bobcat’s young one is smaller in size than its counterpart.

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