Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


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Physical Description

Concolor means one color in Latin. Cougar adults are a uniform tan color with lighter fur on their lower chests, belly, and inner legs. Shades of individual animals may vary considerably from grayish to reddish to yellowish (Busch 1996). This uniform color conceals them effectively in a variety of settings including the open range.

Young and Goldman in their 1946 book The Puma: Mysterious American Cat noted that the color of cougars often matches the color of the deer, their primary prey. Cougar kittens are spotted, which helps to camouflage them in the shadows of their den. These spots fade as they approach maturity at the end of their first year. Cougars have long round tails (nearly two-thirds the length of their head and body). Tails help balance the body, especially during ambush pounces on prey.

The Florida panther is smaller than some cougars in the West and has longer legs, smaller feet, and a shorter darker coat. In 1896 Cory described the coat as "more rufous or reddish brown" than more northern cats. need metric help Male panthers are larger than female panthers. They weigh from 45 - 72 kg (100 to 160 pounds); female panthers weigh between 30 - 45 kg (70 to 100 pounds). Panthers vary in height at the shoulder from 60 - 70 cm (24 to 28 inches) and measure from 1.8 - 2.2 m (6 to 7.2 feet) from nose to tip of tail.

  • Metric Conversions
  • 1 meter = 39.37 inches
  • 1 kilogram = 2.2 pounds
  • 1 kilometer = 0.62 miles
  • 1 hectare = 2.47 acres

Male cougars in western states may stand about 0.8 m or 80 cm (31 inches) at the shoulders and may exceed 2.5 m (8.2 feet) in length. The largest cougar on record, a male shot in Hillsdale, Arizona, in 1917, measured 2.64 m (8.7 feet) and weighed 125 kg (276 pounds) (Busch 1996).

The Florida panther's tail crook is thought to be due to inbreeding and not a truly defining characteristic of the subspecies

The skull of the Florida panther is distinct from other subspecies of cougar. It is relatively broad and flat with highly arched nasal bones, giving the profile a rounded appearance as it transitions from the forehead to the tip of the nose.

The flat, broad, arched nasal bone is distinctive from other subspecies of cougar

A recent study (Wilkins 1994) found that in skull shape and color the Florida panther more closely resembles cats from the northwest coast of North America than other subspecies. This may be the result of adaptations to similar environmental factors such as high humidity (Wilkins 1994).

The Florida panther also often has a right angle crook between the second and third vertebrae from the end of its tail, a whorl of hair or a "cowlick" in the middle of its back, and white flecks in the fur on its neck and back. The crook in the tail and the whorl of hair may be the result of inbreeding within a small population and are not defining characteristics of the subspecies. Kinked tails and whorls have been reported in other subspecies of cougar, but in much lower frequencies (Wilkins 1994). The white flecks in the coat on the neck and back are thought to be the result of tick bites.

White flecks of fur around the
Florida panther's next are thought
to be due to tick bites.

Continue to: Relation to Other Cats