Photo: Bobcat sitting on a rock

Bobcats, named for their "bobbed" tails, have ears that resemble their feline cousin, the lynx.

Photograph by Norbert Rosing

Map

Map: Bobcat range

Bobcat Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
10 to 12 years
Size:
Head and body, 26 to 41 in (66 to 104 cm); tail, 4 to 7 in (10 to 18 cm)
Weight:
11 to 30 lbs (5 to 14 kg)
Did you know?
The bobcat is the most abundant wildcat in the U.S. and has the greatest range of all native North American cats.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Bobcat compared with adult man

Bobcats are elusive and nocturnal, so they are rarely spotted by humans. Although they are seldom seen, they roam throughout much of North America and adapt well to such diverse habitats as forests, swamps, deserts, and even suburban areas.

Bobcats, sometimes called wildcats, are roughly twice as big as the average housecat. They have long legs, large paws, and tufted ears similar to those of their larger relative, the Canada lynx. Most bobcats are brown or brownish red with a white underbelly and short, black-tipped tail. The cat is named for its tail, which appears to be cut or "bobbed."

Fierce hunters, bobcats can kill prey much bigger than themselves, but usually eat rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels, and other smaller game. The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet (3 meters).

Bobcats are solitary animals. Females choose a secluded den to raise a litter of one to six young kittens, which will remain with their mother for 9 to 12 months. During this time they will learn to hunt before setting out on their own.

In some areas, bobcats are still trapped for their soft, spotted fur. North American populations are believed to be quite large, with perhaps as many as one million cats in the United States alone.

Big Cats Features

  • lion-photos-blog.jpg

    Lion Numbers Plunge

    The king of the African savannah is in serious trouble because of massive conversion of the continent’s remaining wilderness to human land-use, according to a detailed study.

  • Photo: Captive asiatic cheetah

    Finding the Last Cheetahs of Iran

    Intensely shy and hovering on the edge of extinction, Iranian cheetahs are essentially impossible to see.

  • A snow leopard perched on rocks in Pakistan.

    Some Snow Leopards Wild No More?

    Thinking of snow leopards as domesticated—and thus dependent on people for food—may help save the dwindling species, one conservationist claims.

  • A running cheetah.

    Cheetah Breaks Speed Record

    Beating Usain Bolt's best, Sarah the "polka-dotted missile" clocked the world's fastest recorded time for a 100-meter run.

Learn More About Big Cats »

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.