Bobcat
Felis rufus

Photo: Bobcat sitting on a rock

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


National Geographic is working to avert the big cats' extinction with the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program that supports innovative projects with quick results for saving big cats, anti-poaching programs, projects that test new technology and more.

Photograph by Norbert Rosing
Map: Locator map for the bobcat
 Bobcat range

Fast Facts

Type: Mammal
Diet: Carnivore
Average lifespan 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.

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.