Initially, the term "big cat" represented the four large wild cats of tigers, lions, leopards, and jaguars that belong to the genus Panthera. The big cats in this definition roar unlike those included in the modern, more liberal definition. Big cats, however, display similar structural and behavioral patterns and are predatory carnivores. Their advanced predatory behaviors place them at the top of the food web in their respective habitats and ecosystems. Big cats are also among the top tourist attractions in countries where they are found.
The Largest Big Cats in the World
The liger is a hybrid developed by breeding a male lion and a female tiger. They are mostly found in zoos. The hybrid is the largest big cat in the world weighing about 795lb - almost double the weight of either a lion or tiger. Ligers may reach an outstanding length of 11-12ft and a height of about 6ft. Ligers have the blended appearance of the tiger and the lion with stripes on the tawny colored coat and mane in males. The US has about 40 ligers, which is the largest population in the world, followed by China. Most countries and naturalists oppose the crossbreeding of lions and tigers.
The Siberian tiger (Amur leopard cat) is the second largest big cat, reaching a total of 700 lb for males with a length and height of about 3ft and 3.2ft respectively. Before the introduction of the liger, the Siberian tiger was the largest big cat. Siberian tigers have a reddish or yellowish rusty coat covered in black diagonal stripes. The Siberian tiger is an endangered species according to the IUCN due hunting and habitat destruction. The Siberian tiger occupies the mountain region of Sikhote Alin with fewer members in China.
The Bengal tiger is the third largest member of the big cat family with their males weighing an average of 569lb. The endangered Bengal tiger has a yellow to light orange coat covered with black or dark brown stripes, an orange tail, and white belly and inner parts of the legs. Males reach an average height of about 3ft and the solitary animal hunts for large mammals particularly the chital, sambar, and gaur. The Bengal tiger sometimes hunts water buffalos, takin, livestock, and medium-sized prey such as the hog deer.
The lion is the fourth largest big cat member with males weighing an average of 418lb with a length of about 4-5ft. The population of the lions has declined steadily in the African range prompting the IUCN to categorize the cat as a vulnerable species while those in India are endangered. The manes distinguishes male lions. Lions are predatory carnivores hunting from dusk to dawn in groups. Wildebeest, zebras, buffalos, giraffes, deer, the wild boar, and the gemsbok make up most of the mammalian diet of the lion. Lionesses within the pride are responsible for hunting while the males guard their territory and catch.
Conservation Status Of The Big Cats
Most of the big cats are a target for hunters and poachers, making many of them endangered species. The big cat family may be killed during sports hunting, poaching for skin, and during animal-human conflicts. Other big cats include the jaguar, cougar, leopard, cheetah, the snow leopard, and the Eurasian lynx.
The Largest Big Cats in the World
|Rank||Big Cat Name||Average Size (Males, lb)|
|12||Sunda clouded leopard||57|
|17||African golden cat||35|
|18||Asian golden cat||33|