What cats are included in the Seven Wonders of Wildlife: Big Cats collection? Atop the list of interest for almost every safari goer is the lion and the leopard. It is fair to say that these cats are also some of the favorites of the world, but we should not stop there. This planet delivers some amazingly beautiful cats that inevitably deliver an adrenal rush if you are able to encounter them in their natural and wild habitat.
Lion: Affectionately referred to as the “King of the beasts,” the lion is actually the second largest of the big cats. It is a species of the genus Panthera and the name is derived from the Latin word Leo.
The male lion can reach upwards of 550 pounds and in the wild these animals can live 10 to 14 years. Lions are found in sub-Sahara Africa and in parts of Asia, but their numbers have dwindled away over the years. The male lion and collection of female and adolescent felines live together collectively in a pride.
Tiger: The largest of the big cats, the tiger can reach up to 670 pounds (306 kg) and 11 feet (3.3 meters) in length. The tiger’s Latin name is Felis tigris. Although three are extinct, there are 9 sub-species of tigers of which the Bengal and Siberian are the most popular.
The tigers use to reach throughout Asia and most of Russia, however today they have lost over 90% of their domain. Each of the remaining six species of tigers have been classified as endangered. Tigers can live up to 20 to 26 years both in the wild and in captivity. Their greatest threat is man.
Leopard: The most elusive of the Big 5, the Leopard is the smallest of the Panthera genus of cats. There are 8 different sub-species of leopards and their sizes vary. Males can weigh anywhere from 66 to 200lbs (30 to 91kgs) with their female counterparts weighing from 51 to 150lbs (23 to 60kgs).
Leopards also vary in their coating. One leopard may exhibit brilliant black and gold spots, whereas another leopard may be almost solid black. A “black panther” can technically be any type of cat, but is most commonly associated with either the leopard or the jaguar.
Jaguar: Possibly the most mysterious of the big cats and the third largest of the Panthera class. The jaguar is the only panthera species to be found in the Americas. Once reaching into the United States, the jaguar is now found from northern Argentina and Paraguay up into Mexico.
The jaguar is a stalker operating from an opportunistic ambush hunting style. The jaguar has the most powerful of jaws among the cats which are used to crush the skulls of pending prey. Males weigh from 124 to 211 lbs (56 to 96kgs) with the female counterparts coming in between 100 to 189lbs.
Mountain Lion: Also referred to as the cougar or puma, the mountain lion is the big cat of North America. The cougar is the largest of the subfamily Felinae, and falls into the Puma genus with six different sub-species.
The cougar or mountain lion is more closely related to the domestic cat than the actual lion. It ranges throughout North America stretching from the Andes in South American up to the Yukon in Canada. The cougar is a stalk and ambush predator like its neighboring jaguar. The cougar is the fourth largest cat with males weighing between 115 to 220lbs (53 to 100kgs).
Cheetahs weigh from 77 to 160lbs (35 to 72kgs). They are the only cat with with non-retractable claws and pads which prevent them from climbing trees. The number of sub-species is debated, however it probably falls around six. The cheetah may be found in Africa and southern parts of Asia and is listed as a vulnerable species by the IUCN.
Snow Leopard: Smaller than the other big cats, the snow leopard weighs between 60 and 120lbs (27 to 55 kgs), but this does not dwindle its “big cat” status. The snow leopard lives between 9,800 and 18,000 feet (3,000 to 5,500m) above sea level in the mountain ranges of central and southern Asia.
Snow leopards have a number of adaptations which make them rather suitable for the high altitude cold and snow. Like their cousins the leopards, the snow leopards are incredibly elusive which makes their exact numbers questionable. Estimates have them ranging between 3,500 and 7,000 in the wild. The IUCN has placed them on the endangered species list.