Not all wild cats are critically endangered. Asia’s most common little feline – the leopard cat – appears to be doing all right for itself. Scientists call it “Prionailurus bengalensis,” the Bengal cat. “Bengal” is also the name of a hybrid leopard cat/domestic show cat. A few people, especially in China, have skipped the domestic-cat middleman and tamed leopard cats as pets. But these remain partly wild and their cubs are totally wild. For some unknown reason, domestication doesn’t seem to “take” with leopard cats the way it did with house cats thousands of years ago.
Oh, this cat doesn’t need an introduction! Let’s just set out a few basic facts, focusing on some things about Leo that you might not have heard yet. For instance, did you know that the King of the Beasts is not actually the biggest cat out there?
Imagine a leopard. Now make it a little bigger, shorten the legs a bit, and pack even more muscle onto that strong frame. Increase its head size and give it the most powerful jaws of any big cat. This is the jaguar – the only big cat native to the New World.
By the end of the twentieth century, all scientists had to prove that this cat wasn’t a figment of their imagination were three skulls and less than forty museum specimens, each one at least sixty years old. Well, if the mountain won’t come to you . . .
When its fossils might be those of another big cat. This is the case with “Panthera atrox”. It used to be called the American lion, and recent genetic studies support this. However, some experts disagree. And if you take out Atrox, lions’ historical range shrinks considerably. – a huge difference for conservationists today.
Any cat, large or small, will hurt you if you aren’t careful. And many wild cats threaten subsistence farmers by killing livestock. But maneaters are the prime example of dangerous cats.