Class: Mammalia (Mammals)
lynx (Eurasian lynx)
pardinus (Spanish or Iberian lynx)
canadensis (Canadian lynx)
Body length: largest—Siberian lynx Lynx lynx wrangeli, up to 39 inches (1 meter); other lynx are 19 to 35 inches (48 to 90 centimeters)
Tail length: 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 centimeters)
Shoulder height: Siberian lynx up to 27 inches (70 centimeters); other lynx are 16 to 22 inches (40 to 56 centimeters)
Weight: Siberian lynx males up to 84 pounds (38 kilograms); other lynx are typically 18 to 60 pounds (8 to 27 kilograms), depending on gender and habitat
Life span: about 12 years in the wild; up to 21 years in zoos
Gestation: 63 to 74 days, depending on species
Number of young at birth: 1 to 8 kittens per litter, with 2 to 4 being most common
Weight at birth: 4.5 to 15 ounces (128 to 430 grams), depending on species
Age of maturity: about 2 years for females, 2.5 years for males
Conservation status: Spanish lynx Lynx pardinus is critically endangered
• Siberian lynx commonly
hunt prey three to four times their size. They can even kill reindeer when given
• The name "lynx" comes from the Greek word "to shine," in possible reference to the eye shine of the cats at night.
• The Catskill Mountains in New York were possibly named after the bobcat, a resident of the region.
- Clouded Leopard
- Fishing Cat
- Mountain Lion
- Small Cat
- Snow Leopard
Listen to a lynx's snarl!
Animal Bytes: Lynx & Bobcat
Range: Eurasian lynx range from
western Europe to northern Asia and the Middle East; Spanish lynx
are found in Spain and Portugal; Canadian lynx and bobcat are found
in North America
Tufts and bobs
The lynx is known by the tuft of black hair on the tips of its ears and its short, or "bobbed," tail. In fact, one species of lynx is called a bobcat! What's the purpose of those hair tufts on the ends of the ears? Some researchers think the lynx use them like whiskers to feel things around them. All lynx also have a mane of longer hair around the face and neck. And the back legs are longer than the front legs, so the lynx looks a bit like it's tipped forward.
Although considered part of the small cat grouping, the lynx is much larger than your average housecat-up to 84 pounds (38 kilograms). The four species of lynx are physically different from each other and have adapted to their various habitats.
The lynx is a solitary animal, with males and females only coming together for breeding purposes. Lynx kittens are usually born in the early spring in dens that are found under fallen tree branches, large tree roots, or in rock piles. There are usually one to four kittens in a litter and Mom is a single parent. Lynx kittens are born with their eyes closed and their ears folded. If there is a lot of food for the mother, the kittens grow quickly; if food is scarce, few kittens survive. A lynx kitten will nurse for four to five months, and during the last few months of nursing it will also start eating solid food. Researchers recently discovered that one kitten may kill one of its littermates at about the same time as it is weaned from mother's milk to meat, but we don't yet know the reason for this.
Young lynx can fend for themselves at the age of 10 months, but they usually hang out with their mother for up to a year and don't reach adult size until they are 2 years old. Sometimes siblings that have just left their mother's side will travel and hunt together for several months before going their separate ways.
Hunting for food
Like other cats, the lynx is a stalk-and-ambush hunter. It will slowly sneak up on its prey, such as a rabbit, while the prey is busy eating, and then pounce on its victim. The cats rarely chase after potential food, especially if the snow is deep. Instead, they hide behind tree stumps or rocks until a potential meal walks by. Depending on where they live, lynx feed on pigs, beavers, rabbits and hares, rodents, or deer; some eat birds such as grouse. Siberian lynx Lynx lynx wrangeli at the San Diego Zoo are fed thawed rats and a specially formulated carnivore diet.
What did you say?
Lynx can make a variety of sounds similar to those made by a housecat: mews, yowls, spits, and hisses. And just like our own kitties, they can also purr. A mother lynx will often purr while nursing or cleaning her kittens. Lynx usually yowl and growl most often during the breeding season. The cats also use scent marks, facial expressions, and different ear positions to help get their message across to other lynx.
Oh, Canada! The Canadian lynx
You can probably guess where the Canadian lynx Lynx canadensis is found in the wild! Also known as the North American lynx, these cats weigh 18 to 24 pounds (8 to 11 kilograms) and are 19 to 22 inches (48 to 56 centimeters) tall at the shoulder. The Canadian lynx has extremely thick, light brown or gray fur with light black spots. Adult males are just slightly larger than the females. Some features unique to the Canadian lynx include a black tail tip and huge paws with long, thick fur to keep its toes warm in the winter. The Canadian lynx can spread its toes out wide like snowshoes to help it walk in soft snow.
Canadian lynx live in dense forests where their main prey item, the snowshoe hare, is found. Since the hares are nocturnal, so are the cats. These lynx are so dependent on the snowshoe hare for survival that when the hare population drastically drops, so does the lynx population.
Eurasian lynx: the largest lynx
The Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx has long, thick, light-colored fur that is silky in the winter, shorter, thinner, and darker-colored in the summer. This is the most numerous of the lynx species and the most widespread. Eurasian lynx are currently found in 46 countries of Europe, northern Asia, and the Middle East! A subspecies of Eurasian lynx, the Siberian lynx, is the largest of all the lynx; some males can weigh up to 84 pounds (38 kilograms)!
Large paws with fur on the soles give the Eurasian lynx traction; long legs also help when walking in deep snow. These cats are good swimmers, too, and have been seen crossing rivers. In the wild, their preferred diet is deer and other hoofed animals. Lynx living in Russia's Ural Mountains follow the winter migration routes of roe deer, reindeer, and moose.
The rarest lynx: Spanish lynx
This smaller lynx has the most spots on its coat and its hair doesn't grow in as long or as thick as with the other lynx species. Found only in Spain and Portugal, Spanish lynx Lynx pardinus, or Iberian lynx, live in an area where millions of migrating birds gather together each spring and fall. So, although rabbits are the mainstay of their diet, the cats also hunt ducks and other low-flying birds.
The Spanish lynx population currently numbers less than 300 individuals in their native land. Sadly, this makes them one of the rarest of all cat species and probably the most endangered carnivore in Europe. What caused the cat's decline? The loss of its main food source, rabbits. In the 1950s a doctor released a disease called myxomatosis to control the rabbit population in his garden. It worked too well, and the rabbit population was almost wiped out. Ironically, conservationists are now breeding rabbits, vaccinating them against the disease, and releasing them into the wild to replenish the wild rabbit populations and help feed the lynx.
Also a lynx: the bobcat
Bobcats Lynx rufus are known by lots of names: wildcat, bay lynx, and lynx cat. Some people call them the spitfires of the Animal Kingdom because they seem fearless and won't back down from a fight! Found throughout North America, they are our continent's most common native cat. Bobcats look very similar to the Canadian lynx. But bobcats have smaller feet and don't have the furry soles of the other lynx, so they are not as well equipped to live in areas of heavy snow. Bobcats are able to survive in a variety of habitats, as long as there are places where they can hide. They often live in rocky areas that give them shelter from extreme cold or heat. Bobcats often compete with coyotes for the same food and shelter. They are good climbers and can escape up a tree if needed, but they'd rather spend their time on the ground. Bobcats will swim if they need to, but it's not their first choice!
Struggling for survival
The world is not a safe place for the lynx right now. As people move into the cats' habitats, the cats have a harder time finding food. And in some areas, their forest homes are being cut down for agricultural uses. Hunting is still a problem for these beautiful animals, too. The soft, luxurious coat that keeps the lynx warm and comfortable in the colder months is also popular in the fur industry, especially the lighter-colored belly fur. It is estimated that about 90,000 bobcat and lynx pelts are sold each year to the world's fur markets. We think the coats look much better on the lynx!