Wild cats belong to the family Felidae and the order Carnivora.
They are divided into many different genera, with the big cats
falling into Panthera, and the smaller cats being classified into
many others. Most big cats roar, with the exception of the
cheetah, snow leopard, clouded leopard and the mountain lion.
Muscles in these cats' vocal cords prevent them from roaring,
though they can purr and the cheetah makes bird-like chirps.
Together, there are 36 species of wild cats in the world, and many
of them are in great danger of endangerment or extinction,
through habitat loss and hunting. Some pelts are worth the
equivalent to six months' wages in some countries, and some
have medicinal value in the Chinese Medicine Trade. But all have
one thing in common - they are under threat from man, who has
the power to either destroy them or protect them. I choose to
The 36 species of the wild cat family are spread across most of the globe excluding the continents of Antarctica and Australia and some island groups.
Many species are to be found in similar habitats straddling several continents such as the Leopard which ranges from the southern tip of Africa, across Asia to China and various the species of Wildcat, which can be found in Europe, Africa, the Middle east and Asia.
The majority of species however, are indigenous to only one continent. The great natural barrier of the Atlantic Ocean also serves to divide the 'New World' species from the 'Old World' - with the exception of the Lynx, which can be found as distinct sub-species in both North America and Eurasia.
In attempting to classify the worlds species of wild cat, modern day research is uncovering interesting facts regarding the relationship between individual species separated today by continents and oceans. In distant history the world map of wild cat distribution looked vastly different. A similarity in appearance between the New World Jaguar and the Leopard can be explained by a common ancestry - it is now thought that jaguars evolved in Asia and spread across to the Americas via the northern land bridge between the two continents. In a similar way, ancient species of lion and cheetah once roamed the New World continents.
Big Cat Pictures