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Leopardus [1]
Temporal range: Pleistocene-Recent
~2.5–0  Ma
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)-8.jpg
Ocelot, Leopardus pardalis
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Leopardus
Gray 1842
Type species
Leopardus griseus
Gray 1842
Leopardus range.png
Leopardus diversity

Leopardus is a genus of spotted small cats native to Central and South America, with one species extending into the southern United States.. The genus is considered the oldest branch of a lineage of small cats that crossed into the Americas, with the genera Lynx and Puma being later branches of the same group. [2] The largest Leopardus species is the ocelot (L. pardalis), and the kodkod (L. guigna) is the smallest cat in the Americas. The margay (L. wiedii) is highly adapted to arboreal life. [3]



The generic name Leopardus was proposed by John Edward Gray in 1842, when he described two spotted cat skins from Central America and two from India in the collection of the Natural History Museum, London. [4]

Genetic studies indicate that Leopardus forms a distinct clade within the Felinae and evolved in South America around 8  million years ago. [2] Within the genus, two distinct evolutionary genetic lineages appear to exist; one leading to the ocelot, margay, and Andean mountain cat, and the other leading to the remaining species. [5]

Extant species

The following Leopardus species are recognized as valid taxa since 2017: [6]

Name IUCN Red List status and distribution
Ocelot L. pardalis(Linnaeus, 1758) [7]
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)-8.jpg
LC [8]
Ocelot distribution.jpg
Oncilla L. tigrinus(Schreber, 1775) [9]
Leopardus tigrinus - Parc des Felins.jpg
VU [10]
Oncilla distribution.jpg
Pampas cat L. colocola(Molina, 1782) [11]
Leopardus pajeros 20101006.jpg
NT [12]
PampasCat distribution.jpg
Kodkod L. guigna(Molina, 1782) [11]
Leopardus guigna.jpeg
VU [13]
Guigna distribution.jpg
Margay L. wiedii(Schinz, 1821) [14]
NT [15]
Margay distribution.jpg
Geoffroy's cat L. geoffroyi(d'Orbigny & Gervais, 1844) [16]
LC [17]
GeoffroysCat distribution.jpg
Andean mountain cat L. jacobitus(Cornalia, 1865) [18]
Andean cat 1 Jim Sanderson.jpg
EN [19]
AndeanCat distribution.jpg
Southern tigrina L. guttulus(Hensel, 1872) [20]
Leopardus tigrinus (Felis tigrina) - Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria - Genoa, Italy - DSC02677.JPG
VU [21]
SouthernTigerCat distribution.jpg

Only one extinct species, Leopardus vorohuensis , was described. [22]

Related Research Articles

Felidae Family of mammals

Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of this family is also called a felid. The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat.

Panthera is a genus within the family Felidae that was named and described by Lorenz Oken in 1816 who placed all the spotted cats in this group. Reginald Innes Pocock revised the classification of this genus in 1916 as comprising the species tiger, lion, jaguar, and leopard on the basis of common cranial features. Results of genetic analysis indicate that the snow leopard also belongs to the Panthera, a classification that was accepted by IUCN Red List assessors in 2008.

Margay Small wild cat

The margay is a small wild cat native to Central and South America. A solitary and nocturnal cat, it lives mainly in primary evergreen and deciduous forest.

<i>Felis</i> Genus of mammals (cats)

Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina. The genus includes the domestic cat. The smallest Felis species is the black-footed cat with a head and body length from 38 to 42 cm. The largest is the jungle cat with a head and body length from 62 to 76 cm.

Ocelot Small wild cat

The ocelot is a small wild cat native to the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. This medium-sized cat is characterized by solid black spots and streaks on its coat, round ears, and white neck and undersides. It weighs between 8 and 15.5 kg and reaches 40–50 cm at the shoulders. It was first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. Two subspecies are recognized: L. p. pardalis and L. p. mitis.


Catopuma is a genus containing two Asian small wild cat species, the Asian golden cat and the bay cat . Both are typically reddish brown in colour, with darker markings on the head.

Oncilla Small wild cat

The oncilla, also known as the northern tiger cat, little spotted cat, and tigrillo, is a small spotted cat ranging from Central America to central Brazil. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and the population is threatened by deforestation and conversion of habitat to agricultural land.

Kodkod Small wild cat

The kodkod, also called güiña, is the smallest cat in the Americas. It lives primarily in central and southern Chile and marginally in adjoining areas of Argentina. Its area of distribution is small compared to the other South American cats. Since 2002, it has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List as the total effective population may comprise less than 10,000 mature individuals, and is threatened due to persecution and loss of habitat and prey base.


Prionailurus is a genus of spotted, small wild cats native to Asia. Forests are their preferred habitat; they feed on small mammals, reptiles and birds, and occasionally aquatic wildlife.

Andean mountain cat Small wild cat

The Andean mountain cat is a small wild cat native to the high Andes that has been listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List because fewer than 2,500 individuals are thought to exist in the wild. It is traditionally considered a sacred animal by indigenous Aymara and Quechua people.


The Felinae are a subfamily of the family Felidae. This subfamily comprises the small cats having a bony hyoid, because of which they are able to purr but not roar.


Pantherinae is a subfamily within the family Felidae, which was named and first described by Reginald Innes Pocock in 1917. The Pantherinae and the Felinae diverged from a common ancestor between 10.8 and 11.5 million years ago.

Pampas cat Small wild cat

The Pampas cat is a small wild cat native to South America. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as habitat conversion and destruction may cause the population to decline in the future.

The Pantanal cat is a Pampas cat subspecies, a small wild cat native to South America. It is named after the Pantanal wetlands in central South America, where it inhabits mainly grassland, shrubland, savannas and deciduous forests.

<i>Leopardus guttulus</i> Small wild cat

Leopardus guttulus, the southern tiger cat or southern tigrina, is a wild cat species native to Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.


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