Pampas Cats – Cats 6 to 10 of 13 in the Leopardus family of cats

Pampas Cats – Cats 6 to 10 of 13 in the Leopardus family of cats

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Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola)

The Pampas Cats comprise five of the thirteen wild cats in the Leopardus family of cats. The small spotted cats of the Leopardus family are distributed throughout Central and South America.

The Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola) was recently split into 5 species (L. braccatusL. colocolaL. garleppi, L. fasciatus and L. pajeros). This is due to a reclassification of subspecies into distinct species and not due to any discovery of new wild cat species.

The adaptable Pampas Cats occur in a variety of habitats and at all altitudes across South America. They can often be confused with the other small spotted cats of the Leopardus genus as its coat can be patterned, however there is a plain coat variety that is unique to Pampas Cats.

In the past Pampas Cats were hunted extensively for the fur trade and nowadays, due to human expansion, loss of habitat is the primary threat to their continued survival.

Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola) - Leopardus Lineage

5 Pampas Cat Species

The five Pampas Cat species are:

  • Central Chilean Pampas Cat or Colocolo - Leopardus colocola
  • Brazilian Pampas Cat - Leopardus braccatus
  • Uruguayan Pampas Cat - Leopardus fasciatus
  • Northern Pampas Cat - Leopardus garleppi
  • Southern Pampas Cat - Leopardus pajeros

Species taxonomy updates since 2017:

  • 2020 - Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocola) split into 5 species (L. braccatusL. colocolaL. garleppi, L. munoai and L. pajeros).

Reference: Fabio Oliveira Do Nascimento and others (2020). Taxonomic revision of the pampas cat Leopardus colocola complex (Carnivora: Felidae): an integrative approach, Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 191, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 575–611,

  • 2022 - Uruguayan Pampas Cat L. munoai nomenclature corrected to L.fasciatus.

Reference: Martínez-Lanfranco, Juan Andrés & González, Enrique. (2022). The oldest available name for the pampas cat of the Uruguayan Savannah ecoregion is Leopardus fasciatus (Larrañaga 1923). 13. XX-XX. 10.12933/therya-22-1187.

This image from is the original publication; L. munoai later changed to L. fasciatus.

Small Wild Cats Audio - Coat Color

Listen to a short audio taken from a chapter in the book Small Wild Cats by well-known small cat conservationist Jim (James) Sanderson. Jim has been instrumental in forming the Pampas Cat Working Group as well as six other small cat working groups in the Neotropics.

This excerpt covers how small wild cats like the Pampas Cats get their coat color and what causes black coats.


Small Wild Cats - Sanderson and Watson

25 Observations of Central Chilean Pampas Cats (Colocolo) on iNaturalist

There are currently 25 sightings of Colocolos (Leopardus colocola) on iNaturalist, however sadly most are of roadkill. If you search for 'Pampas Cat' you will also see the other 4 'new' Pampas Cat species; iNaturalist has recategorized the observations according to the new classification.

iNaturalist is a global platform for the public to upload images of wild creatures they have seen in nature. If you have any photos of natural biodiversity from your travels, be sure to open an account and upload your images. Identification is verified by other members and the data can be used in future research. A great way to contribute to conservation and research!

Note there are images of dead animals in case you are a sensitive viewer.

Pampas Cat - Chile
iNaturalist Observation · Pampas Cat Chile · © Franco Elgueta · CC-BY-NC

Where to see Pampas Cats

A great place to read trip reports from people that have travelled to look for wild cats in their natural habitat is

Here is a list of recent trip reports to look for Pampas Cats and here is a list of ethical tour operators that offer wildlife trips in South America.

Wild Cat Family Website ~ 2023 Annual Update

Total Number of Wild Cats = 45

Due to the reclassification of the Pampas cats, the total number of wild cat species is now 45 - 5 big cats in the Panthera genus and 40 smaller cats. All our wild cat lists have been updated with the revised Pampas cat classification as part of our annual November update.

New Taxonomy Reference

The website was referencing A revised taxonomy of the Felidae published in 2017 by the IUCN Cat Specialist group, with any subsequent taxonomy papers listed on each cat page. However, taxonomy papers are not necessarily accepted by everyone in the scientific community and may be contested.

In the search for an interim authoritative body until the IUCN Cat Specialist Group publishes their next revision, we came across the Mammal Diversity Database, which we have decided to reference for any further taxonomic changes in Felidae.  The Mammal Diversity Database (MDD) is updated with all taxonomic changes to mammals that have been reviewed and accepted by the American Society of Mammalogists. We will initially use the common names listed in the MDD and later update them to more popular names used in subsequent literature.

Endangered Status - no changes

According to the latest version 2022.2 of the IUCN Red List there have been no new assessments this year and thus no changes to the endangered status of any of the Felidae species since November 2022.

If you know of anyone that may be interested in studying wild cats, please share this post with them.

There is a dire need for research on the lesser known smaller cats.

I would love to encourage as many budding zoologists as possible to specialize in these wonderful animals!

Many thanks!

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