The 3 Cats of the Puma Lineage

The Puma lineage consists of three diverse cats each in their own genus, differing in size, range and coat pattern.
The Puma and Cheetah are often viewed as ‘big cats’ as they weigh over 50 kgs but they have different characteristics and evolved much later than the true big cats of the Panthera genus.
The Puma lineage is one of the five Felidae lineages that originated in North America following the first ice age 8 to 10 MYA (million years ago), when the Bering Strait land bridge linked Asia and North America.
The Puma lineage arose 6.7 MYA and the Puma and Jaguarundi spread to South America during the second ice age across the Panama land bridge, whereas the Cheetah migrated back into Eurasia and ultimately into Africa.

Puma Family Classification

In scientific classification (taxonomy) the three wild cats of the Puma lineage belong to the cat family Felidae and the small cat subfamily Felinae. The higher and lower classifications of this group are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia   (animals)

Phylum: Chordata   (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia   (mammals)

Order: Carnivora   (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia   (cat-like)

Family: Felidae   (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae   (small cats)

Genus: Puma

Species: Puma concolor (Puma)

Genus: Acinonyx

Species: Acinonyx jubatus (Cheetah)

Genus: Herpailurus

Species: Herpailurus yagouaroundi (Jaguarundi)


Video Clips Taken in the Wild

Puma Videos
ARKive video - Patagonian puma - overview
Cheetah Videos
ARKive video - Female cheetah teaching cubs to hunt a young gazelle
Jaguarundi Videos
ARKive video - Jaguarundi hunting fish

Books About Pumas / Cougars / Mountain Lions



Books about Cheetahs



Puma Lineage Cat Quiz

Click through on the images, videos and fact sheets above to find the answers to this quiz. Good luck!

1. Which cat holds the record for the most number of common names?

2. Name a characteristic that separates the cheetah and puma, both often called big cats, from the true big cats?

3. Which two cats are primarily diurnal (active during the day) differing from most other wild cats that are primarily nocturnal (active at night)?

4. Which subspecies of one of these cats is almost extinct in the wild?

5. Which characteristics help the cheetah qualify as the fastest land mammal?

6. Which cat has two color phases?

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