Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) - Puma Lineage
Puma yaguarondi (Prague Zoo) by Bodlina (GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia Commons

The strange looking Jaguarundi (Herpailurus or Puma yagouaroundi) ranges across Mexico, Central and South America and is now  considered extinct in the southern United States. Previously described with a number of subspecies, partly due to its different coat colors, recent DNA studies show the Jaguarundi is in fact a monotypic species.

As with most wild cats, habitat loss and fragmentation due to clearing of land for farming are the major threats, and studies show the cat is far less common than previously reported.

Puma Lineage

1. Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)

2. Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi)

3. Puma / Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)

Unique Facts about Jaguarundis

~ Body shape similar to weasels ~

~  Plain coat with red and dark color morphs ~

~ Active during the day time ~

Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) Classification

The Jaguarundi belongs to the genus Herpailurus (or Puma) and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the Jaguarundi species is:

Kingdom: Animalia (animals)

 Phylum: Chordata (vertebrates)

  Class: Mammalia (mammals)

   Order: Carnivora (carnivores)

   Suborder: Feliformia (cat-like)

Family: Felidae (cats)

Subfamily: Felinae (small cats)

Genus: Herpailurus / Puma

Species: Herpailurus / Puma yagouaroundi (Jaguarundi)

    Subspecies: None


The scientific name for the Jaguarundi is Herpailurus yagouaroundi or Puma yagouaroundi; which is also known as the binomial name, species name, latin name, biological name or zoological name. Some use the term 'botanical name' however that term is only applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) Classification Diagram
Click chart to download.
Permission to use for personal or educational use.

Jaguarundis allogrooming red and grey colour morph (Puma yagouroundi)

Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) Subspecies

Lower classification

Up to eight subspecies of Jaguarundis have been described in the past:

  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi yagouaroundi
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi ameghinoi
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi cacomitli
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi eyra

  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi fossata
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi melantho
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi panamensis
  • Herpailurus yagouaroundi tolteca

However according to the last Felidae taxonomic revision in 2017, DNA studies show no evidence to support these subspecies and the species is considered monotypic (no subspecies).

Jaguarundi Conservation

The global conservation status for the Jaguarundi is Least Concern (LC) however populations are declining.

The following organizations are dedicated to research and conservation of the smaller cats of Latin America:

Institute Pro-Carnivores - Wild Cats of Brazil

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation - Global

Please support these organizations with their important work if you can. No matter the size of your donation, every bit helps!

Past projects:

Jaguarundi kitten in tree roots (Puma yagouaroundi)

Jaguarundi resting on ground (Puma yagouaroundi)

Jaguarundi Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Jaguarundis:

Jaguarundi (Herpailurus yagouaroundi) Research

Here are some papers published on Jaguarundis. Click on the title bar to view the abstract and the link to the article.

Loss and degradation of natural habitats continue to increase across the tropics as a result of agricultural expansion. Consequently, there is an urgent need to understand their effects, and the distribution and habitat requirements of wildlife within human-modified landscapes, to support the conservation of threatened species, such as felids.

We combined camera trapping and land cover data into occupancy models to study the habitat use and space partitioning by four sympatric felid species in an agricultural landscape in Colombia. Land use in the area includes cattle ranching and oil palm cultivation, the latter being an emerging land use type in the Neotropics.

Factors determining species occupancy were the presence of wetlands for jaguars (positive effect); water proximity for pumas (positive effect); and presence of pastures for ocelots and jaguarundis (negative effect). Only ocelots were occasionally recorded in oil palm areas.

Our results suggest that to align development with the conservation of top predators it is crucial to maintain areas of forest and wetland across agricultural landscapes and to restrict agricultural and oil palm expansion to modified areas such as pastures, which are of limited conservation value. Because there is no spatial segregation between the felid species we studied, conservation strategies that benefit all of them are possible even in modified landscapes.

Boron, V.; Xofis, P.; Link, A.; Payan, E.; Tzanopoulos, J.
Conserving predators across agricultural landscapes in Colombia: habitat use and space partitioning by jaguars, pumas, ocelots and jaguarundis
2018 Oryx: 1-10

The jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi) is a small Neotropical cat that presents two main coloration phenotypes (grey/dark vs. reddish). Although these coat colour variants have been known for decades, and historically speculated to be associated with different habitats, their exact geographical distribution has never been mapped. Moreover, their association to different habitats has so far not been tested statistically, so that their ecological relevance with respect to varying environmental features remains unknown.

Based on 566 location records encompassing the entire historical range of the species obtained from camera-traps, captures and skins held in scientific collections, we produced suitability models for both jaguarundi phenotypes using maximum entropy algorithms of niche modelling. The frequency of grey/dark jaguarundis is c. 80%, whereas reddish animals represent c. 20% of our overall sample set. However, there were marked differences in these frequencies across regions. Although the spatial distribution of grey/dark animals did not depart substantially from random expectations (as it encompassed the whole species range), the occurrence of the ancestral reddish form was strongly and significantly non-random.

In spite of their broad distribution across multiple habitats, grey/dark animals were significantly associated with moist and dense forests, whereas reddish forms were associated with dry and open areas such as deserts and xeric landscapes. Furthermore, there were clear spatial differences in the suitability models generated for these coat colour phenotypes.

We also employed the distribution models to investigate whether particular environmental predictors could explain these different distributions. Predictors related to moisture were especially influential on the differences between the grey/dark and reddish models, and demonstrate an effect of natural selection on coloration traits, suggesting that a complex interplay of different ecological processes regulates this system over evolutionary time.

da Silva, L.G.; de Oliveira, T.G.; Kasper, C.B.; Cherem, J.J.; Moraes, E.A.J.; Paviolo, A.; Eizirik, E.
Biogeography of polymorphic phenotypes: Mapping and ecological modelling of coat colour variants in an elusive Neotropical cat, the jaguarundi (Puma yagouaroundi)
2016  Journal of Zoology (299): 295-303

1. The ecology of the jaguarundi is poorly known, so I reviewed the literature for all original data and remarks on jaguarundi observations, ecology, and behaviour, to synthesize what is known about the species.

2. Jaguarundis occupy and use a range of habitats with dense undergrowth from northern Mexico to central Argentina, but may be most abundant in seasonal dry, Atlantic, gallery, and mixed grassland/agricultural forest landscapes.

3. Jaguarundis are principally predators of small (sigmodontine) rodents, although other mammals, birds, and squamate reptiles are taken regularly.

4. The vast majority of jaguarundi camera-trap records occurred during daylight hours (0600 h-1800 h); jaguaurndis are also predominantly terrestrial, although they appear to be capable tree climbers.

5. Home range sizes for jaguarundis vary greatly, but most are .25 km2; females' territories may be much smaller than or similar in size to those of males. Males may concentrate movements in one area before shifting to another and, as with other felids, intersexual overlap in habitat use appears to be common.

6. Interference competition may be important in influencing the distribution and ecology of jaguarundis, although their diurnal habits may somewhat mitigate its effect.

7. Conflict between humans and jaguarundis over small livestock may be widespread among rural human communities and is likely to be under-reported. Despite this conflict, jaguarundis can persist in agriculturally modified landscapes and small forest fragments.

8. Additional research on local jaguarundi populations from more areas should be a priority to determine the true status of the species.

Giordano, A.J.
Ecology and status of the jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi: a synthesis of existing knowledge
2015 Mammal Review (46): 30-43

View more articles on Jaguarundis in the IUCN Cat Specialist Group database (scroll down once the library page is loaded to see the list).

Consider joining the Friends of the Cat Specialist Group to access the full articles and receive their journal Cat News covering the latest wild cat research.

Jaguarundi grey colour morph (Herpailurus yagouaroundi)

Molecular population genetics, evolutionary biology and biological conservation of neotropical carnivores.

Field Guide to the Wild Cats of South America (Spanish)

Neotropical Cats by TG de Oliveira (1994)
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