SWCCF ~ Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis) - Wild Cat Family

SWCCF ~ Fontanier’s spotted cat (Felis tristis)

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"Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis) was first described by the French scientist Alphonse Milne-Edwards in 1872 from a skin purchased in China.  In 1878, Daniel Giraud Elliot included Felis tristis in his monumental book A Monograph of the Felidae." Which species of wild cat is this today?

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Republished with kind permission from Jim Sanderson, SWCCF.

Part 1

Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis)

Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis)

by Jim Sanderson, SWCCF

From 1878 to 1883, Daniel Giraud Elliot delivered six installments to subscribers his magnificent book A Monograph of the Felidae.  The last installment included the Table of Contents.  Without question, Elliot's monograph has no equal.  All other books about cats fall far short.  The book included all the species of wild cats accepted by Elliot at the time. One particular species was Fontanier's spotted cat.  The above lithograph appeared in Milne-Edwards' book on the mammals published in 1868.  Elliot wrote:

"THIS apparently distinct species was first characterized by M. Alphonse Milne-Edwards but beyond the fact that the skin was purchased by M. Fontanier at Pekin, and that it was said to have come from the interior of China, nothing is known in regard to it.  The skin was in a very bad condition and the skull was wanting.  In size this animal would seem to be equal to F. pardina, or the Spanish Lynx, being 33 inches in length from the nose to the root of the tail, while the tail itself is 16 inches long.  My description and figure here given were taken from the type, at present unique in Europe; but before we can arrive at a satisfactory idea of the animal's appearance we must wait for the acquisition of perfect specimens.  At present, so far as I can judge, it seems to have some affinity to Felis marmorata in the shape and distribution of its markings, and in the long bushy tail.

Fur soft and long.  General colour light bluish grey, inclining to yellowish.  Three or four blackish brown lines, beginning in the centre of the head, between the ears, run along the whole length of the back; rest of body, flanks, and legs covered with large spots of dark brown.  Underparts lighter than the upper, less profusely marked and spotted with brown.  Two bars of rufous brown pass across the upper part of the breast.  Tail very long and bushy, rufous brown above, yellowish brown beneath, the upper part presenting a series of obscure dark brown bars."

Fontanier's spotted cat exists and is an ocelot-spotted form of what species?

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation

Part 2

Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis)

Fontanier's spotted cat (Felis tristis) was first described by the French scientist Alphonse Milne-Edwards in 1872 from a skin purchased in China.  In 1878, Daniel Giraud Elliot included Felis tristis, illustration above, in his monumental book A Monograph of the Felidae. Elliot wrote:

"This apparently distinct species was first characterized by M. Alphonse Milne-Edwards; but beyond the fact that the skin was purchased by M. Fontanier at Pekin, and that it was said to have come from the interior of China, nothing is known in regard to it.  At present, so far as I can judge, it seems to have some affinity to Felis marmorata [Marbled cat] in the shape and distribution of its markings, and in the long bushy tail."

We now know that Fontanier's spotted cat is an ocellated morph of the Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) described in 1827 but it took a long time to figure this out.  The pictures captured by trail cameras in Bhutan and China show a stunningly beautiful morph of the Asiatic golden cat.  Our pragmatic approach to threat reduction is working hard every day to conserve them.  Maybe someday we'll see one in the wild.

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation

Wildlife Conservation Network

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