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Top 10 Biggest Cat Species in the World

Updated on March 14, 2020
Jeremy Gill profile image

Jeremy explores many topics as he juggles his passion for writing with his career as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

Lions, Tigers, and Tabbys—Oh My!

An incredible widespread animal, felines developed into several shapes and sizes. From domesticated housecats to ferocious jungle predators, these carnivores adapt to survive in nearly any environment, and despite their aesthetic appeal, most are ruthless killing machines. Which are the largest? Today we'll countdown the ten biggest non-extinct felines worldwide! To diversify things, we're excluding hybrids and taking only the heftiest breed from each species.


10. Jaguarundi

Not to be confused with jaguars, jaguarundis are curious creatures who somewhat resemble weasels. An adaptable carnivore native to South America, jaguarundis will eat nearly any prey including rodents, frogs, fish, and small reptiles. A jaguarundi's short fur and unusual appearance keeps it relatively safe from hunters, who prefer more prestigious targets.

Dangerous to humans?
Insufficient in size to target humans, jaguarundis would more likely flee than fight in an encounter with man.


9. Ocelot

A solitary cat most active at twilight, ocelots dwell in South America. They're small enough to obtain adequate energy from tinier prey like armadillos, opossums, and rodents. Abstract artist Salvador Dali had a pet ocelot named Babou.

Dangerous to humans?
Like any cat, ocelots can bite or scratch if annoyed, but shouldn't harm anyone as long as they don't irritate the animal, and none have killed any human on record. We pose more of a threat to them than they to us, harvesting their fur for a variety of products.


8. Caracal

A mid-sized cat found throughout the Middle East, caracals are an elusive bunch. They often prey on birds and rodents, but are vicious enough to overcome prey larger than themselves. Caracals are not advised as pets, but have been tamed and used to hunt in the past.

Dangerous to humans?
I haven't found any record of a caracal killing a person, but they will bite (usually after delivering a warning hiss) if agitated.

Eurasian Lynx
Eurasian Lynx

7. Lynx

The term lynx actually refers to four species within the lynx genus, which includes bobcats. Residing in North America and Asias, lynx are easily identified by the tufts of hair on their ears. The biggest type is the Eurasian Lynx, the third largest predator in Europe after the brown bear and gray wolf.

Dangerous to humans?
Lynx aren't large enough to threaten most healthy adults. Still, they have attacked humans before, often pouncing from a hidden vantage point, and are very capable of targeting children.


6. Cheetah

The fastest land animal, cheetahs differ from other large felines. They have smaller skulls, are more active during the day, and form social groups called coalitions. Cheetahs don't possess the endurance to maintain their fast speed for long, but they usually succeed in chases thanks to their rapid acceleration.

The extinct Giant Cheetah roughly doubled the size of modern cheetahs, but their size may have negatively influenced their speed, leading to their demise.

Dangerous to humans?
Cheetahs are surprisingly tolerant of humans, rarely if ever attacking them. Cheetahs have even been trained for use in hunting, and were once a common exotic pet for royalty.

Persian Leopard
Persian Leopard

5. Leopard

Dwelling in Southern Asia and Africa, the leopard is the tiniest "big cat" of the genus Panthera. It has several subspecies and variants, including black panthers and snow leopards; the largest is the Persian Leopard.

Leopards are the most widespread member of Panthera due to high adaptability: they thrive in environments ranging from savannas to rainforests to grasslands.

Dangerous to humans?
Leopards favor smaller prey than humans, but confident specimens are known to repeatedly target men. The famed "Leopard of Rudraprayag" reportedly killed more than 125 people from 1918-1925.


4. Cougar

Cougars have a variety of monikers including pumas, mountain lions, and panthers. Living throughout North and South America, they display nocturnal and solitary tendencies, rarely interacting with other cougars except to mate. Most cougars prefer munching on tasty deer, but they consume a variety of prey, some as small as insects or rodents.

Dangerous to humans?
Somewhat. A biological mechanical called prey recognition separates humans from what most cougars perceive as a potential meal, but they still attack when startled or starving. Rather than playing dead, people should defend themselves against cougars with a loud show of force designed to intimidate the cougar, who may retreat with such a display.


3. Jaguar

The largest felines of Central and South America, jaguars may weigh nearly 350 pounds. A jaguar's well-muscled build aids in swimming and climbing, and its massively powerful bite can pierce turtle shells. Jaguars heavily resemble leopards, but are bigger and their rosettes (spots) distinguish the two: a jaguar's rosettes are larger and fewer in number than a leopard's. Biologists currently believe there are no jaguar subspecies.

Dangerous to humans?
Like most of the big cats, jaguars prefer other prey than people, but will attack a human who trespasses on its territory. With decreasing habitats, these attacks are becoming more frequent.

Barbary Lion
Barbary Lion

2. Lion

The king of the junle actually dwells in the savannas of Africa. Barbary, or Atlas, lions are the biggest subspecies and thought to be extinct in the wild, but some survive in captivity. Renowned for their luxurious, dark manes, Barbary lions were hunted to the point of extinction.

Lions are unusually social cats, forming prides that often hunt and play together. Nonetheless, they demonstrate vicious tendencies, often murdering the cubs of rival families. Lions can live lengthy lives in captivity (up to 20 years), and were used in coliseums by the Romans to test a warrior's prowess.

Dangerous to humans?
Yes. Lions, especially males, don't fear attacking creatures as large as humans, and are especially likely to do so when other prey is scarce. In 2004, a single lion reportedly devoured 35 people in Tanzania.

Siberian Tiger
Siberian Tiger

1. Tiger

The ruler of all big cats, tigers are apex predators in every ecosystem they inhabit. These gigantic killers are confident enough in their strength to challenge adult brown bears, and rightfully so—they usually win. Siberian tigers are the biggest of all the subspecies, some weighing in at a massive 700 pounds.

Dangerous to humans?
Surprisingly, despite its larger size, the Siberian Tiger threatens people less than the Bengal Tiger, who reacts more aggressively to the presence of humans. All tigers rarely attack men unless provoked, but they're certainly large enough to maim or kill us; always exercise caution around unfamiliar animals.

Which cat do you favor?

See results

More Big Cats?

While many enormous cats exist today, several extinct animals dwarfed most modern felines, like ancient Smilodons or Giant Cheetahs. Also, despite tigers narrowly outweighing lions, the biggest living cat is actually a mixture of the two: ligers tower over their purebred parents.

Time will tell the future of these fascinating animals, but for now, vote for your favorite feline and I'll see you at our next animal countdown!

© 2017 Jeremy Gill


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    • Jeremy Gill profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeremy Gill 

      2 years ago from Louisiana


      Thank you! When I was younger, I first heard of ocelots from the character "Revolver Ocelot" of the Metal Gear series, grew curious, and looked up the animal. Who says video games aren't educational?

    • newbizmau profile image

      Maurice Glaude 

      2 years ago from Mobile, AL

      The Ocelot has the most beautiful coat patterns. I really enjoyed learning from you because your layout makes it very easy and interesting to read.

    • Noork11 profile image


      3 years ago

      Great and informative hub! Very nice.


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