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Cougar vs. Panther: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 24, 2023
A cougar is a large wild cat native to the Americas, also known as a mountain lion, while a panther is a general term that can refer to any large black-colored cat or specifically to leopards and jaguars.

Key Differences

The term "cougar" refers to a specific species of large wild cat, native predominantly to the Americas. In contrast, "panther" is a more general term, which can be used to describe any large black-colored cat, or more specifically, leopards (in Asia and Africa) or jaguars (in the Americas) when they have a melanistic color variant.
While the cougar boasts scientific nomenclature as Puma concolor, panther doesn't have a dedicated scientific name because it isn't tied to one particular species. Depending on the region, a panther can denote a leopard or jaguar with a black coat.
Cougars are recognized for their tawny or grayish coat with no spots. They're sometimes called mountain lions or pumas. Panthers, when referring to melanistic leopards or jaguars, are distinguished by their dark, almost black coat, although sometimes their rosettes can be faintly seen.
In terms of habitat, cougars are versatile creatures found from mountainous regions to forests, stretching from Canada to South America. Panthers, on the other hand, will be found in the habitats suited to leopards or jaguars, depending on the specific species referred to.
Both cougars and panthers are apex predators in their respective environments. While the cougar mainly exists in the Western Hemisphere, the term panther can encompass cats from various regions, including Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

Comparison Chart


Refers to a particular species.
General term for any large black-colored cat or leopards/jaguars with melanism.

Scientific Name

Puma concolor
Varies (e.g., Panthera pardus for leopards, Panthera onca for jaguars)


Tawny or grayish coat, no spots.
Dark, almost black coat; rosettes may be faintly visible.

Common Names

Mountain lion, puma.
Black leopard (Asia/Africa) or black jaguar (Americas) when melanistic.


Found from mountainous regions to forests, from Canada to South America.
Depends on the species, can be from Asia, Africa, or the Americas.

Cougar and Panther Definitions


Cougar is a large wild cat native to the Americas.
The cougar is known for its impressive jumping ability.


Panther refers to any large black-colored cat.
The panther moved silently through the night.


Cougar is sometimes referred to as a mountain lion.
He spotted a cougar, or mountain lion, while hiking.


Panther can sometimes be used to describe a melanistic jaguar in the Americas.
In the dense forests of South America, the panther, or black jaguar, prowls.


Cougar is recognized by its tawny or grayish coat without spots.
The cougar's sleek coat camouflages it in its environment.


Panther doesn't refer to a specific species.
People often mistake what the term panther truly represents.


Cougar is an apex predator in its habitat.
The deer remained vigilant, aware of the lurking cougar.


Panther's dark coat can sometimes show faint rosettes.
Certain lighting, the panther's rosettes became visible.


Cougar belongs to the species Puma concolor.
Researchers studied the behavior of the Puma concolor in the wild.


Panther can be a melanistic variant of a leopard or jaguar.
In Asia and Africa, a panther is typically a black leopard.


A large powerful wild cat (Puma concolor syn. Felis concolor) chiefly of mountainous regions of the Americas, having an unmarked tawny body and a long tail. Also called catamount, mountain cat, mountain lion, panther, puma; Also called regionally painter.


A large wild cat such as a leopard or jaguar, especially in a color form with black fur.


Are cougars endangered?

While not endangered as a species, some cougar populations are decreasing and require conservation efforts.

Are panthers endangered?

The endangered status depends on the specific species. For instance, jaguars and leopards have varying levels of conservation concern.

What do cougars primarily eat?

They are carnivores that primarily prey on ungulates like deer, but they'll also eat smaller animals if necessary.

What is the average lifespan of a cougar in the wild?

Cougars live about 8-13 years in the wild, but can live longer in captivity.

Are cougars good climbers?

Yes, they are skilled climbers and often use trees for ambush or to escape threats.

Do cougars have any predators?

Adult cougars have few natural predators, but cubs can be preyed upon by other large carnivores.

Where do cougars primarily live?

Cougars are found in a variety of habitats across North and South America, from mountains to forests to swamps.

How large can cougars grow?

Adult cougars can weigh between 80-220 pounds, with males generally being larger than females.

Is "cougar" also a slang term?

Yes, it's colloquially used to describe an older woman pursuing younger men, though the term can be seen as derogatory.

Are panthers and leopards the same?

"Panther" can refer to a black leopard, but not all leopards are panthers. It's a matter of coloration.

How does the strength of a panther compare to other big cats?

Panthers, being melanistic variants of leopards or jaguars, have strengths comparable to their non-melanistic counterparts.

What's the difference between a panther and a cougar?

A panther is a melanistic big cat, typically a leopard or jaguar. A cougar is a distinct species native to the Americas.

Can panthers swim?

Yes, especially the jaguar variant, which is known to be a good swimmer and often hunts in water.

How do cougars communicate?

They use vocalizations, scent marking, and body language.

Is a panther a specific species of cat?

No, "panther" is a general term that can refer to various big cats, especially the black variants of jaguars and leopards.

Where are black panthers primarily found?

Black jaguars (panthers) are mainly found in the Americas, while black leopards are in Asia and Africa.

How do panthers communicate?

Like other big cats, through vocalizations, scent marking, and body language.

What is a cougar in the animal kingdom?

A cougar is a large wild cat native to the Americas, also known as the mountain lion, puma, or catamount.

Do panthers have spots?

Yes, they have spots that are often called "ghost rosettes." They can be seen in certain lighting or up close.

What makes a panther black?

The black coloration comes from a genetic mutation called melanism, which increases dark pigmentation.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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