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Panther vs. Puma: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on November 28, 2023
Panther refers to a term used to describe leopards (in Asia and Africa) or jaguars (in the Americas) with black coloration. Puma refers to a large cat species native to the Americas, also known as a cougar or mountain lion.

Key Differences

Panther is a general term often used for melanistic (black) big cats, specifically leopards in Asia and Africa, and jaguars in the Americas. While, puma, also known as a cougar or mountain lion, is a specific species of large cat native to the Americas.
The term panther can be misleading as it doesn't refer to a distinct species, but to color variations in leopards and jaguars. However, pumas are a distinct species and are one of the largest cat species in the Americas.
Panthers (black leopards or jaguars) exhibit a condition called melanism, where the fur has an increased amount of dark pigment. Whereas, pumas have a consistent fur coloration, usually tan or light brown, without any significant pattern.
In their respective habitats, panthers (as black leopards or jaguars) are often apex predators and have a wide range. Meanwhile, pumas also hold the status of apex predators in their ecosystem, with a wide geographical range from North to South America.
The physical appearance of a panther varies depending on whether it's a leopard or a jaguar. Pumas have a more uniform appearance, with a slender body, a small head, and a long tail.

Comparison Chart


Melanistic variant of leopards or jaguars
Specific species (Puma concolor)


Asia and Africa (leopards), Americas (jaguars)
Americas, from Canada to South America


Black due to melanism
Tan or light brown, without dark patterns


Rainforests, grasslands, mountains
Forests, mountains, deserts

Physical Features

Varies (leopards are smaller, jaguars larger)
Slender body, small head, long tail

Panther and Puma Definitions


Leopard or jaguar variant.
In Asia, a panther is typically a black leopard.


Keen hunter.
The puma is known for its stealth and strength.


Wild cat.
Panthers are elusive and rarely seen by humans.


Large American cat.
The puma roamed the mountainous terrain.


Melanistic big cat.
The panther moved silently through the jungle at night.


Solitary predator.
The puma prefers to hunt alone.


Apex predator.
The panther is at the top of its food chain.


Cougar synonym.
In North America, the puma is often called a cougar.


Black coloration.
The panther's black fur helps it camouflage in the dark.


Adaptable habitat.
Pumas can thrive in various environments.


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


See cougar.


See cougar.


A mountain lion or cougar (Puma concolor).


What is a panther?

A panther refers to a melanistic leopard or jaguar.

What causes a panther's black color?

Melanism, a genetic variation, causes the black coloration.

What do pumas eat?

Pumas are carnivorous, primarily hunting deer and other mammals.

How large can pumas grow?

Pumas can grow up to 8 feet in length, including their tail.

Where do pumas live?

Pumas inhabit a range from North to South America.

Are panthers a separate species?

No, panthers are not a distinct species but a color variant of leopards or jaguars.

Do panthers live in groups?

No, like most big cats, panthers are solitary animals.

What is the lifespan of a puma?

In the wild, pumas can live up to 10 years.

Can pumas be black like panthers?

Pumas do not typically exhibit melanism like panthers.

How fast can a puma run?

Pumas can reach speeds up to 50 mph in short bursts.

What is the range of a panther's territory?

It varies, but leopards and jaguars can have large territories.

Is a panther the same as a black panther?

Yes, the term "black panther" usually refers to a melanistic panther.

Can panthers climb trees?

Yes, especially the leopard variant of panthers is an adept climber.

How do pumas communicate?

Pumas communicate through vocalizations, scent markings, and body language.

Do panthers hunt during the day or night?

Panthers can be both nocturnal and diurnal hunters.

Are panthers only found in the wild?

Yes, panthers are wild animals and not domesticated.

Are panthers found in America?

Yes, the jaguar variant of panthers can be found in the Americas.

Do pumas have any natural predators?

Adult pumas have few natural predators, with humans being the primary threat.

Are pumas endangered?

Pumas are not currently endangered but face habitat loss.

Can pumas swim?

Pumas are capable swimmers but do not prefer water.
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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