Friday 9 April 2021

What wild cats are black?

No wild cat species (as a species) is black. Sometimes individual wild cats of some species are black or dark charcoal because of a genetic mutation resulting in melanism. The classic melanistic wild cat is the black jaguar called the black panther. The puma can be black too and so can the bobcat, the serval, the leopard and Geoffroy's cat. These names come out of my head. I have probably forgotten some.

Black leopard (melanistic)
Black leopard (melanistic). Pic: Pixabay.

But the point is that the answer is NONE. It is just that some individuals do end up black against the usual colour of the species concerned because of this genetic mutation.


Melanism affects many animals of many species, not just some wild cats. For instance melanistic leopards are quite common. They are sometimes bred in zoos. Black leopards are caused by a recessive gene. They are less fertile than normal leopards according to Sarah Hartwell, a cat genetics expert.

Black leopards in captivity may be more highly strung than normal leopards because they are bred to entertain the public and in doing that they become inbred. This affects their mental health. 

As leopards are nocturnal being black does not impede hunting but probably has the opposite effect. Melanistic leopards are also called black panthers.

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