Bobcats and lynxes are medium-sized cats that live in various regions throughout the globe. There are four different types of wild cats belonging to the lynx genus, including the Canadian lynx ( lynx canadensis) which is found in Canada and some US states such as Washington and Montana; the Eurasian lynx (lynx linnaeus), which is found in parts of Europe and Asia; and Iberian lynx (lynx pardenis), a highly endangered species that is native to Spain and Portugal. The bobcat, or lynx rufus, is the fourth member of the lynx family. Although it might be difficult to tell the differences between bobcats and their lynx cousins at first glance, bobcats have several key physical and behavioral differences that distinguish them from other types of lynxes.
Differences in Appearance
The most obvious difference between a lynx vs bobcat is its size. Most lynxes are much larger than a bobcat. Although their average weight is under 60 pounds, some males lynxes, such as the Eurasian variety, can grow up to 90 pounds. They may also reach more than 4 feet in length, making them an imposing presence in the wild.
A bobcat looks more like a very large house cat than a wild animal, but is quite different from a domestic cat. Its size is deceptive. The bobcat is just as fierce and powerful as its larger cousin. At maturity, a bobcat is usually around 3 feet long and up to 30 pounds in weight.
Lynxes are well-adapted to cold climates. To enable them to thrive in frigid, forested environments, the Canada lynx (also known as the North American Lynx) and Eurasia lynx are covered in thick, dense fur. Their beautiful, grayish-brown pelts are highly prized by hunters. White fur lines the inside of the lynx’s legs and appears on its chest and belly.
The Canada and Eurasia lynx have long legs and large, furry paws with toes that spread out as they walk to help them maintain balance on icy terrain. This enables the lynx to traverse deep snow to chase prey, such as the snowshoe hare, squirrels, mice, and birds. Fur on the bottoms of their paws serves as a protective barrier that helps insulate the lynx’s feet from cold and provides traction on slippery ground.
The ears of the lynx sprout tufts of hair that grow up to an inch in length. These ear tufts help alert the lynx to the movements of small animals, contributing to their remarkably sensitive hearing. Paired with their keen eyesight, the lynx’s hearing helps make it a formidable predator.
While lynxes tend to live in cold forests, bobcats are found in a variety of climates and terrains from arid deserts to rocky, mountainous regions. Agile climbers and jumpers, bobcats have relatively short legs and small paws compared to their lynx relatives. In contrast to the solid gray or yellow fur of most lynxes, many bobcats have spotted brown coats with black spots that serve as camouflage, helping these elusive creatures stay hidden in their environment. Their muscular bodies enable them to move swiftly with deadly results. The bobcat is sometimes mistaken for a mountain lion.
Both the bobcat and lynx have short, rounded tails. While the bobcat takes its name from its short tail, the lynx actually has an even stubbier tail. A bobcat’s tail is banded with black stripes, and the lynx’s tail has a black tip. Finally, the lynx sports a luxurious ruff of fur on its cheeks, while the bobcat has a much more modest ruff.
It’s pretty rare to spot either a lynx or a bobcat in the wild. The cats are solitary by nature, and they tend to avoid contact with humans. Natural carnivores, bobcats and lynxes prefer to hide during the day and hunt at night. Both lynxes and bobcats are deadly predators that can move with sudden bursts of speed to attack the small mammals they feed on.
Found in varied regions throughout North America, including the United States and Mexico, bobcats are smaller than lynxes, but they make up for their smaller size with their bold, aggressive temperament. In addition to hunting small mammals and even an occasional fawn or small deer, some bobcats also stalk and kill farm animals, such as pigs and sheep. This behavior makes bobcats a bane for many landowners, who may kill the wild cats to protect their farm stock. Although bobcats generally avoid humans, when their natural resources are scarce, they may venture into the backyards of homes at night, putting dogs and other domestic pets left outdoors at risk. With their fearless behavior and razor-sharp reflexes, bobcats sometimes even kill rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes. Their ability to move quickly allows bobcats to dodge the snake’s poisonous strikes with agility.
In the wild, bobcats like to establish a perch from which to survey their terrain. Sitting motionless on their vantage point, they wait in stealth for smaller animals to wander into their domain. Bobcats kill their prey by pouncing suddenly and tearing into the animal’s neck. Their large, deep-set jaws open widely to enable them to latch onto their prey.
When food is abundant, bobcats eat heavily, often hiding the carcass and returning to it for multiple meals. During times when prey is scarce, however, bobcats can survive for long periods without food.
Some species of lynxes, such as the Canadian lynx, are relatively sedentary. Lynxes aren’t especially fast runners, except for short distances, so they tend to stalk their prey and attack once the smaller animal ventures within close proximity. Some lynx species have short muzzles that inhibit their sense of smell, so they rely mainly on their exceptional hearing and eyesight to track potential prey.
Lynxes and bobcats are territorial creatures that mark their domain with their scent to keep other cats away. Bobcats establish a main den in a cave or rocky crevice, and they may also have several auxiliary dens dotted throughout their territory. These secondary dens are frequently located in piles of brush, old logs and other natural hiding places.
In cold climates and forested environments, lynxes use fallen branches and thick piles of leaves to escape harsh weather conditions. During pregnancy, female lynxes seek a more secluded den, which they line with feathers and leaves to help keep their kittens warm.
Although both lynxes and bobcats can swim, they avoid getting wet when possible. However, they may wade into shallow water to catch and eat beavers, fish or water fowl. Both types of wild cats can also climb trees to escape predators or to survey their territory.