The Lynx and the Bobcat can be hard to tell apart: They are two medium-sized wild cats with short tails and tufted ears. Some people use their names interchangeably.
There are actually several differences between the Lynx and Bobcat, so here, we go over what those differences are, along with other interesting facts about these beautiful cats.
At a Glance
Characteristics & Appearance
You might be surprised to learn that the Lynx actually comprises four different species, and they can be found in different parts of the world. Three of these species all bear the name Lynx, and the fourth is the Bobcat!
The Eurasian Lynx is the most widespread of the Lynx species and is found in northern Asia and western Europe. The Iberian Lynx is the rarest species and is located in Spain and Portugal.
The one that we’ll be discussing in this article is the Canada Lynx, which is predominantly found in Canada and several northern American states, including Washington, Maine, Montana, Minnesota, and Wyoming.
The Canada Lynx is well-suited to a cold climate. Their habitat ranges from steppes and forests to mountainous areas and the tundra.
The Lynx has long black tufts on their ears that act as a type of hearing aid, and their short tail has a black tip. They have long hind legs and large paws.
Their coats are quite thick, particularly in the winter. Their winter coat tends to be a light gray with a brownish undercoat, and their summer coat is short and more of a reddish-brown color. Lynx coats are spotted, but the spots are fairly indistinct. They also have a ruff of fur around their faces.
The Lynx mainly hunts squirrels and rabbits but has been known to take down larger prey, such as mule deer! But most of the Lynx diet is made up of snowshoe hares.
The Lynx will avoid contact with any humans at all costs. They are much more likely to run away than attack, but they will defend themselves if provoked.
Canada Lynxes are solitary and sleep and hunt on their own. But when it’s breeding season, the females and males search for mates. This occurs typically between February and March. A pair will spend a few days together, but as soon as the female is impregnated, the male leaves.
The mother has one to six kittens for each litter, which will nurse until they are about 4 to 5 months old. They wean onto meat at this time, and by 10 months of age, a Lynx can fend for themselves but will stay with their mother until they’re at least 1 year old. The Lynx doesn’t reach their adult size until they are 2 years of age.
Characteristics & Appearance
The Bobcat belongs to the Lynx genus. They can be found in the United States, Mexico, and the southern parts of Canada. The Bobcat and the Lynx only cross paths along the U.S. and Canadian border.
Bobcats are named for their tails, which are short, or “bobbed,” and tipped in black. They are medium in size, with long legs and large paws. Their ears are tufted, and their coats are light-gray, yellow-brown, buff-brown, or brownish-red color with a white underbelly. They usually have spots; some have them all over and others only have spotted undersides.
They are nocturnal and solitary and aren’t easily spotted by humans. They will do their best to avoid contact with people, but if cornered, they will attack.
The Bobcat’s habitat ranges from swamps, deserts, forests, steppes, mountains, and sometimes even suburban areas. Since they live mostly in southern regions, they are more adapted to warm or hot climates.
The Bobcat’s diet is all about opportunity. Small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels, make up most of their diet. They might also hunt mice and birds, and Bobcats that live near swamps will dine on lizards and snakes. They are stealthy hunters and can leap as much as 10 feet to pounce on their prey!
The Bobcat mates in the winter but has been known to mate from November through August. The female has two to four kittens, which are usually born in the spring. The mother then drives the male away, but he tends to hang out in the area, anyway.
The kittens nurse for about 2 months and stay with their mother for another 3 to 5 months. They will separate from their mother in time for the mating season.
What Are the Differences Between the Lynx & the Bobcat?
There are several minor differences between these two cats that you can use to tell if you’re looking at a Bobcat or a Canada Lynx.
Both Bobcats and Canada Lynxes are medium-sized cats, but the Lynx is larger than the Bobcat. The Bobcat can weigh around 11 to 37 pounds, and the Lynx weighs about 18 to 64 pounds.
Even though the Lynx is technically larger, they aren’t noticeably so, and the best way to tell the difference between the two is through other physical traits.
Since the Lynx lives in a cold climate, their paws tend to be large, and they have fur covering their pads, which act as a sort of snowshoe. Bobcats have no fur on their pads, and their legs are short compared to their body size. A Bobcat’s face resembles a domestic cat’s face more than the Lynx’s does.
Coats & Colors
The Lynx has more fur than the Bobcat, which makes sense because they live in much colder climates. They also have a more noticeable ruff of fur around their faces, and the tufts on their ears tend to be a little longer and more pronounced. Those tufts can be almost 1 inch long on some Lynxes.
Bobcats have more defined spots than the Lynx, and their coats tend to be shorter. Bobcats are commonly brown but can also be light gray. The Lynx has long, thick fur that tends to be primarily gray.
The tails of both the Lynx and the Bobcat tend to look the same size-wise, but there is a difference in the pattern. The Canada Lynx’s tail is black-tipped, whereas the Bobtail’s tail is banded with black stripes (although the tail is lightly tipped in black too).
Temperament is a subtle way to tell the difference between these two cats. Even though the Lynx is large, it is shy around humans or any other large predators.
While they will also avoid confrontation with a larger species, the Bobcat tends to be more aggressive than the Lynx. They also tend to react quickly and won’t hesitate to attack if the situation merits it.
This difference is one that you certainly don’t want to see for yourself if you ever find yourself face to face with a Bobcat!
One method that might help you figure out what cat you’re looking at is where you are when you see the cat. If you’re observing a wild cat in the northern parts of Canada, chances are that you’re looking at a Canada Lynx. Likewise, if you’re in the southern States or Mexico, they are probably a Bobcat.
Now you should have a much better idea of the differences between the Lynx and the Bobcat. Here’s a quick rundown:
- The Bobcat prefers warm weather, and the Lynx does well in cold climates.
- The Bobcat is smaller than the Lynx.
- The Bobcat isn’t as furry as the Lynx, which has a fuller ruff around the face.
- The Bobcat has black stripes on their tail, and the Lynx’s tail is black-tipped.
- The Bobcat has bare pads, and the Lynx has furry pads and large paws.
- The Bobcat’s legs are shorter than the Lynx’s.
- The Bobcat’s ear tufts aren’t quite as long as those of the Lynx.
- The Bobcat is faster and more aggressive than the Lynx.
Some of these comparisons would only be noticeable if you saw these cats standing side by side, which isn’t likely to happen except in photographs. Probably one of the best ways to tell the difference between the two is the black-striped bands on the Bobcat’s tail.
Featured Image Credit: Left – Lynx (burohulz, Pixabay); Right – Bobcat (Piqsels)