Pampas cat

Pampas cat
Pampas cat with the third pelage type
Scientific classification
Species: L. colocola[2]
Binomial name
Leopardus colocola[2]
(Molina, 1782)
  • L. c. colocola (Molina, 1782)
  • L. c. pajeros (Desmarest, 1816)
  • L. c. braccatus (Cope, 1889)
  • L. c. garleppi (Matschie, 1912)
  • L. c. budini (Pocock, 1941)
  • L. c. munoai (Ximénez, 1961)
  • L. c. wolffsohni (Garcia-Perea, 1994)
Pampas cat range map

The Pampas cat (Leopardus colocola[2]) is a small wild cat native to South America that is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List as habitat conversion and destruction may cause the population to decline in the future.[1] It is also known as the colocolo or Pantanal cat over parts of its range.[3][4] It is named after the Pampas, but occurs in grassland, shrubland, and dry forest at elevations up to 5,000 m (16,000 ft).[5]

There was a proposal to divide Pampas cat into three distinct species, based primarily on differences in pelage colour/pattern and cranial measurements.[5] Accordingly, three species were recognised in the 2005 edition of Mammal Species of the World: the colocolo (L. colocolo), the Pantanal cat (L. braccatus), and the Pampas cat (L. pajeros) with a more restricted definition.[4] This split at species level was not supported by subsequent genetic work, although some geographical substructure was recognised,[6][7] and some authorities continued to recognise the Pampas cat as a single species.[1][8] In the recent revision of felid taxonomy by the Cat Specialist Group the Pampas cat is recognised as a single species with seven subspecies.[9]

Pampas cats have not been studied much in the wild and little is known about their hunting habits. There have been reports of the cat hunting rodents and birds at night, and also hunting domestic poultry near farms.


The Pampas cat is a small, but heavy-set cat. There are significant geographical variations in its size; the body length ranges from 46 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in) and the relatively short tail is 23 to 29 cm (9.1 to 11.4 in). Six variants of its pelage occur, but all have two dark lines on each cheek:[5]

  • Type 1. Reddish or dark grey with rusty-cinnamon stripes on the flanks and two stripes on each cheek, a cinnamon upper side of the ears with black edges and tips, four or five reddish rings on the tail (outer two are darker), dark brown stripes on the legs, black chest spots, and whitish underparts with rusty-ochraceous stripes.[5] It is found the subspecies L. c. colocolo in central Chile in subtropical, xerophytic forests at altitudes of up to 1,800 m (5,900 ft).
  • Type 2A. Flanks with large, reddish-brown, rosette-shaped spots with darker borders, numerous rings on the tail (of the same colour as the flank spots), and very dark brown (almost black) stripes on the legs and spots/stripes on the underparts. This colour and pattern is found in the northern Andes in the subspecies L. c. thomasi and L. c. wolffsohni.
  • Type 2B. Resembles Type 2A, but the background colour is paler, and the body markings, stripes on the hind legs, and rings on the tail are paler and less distinct.
  • Type 2C. Is overall greyish with distinct dark brown stripes on the legs and spots on the underparts, a plain tail (no clear rings), and at most indistinct dark lines on the flanks.
  • Type 3A. Almost entirely rusty-brown with faint spots, continuous bands, an unbanded tail with a prominent black tip, and all-black feet. This pattern is found in the subspecies L. c. braccatus.
  • Type 3B. Similar to type 3A, but the background color is paler and more yellowish, with flank spots that are browner and more distinct, feet that are only black on the soles, and discontinuous rings and a narrow black tip on the tail. This pattern is found in the subspecies L. c. munoai.

The subtypes of Type 2 show variation according to altitude and latitude. Only the first subtype occurs in the north (around 20°S and northwards), and only the third type occurs in the far south (around 40°S and southwards). In between, the majority are of second subtype, but the first subtype has been recorded as far south as 29°S, and the third subtype as far north as 36°S. At latitudes where both the first and second subtypes are found, the former tends to occur in highlands and the latter in lowlands.[5]

Melanistic Pampas cats have been reported.


An extensive morphological analysis of Pampas cat specimens from across the species's range revealed differences in cranial measurements, and pelage colour and pattern. Therefore, the Pampas cat group was divided into three distinct species with 11 subspecies.[5] This species division was recognised in the 2005 edition of Mammal Species of the World, although the number of subspecies was reduced:[4]

  • Leopardus colocola (colocolo)
    • L. c. colocola (Molina, 1782) – subtropical forests of central Chile
    • L. c. wolffsohni (Garcia-Perea, 1994) – in spiny shrublands and páramo of northern Chile[5]
  • Leopardus braccatus (Pantanal cat)
    • L. b. braccatus (Cope, 1889) – central Brazil, eastern Paraguay, extreme eastern Bolivia, and parts of north-eastern Argentina.[8][10]
    • L. b. munoai (Ximenez, 1961) – Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, and Uruguay.[8][10]
  • Leopardus pajeros (Pampas cat, with a more restricted definition)
    • L. p. pajeros (nominate) – southern Chile and widely in Argentina[8]
    • L. p. crespoi – eastern slope of the Andes in northwestern Argentina[5]
    • L. p. garleppiAndes in Peru[5]
    • L. p. steinbachi – Andes in Bolivia[5]
    • L. p. thomasi – Andes in Ecuador[5]

Based on two specimens, the subspecies L. p. steinbachi is larger and paler than P. l. garleppi. However, this is labelled with uncertainty due to the very small sample,[5] and some treat it as a synonym of L. p. garleppi.[8] Uncertainty also exists for the subspecies L. p. budini, which appears to resemble L. p. crespoi, and was described from lowlands of northwestern Argentina, but may actually be from humid forests in the region.[5] Some recognise it,[8] while other do not.[4] Populations in southern Chile and the southern part of Argentina, included in the nominate in the above list, have been recognised as the subspecies L. p. crucinus based on the large size (the largest Pampas cats) and dull pelage.[5]

More recent work, primarily genetic studies, failed to find support for a split at species level, although some geographical substructure was recognised.[6][7] Several authors recognise the Pampas cat as a single species.[1][8] Since 2017, the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group recognises the Pampas cat as a single species with seven subspecies:[2]

  • L. c. colocola (Molina, 1782)
  • L. c. pajeros (Desmarest, 1816)
  • L. c. braccatus (Cope, 1889)
  • L. c. garleppi (Matschie, 1912)
  • L. c. budini (Pocock, 1941)
  • L. c. munoai (Ximénez, 1961)
  • L. c. wolffsohni (Garcia-Perea, 1994)

Distribution and habitat

The Pampas cat ranges throughout most of Argentina and Uruguay into the Gran Chaco and Cerrado of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, and north through the Andes mountain chain through Ecuador and possibly marginally into southwestern Colombia.[1] It occurs in a wide range of habitats and inhabits elevations between 1,800 and 5,000 m (5,900 and 16,400 ft) in páramo, marginally also in puna grassland and locally in dry forest.[5] Where its range overlaps with the Andean mountain cat in northwestern Argentina, it occurs at lower altitudes on average.[11] In central to northwestern Argentina, the Pampas cat is found at elevations below 1,240 m (4,070 ft) in grassland, mesophytic and dry forest, and shrubland. In southern Argentina and far southern Chile, it is found in Patagonian steppes and shrubland at altitudes below 1,100 m (3,600 ft).[5]

In 2016, it has been recorded for the time in the Sechura Desert and in dry forest of northwestern Peru.[12]

Ecology and behaviour

Little is known about the Pampas cats's hunting and breeding habits. It is thought to prey mainly on small mammals and birds. Guinea pigs are thought to form a large part of its diet, along with viscachas, other rodents, and tinamous.[13] Though some have suggested it is chiefly nocturnal,[13] others suggest it is mainly diurnal.[14]

Litters are relatively small, usually consisting of only one or two kittens, and occasionally three. The kittens weigh around 130 g (4.6 oz) at birth.[13] The average lifespan is nine years, but some have lived for over 16 years.[15]


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Lucherini, M.; Eizirik, E.; de Oliveira, T.; Pereira, J.; Williams, R.S.R. (2016). "Leopardus colocolo". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T15309A97204446. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T15309A97204446.en. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Kitchener, A. C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting A., Yamaguchi, N., Abramov, A. V., Christiansen, P., Driscoll, C., Duckworth, J. W., Johnson, W., Luo, S.-J., Meijaard, E., O’Donoghue, P., Sanderson, J., Seymour, K., Bruford, M., Groves, C., Hoffmann, M., Nowell, K., Timmons, Z. & Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11.
  3. Novak, R. M. (1999). Walker's Mammals of the World, Vol. 1, 6th edition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-5789-9.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 538–539. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 Garcia-Perea, R. (1994). "The pampas cat group (Genus Lynchailurus Severertzov 1858) (Carnivora: Felidae): A systematic and biogeographic review" (PDF). American Museum Novitates (3096): 1–35.
  6. 1 2 Johnson, W.E., Slattery, J.P., Eizirik, E., Kim, J.H., Menotti Raymond, M., Bonacic, C., Cambre, R., Crawshaw, P., Nunes, A., Seuánez, H.N. and Martins Moreira, M.A. (1999). "Disparate phylogeographic patterns of molecular genetic variation in four closely related South American small cat species" (PDF). Molecular Ecology. 8: S79–94. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.1999.00796.x.
  7. 1 2 Macdonald, D., & Loveridge, A. (eds.) (2010). The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923445-5.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Sunquist, M. E., & Sunquist, F. C. (2009). "Colocolo (Leopardus colocolo)". In Wilson, D. E.; Mittermeier, R. A. Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Vol. 1. Barcelona: Lynx Ediciones. p. 146. ISBN 978-84-96553-49-1.
  9. Kitchener, A.C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting, A. and Yamaguchi, N. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11: 76.
  10. 1 2 Barstow, A. L. & Leslie, D.M. (2012). "Leopardus braccatus (Carnivora: Felidae)" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 44 (1): 16–25. doi:10.1644/891.1.
  11. Perovic, P., Walker, S. & Novaro, A. (2003). New records of the Endangered Andean mountain cat in northern Argentina. Oryx 37: 374–377.
  12. Garcia-Olaechea, A. and Hurtado, C. M. 2016. Pampas Cat conservation in northwestern Peru. Small Wild Cat Conservation News 2: 18.
  13. 1 2 3 Sunquist, M.; Sunquist, F. (2002). "Pampas cat Oncifelis colocolo (Molina, 1782)". Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 201–204. ISBN 0-226-77999-8.
  14. MacDonald, D., Loveridge, A., eds. (2010). The Biology and Conservation of Wild Felids. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-923445-5
  15. ARKive
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