The Three-Foot-Long Tail of a Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are often confused with bobcats, as both have many colloquial names and are the two most common wild cats occurring in North America. Apart from their overall body size, which is difficult to estimate from long distances, mountain lions differ from bobcats in one major way: their tails.

While bobcats are named for their characteristic bobbed tails (averaging 6 inches in length), mountain lions have one of the longest and most muscular tails of any cat species. A mountain lion’s tail can make up 40% of its total body length and ranges from 2 – 3 feet long on individuals of varying size.

The mountain lion’s tail acts as a counterbalance for the cat, utilized fully on quick turns while in pursuit of prey or when scaling rocky terrain. Highly visual animals, the black tip at the end of a mountain lion’s tell may help it communicate non-verbally through body language.

Too often, tails are considered as an afterthought; something to tack on an animal’s butt at the end of a sketch, perhaps. It’s a delight to discover the competitive advantages and usages of tails across the animal kingdom!

Aaron Huelsman

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