Category: big cats

Spectacular Photos Show Big Cats As They’re Meant To Live

One photo shows a melanistic leopard — better known as a black panther — cautiously but curiously poking its head out from behind a tree. Another shows the same cat, tail raised and ready to spring as it stalks prey in the jungle mists.

The photos went viral this week, accumulating millions of views as people hailed the leopard as the second coming of Rudyard Kipling’s Bagheera, the beloved leopard from The Jungle Book.

Both photos come from the lens of Shaaz Jung, known as the “Leopard Man of India” for his astonishing shots of the majestic cats taken deep in the country’s jungles and forests.

“When people see these pictures, they think there are several leopards, but actually there’s just one black panther where we are — one melanistic leopard in the dense forest of Nagerhole. So it was like finding a needle in a haystack,” Jung told BusinessInsider.

The leopard has been named Saya by local wildlife enthusiasts, and he’s a bit out of his element in the deciduous Kabini forest, which is also home to a tiger preserve. Normally, leopards like Saya live in dense jungle, where the thick canopy and lack of light play to their advantage.

Jung patiently followed Saya, snapping photos of the big cat hunting, fighting and courting potential mates.

“He’s not just surviving, he is thriving,” Jung said.

Jung is a wildlife photographer, NatGeo’s director of photography for films and a big cat specialist in his own right. He also photographs India’s tigers, and his shots reveal a connection to — and a deep appreciation of — these regal apex predators who have been pushed back by human development and the resulting habitat loss.

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The man behind the camera: Shaaz Jung.
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Tigers share a quiet moment as they trade scents. Photo: Shaaz Jung
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Leopards are known for their exceptional climbing ability as well as their preternatural hunting skills. Photo: Shaaz Jung
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A leopard enjoys a mid-day respite from the sun — and bothersome rivals — on a broad tree branch. Photo: Shaaz Jung
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A tiger stops for a drink with the water reflecting its wary gaze. Photo: Shaaz Jung
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Tigers are the world’s largest, heaviest cats, the apex predators among apex predators. This close-up is a reminder of how beautiful and regal they are. Photo: Shaaz Jung

Did You Know Buddy Is A Chic Designer Cat?

Dear Buddy,

With all this talk of special breeds and glamorous designer cats, I found myself wondering: What’s your heritage? You obviously come from refined stock and must have commanded quite a price.

– Fancy Cat in Florida


Dear Fancy,

My human informs me I’m a rare and noble breed known in taxonomic nomenclature as felis magnificantus handsomus. (Thus the prominent “M” mark on my forehead for magnificantus, which is Latin for magnificent.)

I am descended from an Amur tiger who mated with a manticore, producing unique offspring which was then paired with a puma, resulting in a spectacular felid who mated with a particularly handsome domestic cat, thus creating my unique breed.

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A manticore, which is part of Buddy’s royal lineage.

This explains the majestic and regal bearing of my personage, my good looks and my considerable muscles. Not all cats are this ripped, as you know.

Legend tells of an unprecedented bidding war, with humans pledging small fortunes for the privilege of serving me. Big Buddy refused to divulge exactly how much money he spent to outbid the others, but if a mere Savannah can cost as much as $20,000, surely an impeccable specimen of felis magnificantus handsomus would command at least twice that.

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Photo of a young Buddy playing with a sibling on the palace grounds.

This, dear readers, is why I am an indoor-only cat. It has nothing to do with me being scared of the outdoors, as laughably suggested by some. It’s because, as a powerful and glamorous feline, it is illegal for me to prowl the streets alone as I would strike fear into the hearts of humans, dogs and other lesser creatures.

Thankfully I’m a pretty chill dude and all it takes it some turkey to stay on my good side!

Your friend,

Buddy

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Felis magnificantus handsomus.
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Admirers snap photos of a painting of Buddy in a French museum.
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Sophisticated and glamorous French women often commission paintings of sophisticated and glamorous cats.

 

New York Times: Wild Cats Are Glamorous, Chic Pets

Sometimes it seems like writers at the New York Times are in a competition with each other to prove who’s the most out-of-touch.

The latest effort comes courtesy of Alexandra Marvar, who begins her profile of a designer cat breeder by reminiscing about the good old days when those lacking sense or self-awareness could be fabulous by keeping wild animals as “chic pets”:

Not so long ago, wild cat companions were associated with glamour, class and creativity. Salvador Dalí brought his ocelot to the St. Regis. Tippi Hedren lounged with her lions in her Los Angeles living room. Josephine Baker’s cheetah, collared in diamonds, strolled the Champs-Élysées. In their time, these wild creatures made chic pets.

But, Marvar writes, those animal welfare activists had to come and ruin things for fabulous people:

But by the mid-1970s, a wave of awareness and wildlife protection legislation changed both the optics of owning a big cat, and the ability to legally purchase one.

Killjoys. Don’t they know Dali, Hedren and Baker were just being fabulous? They were being classy and creative! Who has time for people who claim it’s wrong to keep a wild animal that ranges 50 miles a day confined in a living room? They have gilded cages, diamond collars and meals of filet mignon!

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Hedren being fabulous with one of her fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: Michael Rougier/LIFE

Now that wild cat ownership has been relegated to mulleted felons and gun-toting Texans who keep exotic cats to hold on tight to “muh freedoms” — stripping the practice of all glamour, class and fabulousness — where can the wealthy turn when they don’t just want pets, but status symbols?

The creators of the latest designer breeds, Toygers and Bengals, of course. Meet our heroes, the late breeder Jean Mill and her daughter, Judy Sugden:

Meanwhile, a cat breeder named Jean Mill was working on a more practical alternative: her leopard-spotted companion was just ten inches tall. At her cattery in Southern California, Ms. Mill invented a breed of domestic cat called the Bengal, which would offer wild cat admirers the best of both worlds: an impeccable leopard-like coat, and an indoor-cat size and demeanor.

Note: If you think a Persian makes you fabulous, surrender that cat to the nearest shelter immediately. Persians are so 2013!

[A Bengal cat breeder] recalled there used to be “tons” of ads for Persian cats in the back of Cat Fancy magazine. But the Persian’s prim, manicured aesthetic is no longer en vogue. “That look doesn’t say, ‘I can survive in the jungle,’” Mr. Hutcherson said. “It says, ‘I need somebody to open this can of cat food because there’s no way this cat is catching a mouse.’”

Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and a star of Netflix’s “Tiger King,” has called toyger owners “selfish” and said creating new breeds is “strapping a nuclear warhead to the feral cat problem.” Others might argue that compared with shelter pets, designer species (the rarer of which may cost as much tens of thousands of dollars per kitten) are a different beast altogether.

Others might argue! Who are those others? Uh, Marvar and…and…nevermind. The important thing to realize is that there are cats — the riff-raff adopted from animal shelters by plebs — and there are chic, elegant, glamorous beasts. To compare a shelter pet to a Toyger would be like comparing a Geo Metro to an Aston Martin.

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Brigette Helm being fabulous with her cheetah in 1932.
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A close-up of Josephine Baker’s cheetah, Chiquita, and her diamond collar, photographed in the 1920s. Credit: FrockFlicks

In the glowing profile of Mill’s daughter, the toyger breeder — whose cats the Times compares to the Mona Lisa and whose work it describes as a “creative effort” in “cultivating” perfect “beasts” — the newspaper devotes a single line to those who object to the industrial manufacture of designer pets when shelters are forced to euthanize cats who aren’t adopted:

…the designer cat market is a thriving one where supply rarely meets demand, and in its service, more than 40,000 registered house cat breeders around the world are devoted to supplying pet owners with Ragdoll, Sphynx and other prized breeds. (PETA has argued this clientele should instead adopt cats from a shelter.)

The fact that 1.4 million pets are put down every year in the US wasn’t considered important enough to mention in the Times story. Too much of a buzzkill. Ain’t no one got time for that!

The rest of the Times’ editorial staff and its stable of contributors will have a tough time topping Marvar’s masterpiece. But as they try — and try they will — remember these are the same people who want to teach the rest of us about privilege and inequality in modern society as they social distance in their Scarsdale homes and file their stories from their couches next to their $10,000 pets.

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Hedren enjoying a fabulous ride on one of her chic, fabulous lions in 1971. Credit: LIFE
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Wild cats are the preferred fabulous pets of ultra-wealthy twats who want to show off their wealth on social media.
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More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day, while Paris Hilton’s dog lives in a two-story air-conditioned mansion.

Helicopters, Armed Squads, Scotland Yard…For A Cat?

Wealthy Londoners freaked out at the sight of a Savannah cat on Monday, confusing the domestic-Serval hybrid for a big cat.

The pet kitty was stalking the gardens of a neighborhood known as billionaire’s row in East Finchey, north London, when it caught the attention of a mother and daughter who called police to report a large felid.

“I was sitting having dinner with my daughter in the garden when the head appeared. It looked normal so I didn’t take much notice but then the body came out,” the mother told the Evening Standard. “It was elongated, really too big for a domestic pet. The markings were like that of a cheetah or leopard.”

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A woman having dinner outside took this photo of the cat before calling police.

“We were scared. I said to myself ‘we should not be here’ and ran in the house. I took a picture on the way, it was frightening.”

“We called the police and armed officers started the hunt for the animal. They told us to stay inside. There were two police helicopters overhead. It was very dramatic, I can understand it. At that stage they had to think it was a dangerous wildcat.”

Leon Grant, who lives nearby, told the newspaper that police and neighbors thought they were dealing with a big cat.

“It was pandemonium,” Grant said. “There was a police helicopter whirring overhead and armed police and all sorts. It was being dealt with as a huge incident.”

The police, who were accompanied by a wildlife expert, stood down after they realized they were dealing with a pet, the BBC reported. The cops hadn’t found the owner, but said keeping a Savannah cat isn’t illegal in London or its outlying areas.

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A Serval cat. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Savannah cats are hybrids of domestic cats and servals, mid-sized African wildcats. The somewhat controversial breed is energetic, intelligent and needs a lot of stimulation, much like a working dog.

To be fair to the Londoners who were alarmed by the sight of the rare cat, the breed is considerably larger than typical domestic cats. A pet Savannah is about the size of two, maybe two-and-a-half Buddies: (Although not nearly as ripped or as fearsome, obviously.)

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Credit: Savannah Cat Association
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Not as big as a Savannah cat, but fearsome and terrifying!

First-generation hybrids, known as F1 Savannahs, are not considered suitable pets. Typically breeders sell F3 (third generation) or F4 cats to the general public. A Savannah cat can cost as much as $20,000 in the US, and like all exotic breeds, they’re controversial because many activists feel people shouldn’t buy pets when 1.5 million homeless cats and dogs are euthanized every year.

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A four-month-old F1 Savannah hybrid. Credit: Jason Douglas/Wikimedia Commons

Amazing Cats: He Who Kills With One Bound

The name jaguar comes from the indigenous Tupian word yaguara, meaning “he who kills with one bound.”

On the Scale of Badassery that’s an 11, which is appropriate for such a regal, ephemeral creature who seems to exist only in glimpses before melting back into the jungle.

From ancient chronicles etched in Mayan pictograms to modern-day descriptions of encounters with jaguars, one thing is consistent: When you’re fortunate enough to set eyes on a jaguar, it’s because the animal allows you to.

The world’s most elusive hunter is like smoke: There one moment, gone the next, without any physical evidence that it was present in the first place.

There’s a lot of confusion about jaguars, so let’s get that out of the way first. The jaguar is the third-largest-cat on the planet, behind tigers and lions. Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere and are the apex predators in the Americas.

They’re often confused with leopards, the other spotted big cats, but aside from living on different continents, jaguars are visibly larger, heavier and more sturdy than their African cousins.

Compounding the confusion is the widespread habit of using “panther” to describe both jaguars and leopards, and sometimes other cats too, like pumas.

A panther isn’t a type of cat: Panthera is the genus to which big cats — tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards — belong, while a black panther can refer to any melanistic jaguar or leopard.

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Like its cousins in the genus, the jaguar is an ambush hunter.

But unlike tigers, leopards and lions, jaguars do not kill by going for the spinal cord — they go for the head itself, puncturing skulls, turtle shells, heavily armored caiman scales and anything else they want to make a meal of.

That’s where the “one bound” in their name comes from: By the time a jaguar pounces, it’s already too late for the victim.

Jaguars are paragons of feline grace, yet even among cats they’re strikingly beautiful animals:

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Unlike tigers and lions, there are no recorded cases of prolific man-eaters among jaguars, and the mysterious cats are careful to avoid conflict with humans. The one exception is when a female jaguar feels her cubs are threatened.

Travelers who brave the untamed, near-impenetrable remote rainforests of South America may not see jaguars on their journeys, but the jaguars see them: Humans who venture into the thick tangle are “calmly watched by a jaguar or two” and most of them “don’t realize they’re under surveillance,” Nadia Drake wrote in a 2018 Atlantic story about encountering the enigmatic felids in Peruvian jungles:

Those who have studied jaguars say they sense a kind of preternatural consciousness in the beasts, a combination of disciplined energy and shrewd awareness that allows the jaguar to unleash its power in calculated ways. Alan Rabinowitz, struggling to find the right words, calls it simply “jaguarness.”

The ancient Aztecs saw that same cunning in the eyes of jaguars, naming them the “kings of the animal world” and employing jaguar motifs on statuary, stone reliefs and other artwork. Jaguar imagery was common throughout the pre-European Americas, and at the time the animal ranged across North and South America without a true rival at the apex.

Like tiger imagery is used to denote power, grace and agility in Asian cultures, the jaguar’s image was used for similar purposes, associating the animals with royalty and gods.

In Mayan culture, deities took the form of jaguars, and the big cats were known as gods of the underworld, fertility, war, protection and fire. Ek Balam, for example, was the Mayan god of the underworld, and was depicted as a black (melanistic) jaguar.

Jaguars share another quality with tigers, one that’s rare among cats: They not only enjoy the water, they excel at swimming and even hunting in rivers and swamps. While most cats will do almost anything to avoid entering water, jaguars and tigers have no reservations about immersing themselves, particularly on hot days.

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Like all big cats, jaguar numbers are decreasing. The animal is classified as “near-threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as its habitat has been fractured.

Unlike the other members of the panthera genus, habitat loss hasn’t led to conflicts between humans and the majestic cats. Jaguars, it seems, would rather retreat deeper into the jungle than go to war with humans. It’s crucial to preserve what’s left so these beautiful, amazing cats still have a jungle to go back to.

All photos courtesy of National Geographic and Mexico Lore.

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