Mountain Lion VS Panther (A Comparison of Two Felines)

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Published on September 6, 2022
Last Updated on October 12, 2023

Before we can compare the two species, we must first figure out what a mountain lion is and what is a panther – a seemingly simple question that is anything but.

Mountain lions are large, tan cats that live in North and South America. However, they are also sometimes referred to as cougars or pumas. 

Panthers, meanwhile, are not actually a species! The name “panther” is usually used to refer to melanistic leopards or jaguars. Melanistic is the opposite of albinoism – instead of a lack of melanin, there is a surplus of it, leading to dark fur. That is why panthers are basically black leopards or jaguars (but never pink, unfortunately).

In this article, Floofmania will compare mountain lions with black jaguars specifically because it is the animal most frequently referred to as “panthers” in the Americas. Let’s get into it!

Is A Mountain Lion And A Panther The Same Thing?

Mountain lions are sometimes called panthers, so they can occasionally mean the same thing. 

In common usage, mountain lions refer to Puma concolor and its subspecies, Puma concolor cougar. Panthers have their own genus, Panthera, assigned to big cats that can roar. Black jaguars, in particular, are Panthera onca

How Closely Related Are Mountain Lions And Panthers?

Mountain lions and panthers are all from the Felidae, or the cat family, making them related to some degree. As can be surmised, though, they are more closely related to those within their genus. 

Big cats in the Panthera genus include:

  • The lion (P. leo).
  • The tiger (P. tigris).
  • The jaguar (P. onca).
  • The snow leopard (P. uncia).
  • The leopard (P. pardus). 

The mountain lion is more closely related to smaller felines such as the domestic cat.

A Comparison Between Mountain Lions And Panthers

Mountain LionsPanthers (Black jaguars)
LocationNorth and South America.
The Americas have black jaguars.- Africa and Asia mostly have black leopards.
SizeWeight: 64lbs-198lbs
Height: 24in-36in at the shoulder
Length: 72in-96in
Weight: 79lbs-300lbs
Height: 24in-30in at the shoulder 
Length: 43in-96in
ColorTan with a lighter color going down their chest and stomachs.Black, but spots can sometimes be seen up close.
SpeedSpeeds of up to 50mphSpeeds of 50mph
SoundsDo not roar. Have a distinct scream known as caterwauling.Can roar loudly
SensesKeen vision and hearing, but weaker sense of smell compared to other catsKeen vision, hearing, and sense of smell
PreyCarnivore – willing to eat whatever is in the area.Carnivore – willing to eat whatever it is in the area.

Where Do Mountain Lions And Panthers Live?

Mountain lions live in the Americas, both North, and South. Are there mountain lions near you? Here is a list of US states and other countries where you can find mountain lions!

A “panther” in the Americas often refers to black jaguars, while the same name in Asia and Africa refers to black leopards. 

There is also the “Florida panther,” which is actually the North American cougar (Puma concolor cougar) and is, therefore, a mountain lion.

Lastly, there is the Carolina panther, also the North American cougar. Unfortunately, the species has been declared extinct in that state. Luckily, the other Carolina Panthers – the professional American football team – is still going strong! 

How Big Are Mountain Lions Compared To Panthers?

Mountain lions and jaguars are roughly the same height and length, though black jaguars tend to be heavier and more muscular.

Black jaguars, a.k.a. Panthers, can have up to 100lbs more muscle weight than mountain lions! A mountain lion can weigh close to 200 lbs, but a panther can reach 300 lbs.

What Do Mountain Lions And Panthers Look Like?

The biggest visual difference between mountain lions and panthers is the color of their fur.

Mountain lions are tan, with a lighter shade running down their chest and stomachs.

Panthers are melanistic, meaning they are often black. Sometimes, you can see the big cats’ spots under the darker fur up close.

How Fast Can Mountain Lions And Panthers Run?

Mountain lions and black jaguars can match each other in speed – each can hit about 50mph. That’s fast!

Black leopards are slightly slower, though, “only” reaching 36mph – which is still pretty quick!

What Sounds Do Mountain Lions And Panthers Make?

Mountain lions do not roar! Instead, they produce a distinctive scream known as caterwauling.

Listen to a female mountain lion caterwauling:

Panthers have big roars, much like their lion and tiger cousins.

Hear a panther roar:

How Do Mountain Lion and Panthers Senses Compare?

Both mountain lions and panthers are most active during dusk and dawn but also regularly hunt at night. The lack of bright lighting requires strong senses from both to spot their prey.

Black jaguars (panthers) have keen senses of sight, hearing, and smell. Additionally, they have an extra layer of tissue at the back of their eyes that reflects light. This allows them to see six times better in the dark than humans.

Mountain lions also have extremely sensitive hearing and excellent eyesight that, similar to panthers, are specially built to make the most of low-light environments.

However, relative to other big cats, mountain lions have a weaker sense of smell. When hunting, therefore, this species tend to rely more on their sight and hearing.

What Are Mountain Lions’ And Panthers’ Main Prey?

The mountain lion and panther are both carnivores and opportunistic hunters who are not picky. 

They both generally eat whatever they can find in the area, from deer, pigs, capybaras, raccoons, armadillos, hares, and squirrels, to fish, iguanas, birds, and even monkeys. They both also display the same habit of burying part of their kill to eat at a later time.

Who Would Win In A Fight Between A Mountain Lion And A Panther?

Panthers have the advantage in a fight against a mountain lion. They are bigger, stronger, and have a more complete set of sharp senses. They can also blend into the dark and shadows more easily because of their dark fur, giving them a better chance of ambushing their opponent. 

The fight won’t be easy, though – mountain lions are still formidable hunters and will be able to defend themselves well against the attack of a black jaguar.

Author: Bernice Go

Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.


  • Bernice Go

    Bernice Go is a violinist and orchestra manager by profession but a writer by hobby. She enjoys writing about various topics, from music to animals to self-development. When she isn’t playing the violin or writing, she loves reading, traveling, playing video games, and savoring a good cup of coffee.

    View all posts

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