There’s a lot of confusion about lynxes out there. For example, despite some rumors to the contrary, the technical term for their large paws is unfortunately not “huge floofers” (we wish it was!). Also, you may have noticed that lynxes look very similar to bobcats. What’s the difference? Never fear! That’s why we’re here. Safari Ltd® has the low down on this whole lynx vs. bobcat business.
The short answer is that the bobcat IS a lynx…or rather, a type of lynx. Any cat in the “Lynx” genus is technically a lynx, but all species except the bobcat also include “lynx” in their common name. The four species of lynx are the Eurasian lynx, the Canadian lynx, the Iberian lynx, and the bobcat. The type species, aka the “original” lynx is the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), but the one most likely to be confused with the bobcat (Lynx rufus) is the Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis), since their ranges overlap.
The Canadian lynx is found in much of Canada and Alaska, as well as some parts of the northwestern United States. The bobcat, meanwhile, can be found in much of the United States and Mexico, but the uppermost part of its range spills into Canada, where it shares the habitat with its Canadian relative. As members of the same genus, they’re quite similar. Both are medium-sized wild cats with shaggy coats and ears that are “tufted”, meaning each ear has a little extra bit of fur at the tip.
So, you’re traveling along the Canada/United States border and you see a medium-sized shaggy wild cat… What is it? A lynx or a bobcat? Here’s what to consider:
Hopefully this will help you out with your wild cat identification in the future. And always remember, if you do see one of these creatures, treat them with the respect that they and all wildlife deserve: keep your distance, don’t harass them, and let them go about their day in peace.
Bernie’s Bonus Fun Fact: The large, fluffy feet of the lynx act as snow shoes, helping them to run across snow easier as they chase prey. They’re even furry on the bottoms of their feet!