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Black Panthers

Many people believe that there is one animal that is called a black panther. Really, the term black panther is refering to a melanistic (black) member of the Panthera family, or big cats. This means it could be a leopard, jaguar, lion or tiger. There were commonly black tigers until the turn of the 20th century. The last marbled black tiger ever known was killed in 1992 in the cane fields of India. There has never been a high occurence of black lions that we know of, probably due to their habitat and the extreme heat a black lion would endure. This leaves us with melanistic leopards and jaguars. The term melanism does not mean that they are actually black, but that they are full of color. If you view a melanistic leopard or jaguar in good sunlight, you can see that they are acutally a very dark brown with black spots.

Their are no big black cats that live in North America, we have no wild black panthers.

The dark color of the panthers is advantageous for them to hide in the dark forest or jungle and to hunt at night. Commonly, leopards and jaguars are a golden yellow with black spots. The leopard's yellow and black spotted pattern works very well to help hide them in the open grasslands of savannas.The melanistic color variety happens only about 5% of the time. Both color variations can be born to the same litter since it is a recessive gene.

The animals below are all black leopards. They are a lot smaller than a tiger but they make up for its size with brain power. The leopard is the smartest of the big cats. It is the only big cat that has learned to store its food above ground from scavengers. It can carry prey twice its body weight high into the tops of the trees to save and eat at his leisure. Its brain power also gives it an advantage as a more cunning hunter. A full-grown leopard can weigh up to 150 pounds.

Shadow relaxing at home

Shadow in his backyard

Close up of Shade

Shadow in the woods

Panther hugs

Shadow in the grass