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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Attribute Males & Females
Body Weight 11-16 kg (24-35 lb)*
Body Length 70-100 cm (10-40 in)
Tail Length 27-45 cm (11-18 in)
Shoulder Height 40-50 cm (~20 in)

*Note: a record-setting individual weighed 20 kg (44 lbs) (Sunquist & Sunquist 2002)

General Appearance

General body shape

  • Medium-sized cat (from Sunquist & Sunquist 2002 unless otherwise ntoed)
    • Similar in size to a bobcat
    • 2nd largest spotted cat in South America (Trolle & Kery 2003)
      • Only the jaguar is larger
  • Head
    • Skull with a marked crest
    • Eyes
      • Dark brown in natural light
      • Golden in artificial light
    • Ears
      • Rounded (Trolle & Kery 2003)
  • Feet (from Trolle & Kery 2003)
    • Broad and short
    • Front paws larger than hind paws
    • 5 digits with claws on front limbs
    • 4 digits with claws on hind limbs

Pelage (from Sunquist & Sunquist 2002, 2009)

  • Overall spotted appearance
    • Solid or open-centered dark spots
      • Ground color varies
        • Grayish to buff to cinnamon (Murray & Gardener 1997)
        • Neck and belly more white, with some dark spots
      • Black-bordered spots run along the shoulders and back
      • Spots may run in lines the length of the body
      • Tail with black rings or bars
      • Back of ears are black with white spot in center
      • Inside of legs with 1-2 stripes
    • Right and left side patterns and color are not the same (Murray & Gardner 1997)
    • Similar to the Central and South American margay cat
      • Margays have a relatively longer tail and are half as heavy
  • Hair
    • Fur short and sleek

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexes largely alike

  • Females slightly smaller than males (Murray & Gardener 1997)
    • Significant overlap in size between males and females
  • Female traits
    • 4 teats (domestic cats have 8)

Other Characteristics

Identifying individuals (from Trolle & Kery 2003)

  • Combinations of traits enable recognition
    • Spot (rosette) markings
    • Banding patterns
    • Tail length
    • Scars
    • Sex and age class features
      • Lactating females distinguished by "hanging bellies"
      • Adult males distinguished by testes size
      • Young individuals often with slim bodies

Ocelot Spots

Ocelot coat

Ocelots are the second largest, spotted cat in South America, second only to the jaguar. Their grayish to cinnamon coats are marked with numerous dark spots and bars. Spots are open, the center of each revealing the lighter background color.

Image credit: © Debs via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Murray & Gardener (1997)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002, 2009)
Trolle & Kery (2003)

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