There is also an expanded definition of big cats that includes the cheetah, snow leopard, mountain lion (puma), clouded leopard and Sunda clouded leopard.
We have used the broader meaning of “big cats” for the List of Big Cats below.
This list includes basic information about each cat, along with their scientific names and any subspecies.
Click on the cat’s name for additional species data, photos, research and conservation information.
Big Cats Biological Classification
Scientists group living organisms into biological categories based on how similar they are. The first category is Kingdom, followed by Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species.
All cats, including big cats, are members of the felidae family. A member of the felidae family is called a felid. Read more about big cat biological classification.
Many Big Cat Species Are Endangered
Big cat populations are declining all over the planet due to illegal wildlife trade, hunting, poaching, habitat loss and the loss of prey. Many big cats are listed as CRITICALLY ENDANGERED or ENDANGERED on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Read more about endangered big cats.
The Big Cats List
Cheetahs (Acinonyx jubalus) are the world’s fastest land animal. They once ranged throughout India, Pakistan, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, but due to diminishing populations, most cheetahs can only be found in the eastern and southern parts of Africa. Today there are less than 10,000 cheetah’s left in the world. Find groups working on cheetah conservation.. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Vulnerable.
- Asiatic cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus):
- Northwest African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki)
- Eastern Africa cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus raineyii)
- Southern Africa cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus jubatus)
- Central Africa cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus soemmeringii)
The clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) is found in Asia, from the Himalayas (Nepal and India) to China. Physical characteristics include a dark grey fur with black spots, blotches and mottled stripes. There are two living subspecies of clouded leopard (the third subspecies, Neofelis nebulosa brachyura is considered extinct.): Find groups working on clouded leopard conservation.
Clouded Leopard Subspecies
- Neofelis nebulosa nebulosa
- Neofelis nebulosa macrosceloides
- Neofelis nebulosa brachyuran (Now considered extinct)
Also called the puma, mountain lion, Florida panther, red tiger and catamount. Over 30 subspecies of cougar (Puma concolor) have been documented. Six subspecies have been recognized. Found throughout the Americas. Find groups working on cougar conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Least Concern.
- North American cougar (P. c. couguar)
- Northern South American cougar (P. c. concolor)
- Southern South American puma (P. c. puma)
- Argentine puma (Puma concolor cabrerae)
- Costa Rican cougar (P. c. costaricensis)
- Easter South American cougar (P. c. anthonyi)
Jaguars (Panthera onca) roam throughout Central and South America in forests located near rivers and lakes. They are very similar in appearance to leopards, but generally larger. There are several subspecies of jaguar. Find groups working on jaguar conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Near Threatened.
- Mexican jaguar (Panthera. o. hernandesii)
- Centeral American jaguar (Panthera. o. centralis)
- Arizonan jaguar (Panthera. o. arizonensis)
- Central Texas to Southeastern Mexico jaguar (Panthera o. veraecrucis)
- Goldman’s jaguar (Panthera o. goldmani) (Yucatan/Belize/Guatamala
- Panthera onca onca (Venezuela/Amazon) Panthera onca palustris (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay)
- Peruvian jaguar (Panthera o. peruviana)
Leopards (Panthera pardus) inhabit Africa, India, Asia, the Middle East and Malay peninsula. Leopard subspecies include the Persian leopard, the Arabian leopard, the Sri Lankan leopard and the Javan leopard. Find groups working on leopard conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Threatened.
- Indian leopard (Panthera p. fusca)
- African leopard (Panthera p. pardus)
- Javan leopard (Panthera p. melas)
- Arabian leopard (Panthera. p. nimr)
- North Chinese leopard (Panthera. p. japonensis)
- Persian leopard (Panthera. p. saxicolor)
- Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera. p. kotiya)
- Indochinese leopard (Panthera. p. delacouri)
- Anatolian leopard (Panthera p. tulliana)
- Balochistan leopard (Panthera. p. sindica)
- Amur Leopard (Panthera p. orientalis) Also known as the Far Eastern leopard, Korean leopard and Manchurian leopard) One of the rarest big cats and dangerously close to extinction, with less than 30 Amur leopards left in the wild. Named for the Amur River located in eastern Mongolia. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Critically Endangered.
The lion (Panthera leo) once roamed throughout southeastern Europe, the Middle East and parts of India. While a small population still remains in India, the species now occupies habitats in various parts of Africa. Find groups working on lion conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Endangered.
- Asiatic lion (Panthera l. persica) – also called the Gir lion, Indian lion, Persian lion, Eurasian lion. The Asiatic lion is only found in Gujarat, a state in India. This highly endangered species was almost hunted to extinction. Only 13 lions existed in 1907 when an Indian prince banned hunting the cats. There are currently less than 500 Asiatic lions in existence.
- West African lion (Panthera l. senegalensis)
- Congo lion (Panthera l. azandica)
- East African lion (Panthera l. nubica) (Masai lion)
- Southwest African lion (Panthera l. bleyenberghi) (Katanga lion)
- Southeast African lion (Panthera l. krugeri) (Transvaal lion)
- Barbary lion (Panthera l. leo) (EXTINCT)
- Cape lion (Panthera l. melanochaita) (EXTINCT)
The snow leopard (Panthera uncia) can be found in the mountains of South and Central Asia. It is estimated that there are less than 9,000 snow leopards living in the wild. Find groups working on snow leopard conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Endangered.
The Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), also called the Sundaland clouded leopard, is found in Sumatra and Borneo. Studies show a continuing decrease in population. The leopard’s local name means “tree branch tiger.” Photo credit: Spencer Wright (North Walsham, England). Find groups working on Sunda clouded leopard conservation.
The tiger (Panthera tigris) is the largest of all big cats. Less than 3,200 tigers exist in the wild today. At one time, there were 9 subspecies. Three subspecies are now extinct. Find groups working on tiger conservation. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Endangered.
- Amur tiger | Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)
- Indochinese tiger (Panthera t. corbetti)
- Bengal tiger (Panthera t. tigris)
- Sumatran tiger (Panthera t. sumatrae)
- Malayan tiger (Panthera t. jacksoni)
- South China tiger (Panthera t. amoyensis)
- Bali tiger (EXTINCT) (Panthera t. balica)
- Javan tiger (EXTINCT) (Panthera t. sondaica)
- Caspian tiger (EXTINCT) (Panthera t. virgata)
Big Cats by Region
Cheetahs, leopards and lions.
Asiatic cheetahs, Amur leopards, Sunda clouded leopards, clouded leopards, Asiatic lions, snow leopards and tigers.
Cougars (puma, mountain lion), jaguars (in Spanish – león and tigres)