The genus Lynx consists of 4 recognized species: Lynx lynx, Lynx rufus, Lynx canadensis, and Lynx pardinus. All Lynx species are obligate carnivores and feed primarily on small game, such as hare, rabbits, and rodents. Their general ecological ranges are uniform across the genus, with all populations found in forested regions. Lynx species are rather uniform in their general morphology, including body size, short tails, and ear tufts. Lynx species are unique from one another in their distribution and genetics.

Eurasian Lynx, Lynx lynx, have the widest distribution range of the genus. There are 6 recognized sub-species, with distinct lineages in the Balkans, Carpathian Mountains, the western and eastern halves of northern Europe, the Tibetan Plateau, and Asia-Minor.

Until 2004, the Iberian Lynx, Lynx pardinus, was considered a sub-species of Lynx lynx. Genetic data has recently distinguished the lineage as a distinct species found exclusively on the Iberian Peninsula. This is easily the most threatened species in the genus and only consists of a handful of relatively small populations (Gil-Sánchez and McCain, 2011).

The northernmost of the North American lynx is the Canadian Lynx, Lynx Canadensis. It was previously thought that there were 3 subspecies, each found in different regions of glacial refugia with different climates (Kitchener et al., 2017). However, recent genetic data and a further understanding of their wide dispersal ranges (of up to 1,100 km) have led felid taxonomists to conclude it represents a single species.

Lynx rufus, or Bobcats, are found in the temperate forests of the United States and Mexico. Within this species, there currently exists enough evidence to divide the species by eastern and western populations, with the barrier being relatively close to the eastern edges of the Rocky Mountains. There are two proposed sub-species of Lynx rufus under review in Mexico, distinct in their ecology (Kitchener et al., 2017). (Gil-Sánchez and McCain, 2011; Kitchener, et al., 2017)

Geographic Range

Lynx are found in forested areas throughout the northern hemisphere. In North America populations of Lynx species can be found from southern Mexico, throughout the United States, and throughout Canada with the exception of Nunavut in the far north. Fragmented pockets of Lynx species exist throughout the forests of Europe where they were widespread before human colonization. They are more broadly distributed throughout the large wilderness of the Taiga and Siberia, with some endemic populations stretching from the northern edges of the Himalayas to central China. (Gil-Sánchez and McCain, 2011; Hoving, et al., 2005; Janečka, et al., 2007; Rueness, et al., 2014)


Lynx can be found in mid to high altitude forests with relatively dense forest floor vegetation. Forests occupied range from coniferous forests to boreal forests. They hunt for small game on the forest floor and are also known for their ability to catch fish from rivers. (Breitenmoser, et al., 2015; Kelly, et al., 2016; Rodríguez and Calzada, 2015; Vashon, 2016)

Systematic and Taxonomic History

The genus Lynx was first described by Linnaeus as a species within the Felis genus. In 1979 Matyushkin was the first to recognize the genus as its own, but this was contested through the 1990s.

A recent evaluation of the Felidae family using mtDNA hypothesizes that Lynx rufus is the least derived lineage, with L. canadensis and L. pardinus being sister taxa who form a monophyletic group with L. lynx. Until recent genetic revelations, it was understood that Lynx pardinus was a subspecies of Lynx lynx (Zhou et. al). The relationship amongst the 6 established sub-species of Lynx lynx and 3 proposed sub-species is an area of active research.

The common ancestor of Lynx species was Lynx issiodorensis, which was distributed throughout Europe and Africa from the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene (Sunquist & Sunquist). (Johnson, et al., 2006; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002; Zhou, et al., 2017)

  • Synonyms
    • Cervaria
    • Eucervaria
    • Lynceus
    • Lynchus
    • Lyncus
    • Pardina
  • Synapomorphies
    • Very-short tails
    • Pointed ears

Physical Description

The coat patterning of Lynx species ranges from goldish-brown to beige, typically with black spotting and some black facial accents, and with a buffy white underside. The tails of Lynx species are much shorter than other felids and have a black tip. Their coats are dense and long, and get thicker around the neck during the winter. Their triangular ears are relatively large compared to their skull and have black tufts on the tips. Their legs are adapted for traveling through snow, with their long length allowing movement through deep drifts, and with large paws that disperse their body weight across a greater surface area of snow to remain on top.

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger


Lynx species mating season begins in early spring, ranging from January to July, arriving a couple months later for populations living in higher latitudes. Mating pairs do not remain together pre- or post-copulation and both sexes will have multiple partners if prey density allows individual territories to overlap (Boutros et al., 2007). (Boutros, et al., 2007)

Reproduction takes place in the early parts of spring in order to allow Lynx species to rear cubs to self-reliance before the next winter arrives. Typical litter sizes range from 2-3 cubs, but litter sizes of 1-5 are not uncommon. The gestation period varies between species, with larger species correlating to slightly longer gestation ranging from 55 days to 74 days. The young are raised entirely by the mother and are weaned around 6 months of age when cubs are able to accompany the mother on hunts. (Boutros, et al., 2007; Fuller, et al., 2007)

The parental investment required for rearing cubs to maturity lasts between 10 and 12 months. Female Lynx are the sole caregivers for cubs. The first 2 to 6 months of a cub’s life require milk from their mother. Upon being weaned, the mothers provide fresh meat, eventually bringing her cubs along to learn to hunt for themselves. Females must also find a suitable den, such as a shallow cave or hollowed logs. Upon reaching maturity, the offspring emigrate out of the mother's territory in search of their own. (Boutros, et al., 2007; Fuller, et al., 2007)

  • Parental Investment
  • female parental care
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


The typical lifespan of Lynx species in the wild is 12 to 17 years. In captivity, they range from 20 to 33 years (Herfindal, et al. 2005). (Herfindal, et al., 2005)


As Lynx species are territorial hunters, they live solitary lives. The majority of intraspecies interaction occurs between mothers and their cubs during the first year of an individual's life, as well as brief interactions during the winter breeding season. The territorial range of adults varies by latitude, with the southerly population having territories of several square kilometers. Further north, where prey is more scarce, Lynx species’ territories are recorded to be up to 1100 km^2 (Kitchner et al., 2007).

Lynx species activity occurs almost exclusively at night. Hunting is aided partially by excellent night vision, but Lynx species heavily rely on hearing to locate prey. Lynx species hunt alone, the exception being when mothers teach their cubs to hun, they often engage in group hunts. While they are terrestrial, Lynx species are adept swimmers and climbers. (Harrison, 2010; Kitchener, et al., 2017; Podolski, et al., 2013)

Communication and Perception

Similar to other cats, Lynx species use scent glands and urine to mark territorial boundaries and communicate with other individuals. Little is known about their communication; low guttural calls are emitted during breeding and cubs cry for help when young but, for a majority of an individual's life, it is silent.

Lynx species have excellent vision in low-light conditions, aided by the tapetum lucidum, a reflective membrane behind the retina. Their triangular ears, with a wide range of radial movement, allow for highly focused hearing. Their long whiskers allow for the perception of feint vibration and movement, and they have excellent reflexes (Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002). (Podolski, et al., 2013; Sunquist and Sunquist, 2002)

Food Habits

Lynx species are obligate carnivores, and primarily hunt rodents, hare, birds, and small ungulates, and have been observed eating reptiles and fish. They conduct their hunts solitary and during the night to cover their movement. Lynx species commonly share their territory with wolves, but the Lynx species reliance on smaller ungulates does not conflict with the larger ungulates hunted by wolves, allowing the two predators to coexist in most cases. (Fuller, et al., 2007; Harrison, 2010; Herfindal, et al., 2005; Lopez-Vidal, et al., 2014)


Lynx species are apex predators in their trophic systems and have no natural predators ( Delibes, Rodriguez, and Ferreras, 2000). Lynx cubs are at risk of predation by other predators, such as wolves, coyotes, and cougars. (Delibes, et al., 2000)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

As apex predators, Lynx species play vital roles regulating the populations of small vertebrates in their ecosystems. Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus) and red deer (Cervus elaphus) are prime examples (Podolski et al., 2013). Because Lynx species are apex predators, they also are used as a reliable indicator of ecosystem health (Delibes, Rodriguez, and Ferreras, 2000). (Delibes, et al., 2000; Podolski, et al., 2013)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

During the height of the fur trade, Lynx pelts were highly valuable and Lynx species were subsequently trapped to obtain their fur. This practice is largely credited with the reduction in numbers of all species of Lynx, leading some species to near extinction. Lynx are also effective at limiting ungulate populations, keeping populations from growing too large and damaging forest ecosystems. (Breitenmoser, et al., 2015; Kelly, et al., 2016; Rodríguez and Calzada, 2015; Vashon, 2016)

  • Positive Impacts
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Lynx species have been known to target livestock and pets, leading to some communities actively seeking to rid their areas of Lynx. Their hunting patterns have also stirred complaints of Lynx reducing game numbers. This has led some governments to compensate hunters and farmers for the economic damages caused local species of Lynx activity. However, these occurrences are relatively minor and Lynx aggression towards humans is rare (Filla, 2017). (Delibes, et al., 2000; Filla, et al., 2017; Herfindal, et al., 2005)

Conservation Status

A majority of Lynx species have recovered from fur trade practices, with overall population sizes of Lynx lynx and Lynx rufus reaching well over a million individuals. Lynx lynx and Lynx Canadensis have both been the target of reintroduction efforts and are actively protected by most governments in their range. However, Iberian lynx, Lynx pardinus, are listed as crucially endangered and the subject of active conservation efforts and research throughout Spain (Rodríguez and Calzada, 2015). (Breitenmoser, et al., 2015; Kelly, et al., 2016; Rodríguez and Calzada, 2015; Vashon, 2016)

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

Lynx is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root-word "leuk-", which translates directly to "brightness" or "light" in reference to the reflective tapetum lucidum behind the retina of Lynx.

Lynx species have held significant roles in various mythologies throughout Europe and North America and are often depicted as being elusive and having super-natural eyesight. This view of Lynx continued to evolve into one of the first scientific societies, Accademia dei Lincei in the 17th century, named such for the keen eyesight of Lynx and their symbolic ability to see through falsehoods. The Roman historian Livius also accounts the common usage of Lynx imported from Northern Europe for the games held around the empire. A constellation was named Lynx in the 17th century for its likeliness in form and its faint light requiring one to be "lynx-eyed" to see it, according to the astronomer Johannes Hevelius.

Lynx is the national animal of the Republic of Macedonia, with an image of a Lynx displayed on their 5 denar coin. Lynx is also the national animal of Romania.


Karter Johansen (author), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


active at dawn and dusk


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats fish


the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


an animal that mainly eats dead animals

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


uses sound above the range of human hearing for either navigation or communication or both


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate


Boutros, D., C. Breitenmoser-Würsten, F. Zimmermann, A. Ryser, A. Molinari-Jobin, S. Capt, M. Güntert, U. Breitenmoser. 2007. Characterisation of Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx den sites and kitten survival. Wildlife Biology, 13/4: 417-429.

Breitenmoser, U., C. Breitenmoser-Würsten, T. Lanz, M. von Arx, A. Antonevich, W. Bao, B. Avgan. 2015. Lynx lynx (errata version published in 2017). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12519A121707666. Accessed February 12, 2018 at

Delibes, M., A. Rodriguez, P. Ferreras. 2000. Action Plan for the Conservation of the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) in Europe. Nature and Environment, No. 111: 7-42.

Filla, M., J. Premier, N. Magg, C. Dupke, I. Khorozyan, M. Waltert, L. Bufka, M. Heurich. 2017. Habitat selection by Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) is primarily driven by avoidance of human activity during day and prey availability during night. Ecology and Evolution, 7/16: 6367–6381. Accessed January 29, 2018 at

Fuller, A., D. Harrison, J. Vashon. 2007. Winter Habitat Selection by Canada Lynx in Maine: Prey Abundance or Accessibility?. Journal of Wildlife Management, 71/6: 1980-1986.

Gil-Sánchez, J., E. McCain. 2011. Former range and decline of the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) reconstructed using verified records. Journal of Mammalogy, 92/5: 1081-1090.

Harrison, R. 2010. Ecological Relationships of Bobcats (Lynx rufus) in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist, 55/3: 374-381.

Herfindal, I., J. Linnell, J. Odden, E. Birkeland Nilsen, R. Andersen. 2005. Prey density, environmental productivity and home-range size in the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx). Journal of Zoology, London, 265/1: 63-71.

Hoving, C., D. Harrison, W. Krohn, R. Joseph, M. O'Brien. 2005. Broad-scale predictors of Canada lynx occurrence in Eastern North America. Journal of Wildlife Management, 69/2: 739-751.

Janečka, J., T. Blankenship, D. Hirth, C. Kilpatrick, M. Tewes, L. Grassman Jr. 2007. Evidence for Male-biased Dispersal in Bobcats Lynx Rufus Using Relatedness Analysis. Wildlife Biology, 13/1: 38-47.

Johnson, W., E. Eizirik, J. Pecon-Slattery, W. Murphy, A. Antunes, E. Teeling, S. O'Brien. 2006. The Late Miocene Radiation of Modern Felidae: A Genetic Assessment. Science, 311: 73-77.

Kelly, M., D. Morin, C. Lopez-Gonzalez. 2016. Lynx rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12521A50655874. Accessed February 12, 2018 at

Kitchener, ., C. Breitenmoser-Würsten, E. Eizirik, A. Gentry, L. Werdelin, A. Wilting, N. Yamaguchi, A. Abramov, P. Christiansen, C. Driscoll, J. Duckworth, W. Johnson, S. Luo, E. Meijaard, P. O’Donoghue, J. Sanderson, K. Seymour, M. Bruford, C. Groves, M. Hoffmann, K. Nowell, Z. Timmons, S. Tobe. 2017. A revised taxonomy of the Felidae. The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN/ SSC Cat Specialist Group. Cat News Special Issue, 11: 37-45. Accessed February 10, 2018 at

Lopez-Vidal, J., C. Elizalde-Arellano, L. Hernandez, J. Laundre, A. Gonzalez-Romero, F. Cervantes. 2014. Foraging of the bobcat (Lynx rufus) in the Chihuahuan Desert: Generalist or Specialist?. The Southwestern Naturalist, 59/2: 157-166.

Podolski, I., E. Belotti, L. Bufka, H. Reulen, M. Heuric. 2013. Seasonal and daily activity patterns of free-living Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx in relation to availability of kills. Wildlife Biology, 19/1: 69-77.

Rodríguez, A., J. Calzada. 2015. Lynx pardinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015: e.T12520A50655794. Accessed February 12, 2018 at

Rueness, E., S. Naidenko, P. Trosvik, N. Chr. Stenseth. 2014. Large-Scale Genetic Structuring of a Widely Distributed Carnivore - The Eurasian Lynx (Lynx lynx. PLoS One, 9/4: e93675.

Sunquist, M., F. Sunquist. 2002. Wild Cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Vashon, J. 2016. Lynx canadensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12518A101138963. Accessed February 12, 2018 at

Zhou, Y., S. Wang, J. Ma. 2017. Comprehensive species set revealing the phylogeny and biogeography of Feliformia (Mammalia, Carnivora) based on mitochondrial DNA. PLoS One, 12/3: e0174902. Accessed March 25, 2017 at