Leopardus colocolocolocolo

Geographic Range

Pampas cats, Leopardus colocolo, have an expansive geographic range. In fact, they have been said to have a greater geographic range than any other South American cat. They are found in the forested slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, the cloud forests of Chile, the Paraguayan chaco, open woodland areas of central, western, northeastern, and southern Brazil, the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, and southern Patagonia. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)


Just as the geographic range of the species varies widely, so does the habitat in which it is found. It can be found in open woodland or scrub thicket, cloud forest, cold, semi-arid desert regions, low-lying swamps, floodplains, and mountainous slopes. The only forest regions it has not been found to inhabit throughout its range are lowland tropical and temperate rain forests.(IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)

Physical Description

The physical characteristics of L. colocolo vary across its range in South America. In the high Andes it is gray in color and has reddish stripes that are broken up into spots. In Argentina, the coat of L. colocolo is generally longer and yellow-brown in color with a muted pattern. Long fur is also typical to those individuals living in Brazil, but they tend to be rust colored with black bands on their yellow to orange sides and their lateral underparts.

A three month old male pampas cat from central Brazil that was brought into a zoo had the typical rusty color but also had very dark, irregular stripes over its entire body. By the time it had reached eight months of age, the dorsal and lateral striping had disappeared, and only the stripes on the limbs and underparts remained.

Ears of L. colocolo are large and more pointed than most other small, neotropical cats. Typical head and body length is 435-700 mm, tail length is 220-322 mm, and shoulder height is 300-350 mm. Average weight is 3 to 7 kg.

(IUCN, 1996; Wildlife On Easy Street, 2000; Silveira, 1995)

  • Range mass
    3 to 7 kg
    6.61 to 15.42 lb
  • Range length
    435 to 700 mm
    17.13 to 27.56 in


See Reproduction.


The mating system and behavior of this animal are not known.

L. colocolo in captivity in the northern hemisphere breeds period from April to July. Gestation is from 80 to 85 days, and 1 to 3 young are born per litter. Breeding season in the wild is unknown. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from April to July in pampas cats held in captivity in the Northern Hemisphere.

As in all mammals, the female provides the young with milk. Specific information on the parental care of this species is lacking, but it is likely that, as with other felids, the young are altricial. They are probably born in a den where they are cared for by their mother until they are able to accompany her on foraging trips.


Longevity in this species has not been reported. However, other felid species of similar size typically live between 10 and 15 years. (Nowak, 1999)


L. colocolo is predominantly nocturnal and terrestrial. In the wild individuals have been observed during the day. Also, it should be noted that a male at Brazil’s Parque Zoológico de Goiânia was a skilled tree climber, spending most of his resting periods draped over the highest fork of the tree in his enclosure. Very little is known about the social structure and communication methods of this species. Individuals in captivity have been observed erecting the crest of long hair along their midline from head to tail when excited. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

L. colocolo preys upon small mammals, such as guinea pigs, as well as ground-dwelling birds. It has been observed taking penguin eggs and chicks from nests. Pampas cats are known to take poultry in areas of human population. (IUCN, 1996; Silveira, 1995; Garman, 1997)

  • Primary Diet
  • carnivore
    • eats terrestrial vertebrates
    • eats eggs
  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • eggs


This species is poorly known, so information on predation and possible anti-predator adaptations is not available.

Ecosystem Roles

As a predator, L. colocolo probably influences the population sizes of prey species.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

L. colocolo was formerly hunted across its range for its fur. (Garman, 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

L. colocolo has been known to take domestic poultry as prey in areas where it lives near human habitation. (Garman, 1997)

Conservation Status

L. colocolo is listed in CITES Appendix 2. Habitat destruction across their range is the major threat to this species. The pampas regions of Argentina and Uruguay have been heavily settled and grazed, which is suspected to have had a negative impact on pampas cat populations. Reduction of the prey base of L. colocolo is also a problem.

Trade of pampas cat pelts was ended in 1987. This species is listed as an endangered by the Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e Recursos Naturais Renov·veis. L. colocolo is considered a rare species according to the rarity classification of Rabinowitz, because it is found in a widespread geographic range, is a habitat specialist, and occurs at low population densities.

(IUCN,1996; Garman, 1997)

Other Comments

Despite its wide geographic range, very little is known about L. colocolo. Social and reproductive characteristics in the wild are unknown. Very few of these cats are in captivity.

A taxonomic study of 96 museum specimens has led to the suggestion that Leopardus colocolo may in fact be three separate species. These three species are Leopardus pajeros (in the high Andes from the Equator to Patagonia and throughout Argentina), Leopardus braccatus (Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay), and Leopardus colocolo (Chile). (Wildlife On Easy Street, 2003)


Rachel Golden (author), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Chris Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


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


union of egg and spermatozoan


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

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


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

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


uses touch to communicate


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).


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Garman, A. 1997. "Big Cats Online: Pampas Cat (Oncifelis colocolo)" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2001 at http://dialspace.dial.pipex.com/agarman/pampas.htm.

IUCN - The World Conservation Union, 1996. "Cat Specialist Group Species Accounts: Pampas Cat (*Oncifelis colocolo*)" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2001 at http://lynx.uio.no/lynx/catfolk/pampas01.htm.

Romo, MC, 1995. Food habits of the Andean fox (*Pseudalopex culpaeus*) and notes on the mountian cat (*Felis colocolo*) and puma (*Felis concolor*) in the Rio Abiseo National Park, Peru. Mammalia, v.59 n.3: 335.

Silveira, L, 1995. Notes on the distribution and natural history of the pampas cat, *Felis colocolo*, in Brazil. Mammalia, v.59 n.2: 284.

Wildlife On Easy Street, 2003. "Pampas Cat" (On-line). Accessed October 25, 2001 at http://www.wildlifeeasyst.com/pampas_cat.htm.