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Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)-8.jpg
Ocelot, Leopardus pardalis
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Leopardus
Gray, 1842
Type species
Leopardus griseus
Gray, 1842
Leopardus range map
Leopardus diversity

Leopardus is a genus of spotted small cats mostly native to Middle and South America, with a very small range extending into the southern United States. The genus is considered the oldest branch of the part of the cat family to cross into the Americas, followed by the genera Lynx and Puma. (The jaguar is the other extant cat native to the Americas.) The largest species in Leopardus is the ocelot; most of the other species resemble domestic housecats in size, with the kodkod (L. guigna) being the smallest cat in the Americas. The margay (L. wiedii) is more highly adapted to arboreal life than any other cat in the Americas.[2]

Despite the name, leopards are members of genus Panthera, not Leopardus.


There has been some revision of this branch of Felidae in recent years. Leopardus was previously regarded as a subgenus of the genus Felis. The Pantanal and Pampas cats were previously considered subspecies of the colocolo.

Genetic studies indicate the genus Leopardus forms a distinct clade within the feline subfamily, and first evolved in South America around 10 to 12 million years ago (Mya). Within the genus, two distinct evolutionary lineages appear to exist; one leading to the ocelot, margay, and Andean mountain cat, and the other leading to the remaining species.[3]


The following species are recognised following the taxonomic revision of the Felidae, 2017:[4]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)-8.jpg L. pardalis (Linnaeus, 1758) ocelot Southwestern United States, Mexico, Central and South America
Leopardus tigrinus - Parc des Félins.jpg L. tigrinus (Schreber, 1775) oncilla, tigrina Central America up to central Brazil
Leopardus guigna.jpeg L. guigna (Molina, 1782) kodkod Central and southern Chile and marginally in adjoining areas of Argentina
Leopardus pajeros 20101006.jpg L. colocola (Molina, 1782) Pampas cat, colocolo Argentina and Uruguay into the Gran Chaco and Cerrado of Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil, and north through the Andes mountain chain through Ecuador and possibly marginally into southwestern Colombia
Margay.jpg L. wiedii (Schinz, 1821) margay Southern Mexico, through Central America and in northern South America east of the Andes to Uruguay and northern Argentina
Salzkatze.jpg L. geoffroyi (d'Orbigny & Gervais, 1844) Geoffroy's cat Bolivia to southern Chile
Andean cat 1 Jim Sanderson.jpg L. jacobitus (Cornalia, 1865) Andean mountain cat Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and central Peru
L. guttulus (Hensel, 1872) southern tigrina Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay


  1. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 537–540. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ Reid, F. A. (2009). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico (2 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 277. ISBN 978-0-19-534323-6.
  3. ^ Johnson, W.E. et. al. (1998). "Tracking the evolution of the elusive Andean mountain cat (Oreailurus jacobitus) from mitochondrial DNA" (PDF). Journal of Heredity. 89 (3): 227–232. doi:10.1093/jhered/89.3.227. PMID 9656464.
  4. ^ Kitchener, A.C.; Breitenmoser-Würsten, C.; Eizirik, E.; Gentry, A.; Werdelin, L.; Wilting, A. & Yamaguchi, N. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11.