'Bobcat' vs 'Mountain Lion': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on September 10, 2023

If you want to learn the difference between 'bobcat' vs. 'mountain lion,' I can help!

Here is the short answer: 

  • A 'bobcat' is a smaller cat with a bobbed tail that has fur that has a reddish base coat with dark brown or black markings.
  • The 'mountain lion' is a larger cat with a long tail and a lighter brown color than the bobcat. 

Learn more about the difference between a 'bobcat' and a 'mountain lion' by reading this entire post.

What is the Difference Between 'Bobcat' vs. 'Mountain Lion?'

The most significant difference between a 'bobcat' vs. mountain lion' is that a 'bobcat' is much smaller, has a shorter tail, and has a darker coat with dark brown or black markings.

'Mountain lions' are about three times the size of a 'bobcat.' Their tails are between 2.5 and 3 feet, in comparison to the smaller cat's 10-inch tail. They are also nearly three times as long at seven to nine feet compared to 'bobcats' which are around three feet long, and they weigh between 90 and 130 pounds, while the smaller predator weighs just 20 to 30 pounds.

'Mountain lions' are also known as cougars, pumas, panthers, and catamounts, depending on the region you find them in. They were once prevalent throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, there are far fewer today, and they are typically only found in remote areas.

In comparison, the number of 'bobcats' is much higher, and they are distributed throughout North America, with an estimated population of between two and three million.

When to Use 'Bobcat' vs. 'Mountain Lion'

Here are some tips for using and identifying 'bobcat' vs. 'mountain lion':

  • Use 'bobcat' to describe the smaller wild cats found throughout most of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

For example, you might say:

You are far more likely to find a bobcat on your property than a cougar. 

  • Use 'mountain lion' for the larger, lighter-colored cats found in rural parts of North America.

As an example, I might say:

A few years ago, we found mountain lion tracks near the creek on our property. 

  • Use 'mountain lion' as a synonym for a cougar, puma, panther, or catamount.

So, you might say:

'Mountain lions' are not as prevalent as they once were, but they are still found on the far western and southern borders of the United States. 

Definition of 'Bobcat': What Does 'Bobcat' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines 'bobcat' as a noun that means:

  • The North American lynx, which has a coat of fur that is reddish-colored and has dark brown to black-colored markings and belongs to the Lynx rufus family

Synonyms of 'Bobcat'

'Bobcat' is a specific name for a species of cat, so there are no synonyms listed in the dictionary.

Definition of 'Mountain Lion': What Does 'Mountain Lion' Mean?

The same dictionary lists 'mountain lion' as a noun defined as:

  • A cougar


  • A large cat with tawny-brown fur classified as a Puma concolor or Felis concolor, which was once widespread in the United States but is now nearly extinct in most parts of North America, also known as a puma, panther, cougar, or catamount.

Synonyms of 'Mountain Lion'

  • Mountain cat
  • Panther
  • Puma
  • Catamount
  • Cat-a-mountain
  • Cougar

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Bobcat' vs. 'Mountain Lion'

Next, let's look at the pronunciation of 'bobcat' vs. 'mountain lion.'

Here is a quick pronunciation guide you can follow.

  • Use this phonetic spelling to correctly pronounce 'bobcat':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to correctly pronounce 'mountain lion':

maun-tin lī-en

Sample Sentences Using 'Bobcat' vs. 'Mountain Lion'

Finally, here are some sample sentences using 'bobcat' vs. 'mountain lion.' Read them to ensure that you understand how to use these two terms in various contexts.


  • Bobcats are relatively small, at just three to four times the size of a domestic house cat.
  • The small bobcat looks harmless, but they can attack humans when they are provoked.
  • If you have a problem with bobcats on your property, you should consult a professional.
  • We thought our house cat was outside, but as the cat approached, we realized it was a wild bobcat.

Mountain Lion

  • The population of mountain lions in the United States is significantly lower than it was 50 years ago because many landowners shoot them to protect themselves and their animals or cattle.
  • When we woke up in the morning, we saw that our prized pigs had been attacked by a ferocious mountain lion while we were asleep during the night.
  • In some areas shooting a mountain lion may be a criminal offense punishable by fines and a prison term.
  • We should all go the extra mile to protect mountain lions in areas where the populations are dwindling. Otherwise, they may become extinct.

Bobcat/Mountain Lion

  • We have seen bobcats and mountain lions on our property located in a rural area of Texas.
  • A bobcat is much smaller than a mountain lion. However, they are still powerful animals that can injure humans and domestic animals.
  • If you encounter a bobcat or mountain lion, you should never turn around and run away.
  • Instead, you should stand up straight, maintain contact, and wave your hands or throw stones and sticks at the bobcat or mountain lion or back up slowly while maintaining eye contact.

Review of the Difference Between 'Bobcat' vs. 'Mountain Lion'

Wow! We covered a lot of information. So, here is a quick recap of what you learned about the difference between 'bobcat' vs. 'mountain lion':

  • A 'bobcat' is a 20 to 30-pound wild cat with a short tail and reddish-brown fur with dark brown or black spots or markings that are prevalent throughout North America. 
  • A 'mountain lion' is a larger cat with a light-tawny-brown coat and long tail that is seven to nine feet long and weighs as much as 175 pounds.
  • 'Mountain lions' are also called pumas, panthers, cougars, and catamounts, and they are nearly extinct in most parts of North America. 

These terms can be confusing to keep straight even after you learn the difference between them. So, if you get mixed up in the future, you can always return to this post for a quick recap of this lesson.

You can also learn about hundreds of other confusing words here. So, if you have been wondering about the difference between any other English words, read about them before you leave and come back whenever you need to verify the correct term to use!

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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