The Lynx genus is part of the Felidae family of cats (both wild and domestic ones).
It consists of four extant and three extinct species. Out of the extinct species, one of great importance is Lynx issiodorensis.
This species lived during the Pliocene and Pleistocene periods and is believed to be the main ancestor of the four lynx species we’ll discuss.
Lynxes have some popular characteristics that make them easily identifiable in the wild.
First, their eyes are reflective and possess a degree of luminescence, which is also the reason behind their name (coming from leuk, the Indo-European root word meaning light and brightness).
The other main characteristic is their bowtie-shaped ruff.
It might not be visible in some lynx specimens, but the great majority feature the black bars of fur that make the bowtie.
As mentioned, the Lynx genus consists of four extant species – the Eurasian, Canada, and Iberian lynx, as well as the famous bobcat.
Keep on reading to learn more about each species!
Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx)
The Eurasian lynx has a LC (Least Concern) conservation status, enjoying a wide distribution worldwide.
Specifically, Lynx lynx can be found in the Himalayas, the Tibetan Plateau, Siberia, Central Asia, and Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe.
The species comprises six additional subspecies – Northern lynx, Turkestan lynx, Caucasian lynx, Siberian lynx, Balkan lynx, and Carpathian lynx.
Lynx lynx is the Felidae species with the widest range in the world.
Moreover, out of the four species, it is the largest variety of lynx. Its fur differs from species to species and is also influenced by location.
While it’s commonly yellowish-gray with white underpants, the fur of southern specimens is less gray.
In comparison to the northern ones, it has more spots.
In Scandinavia, home to around 1400 lynxes, specimens without spots are called wolf lynxes.
In contrast, spotted ones bear the name “cat lynxes.” In terms of high population, Sweden and Romania are believed to have the largest lynx populations – about 1200 to 1500 in each country.
The Eurasian lynx is Europe’s third largest predator within the animal kingdom, right after the brown bear and the fierce wolf.
Of the three, however, Lynx lynx is the fastest, with a top speed of 50 mph (brown bear – 35 mph; wolf – 36-38 mph).
Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis)
The Canada lynx, as the name implies, is found in Canada, Alaska, and some northern areas of the United States.
Compared to the Eurasian lynx, Lynx canadensis has a medium size, standing at about 19-22 inches tall (about 5-8 inches smaller than the Lynx lynx).
Its conservation status is “least Concern,” even though the species is rare.
The main characteristics of the Canada lynx are its long and dense fur, paws resembling snowshoes, and the often bobbed tail (when it’s not bobbed, it’s short).
Due to their short bodies, long legs, and thick coats, Canada lynx specimens are sometimes mistaken for large house cats.
They’re also not the best runners among lynxes, so moving slowly might reinforce their cat-like aspect.
Canadian lynxes’ diet consists mainly of snowshoe hares.
Lynx canadensis relies so much on these hares for survival that even the slightest change in the snowshoe hare population will also affect the Canada lynx population.
In contrast, a surge in snowshoe hare specimens will increase the number of lynxes in a certain area.
Another characteristic of the Canada lynx, a rather peculiar one, is that the species’ hindlimbs are longer.
As a result, the back of the animal slopes downward.
Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus)
The Iberian lynx is an endangered species, with roughly 404 specimens left in the Iberian Peninsula, where this animal is endemic.
Due to poaching, overhunting, and habitat fragmentation, Lynx pardinus is now the most endangered wildcat in the entire world.
The endangered status of the European rabbit, the Iberian lynx’s primary prey, also contributes to the population decline.
This species differs from the Eurasian lynx because its fur is short and has more spots than the Eurasian lynx.
The Iberian lynx is taller than the Canada lynx, about 23 to 27 inches tall.
Until the 19th century, the Iberian lynx didn’t exist as a separate species.
Since they lived alongside the Eurasian lynx during the Pleistocene, scientists recognized both variations as Lynx lynx.
This changed as it became clear that Lynx pardinus was now endemic to the Iberian Peninsula.
The Iberian lynx used to be present in both Portugal and Spain.
As time passed, they became harder to find in Portugal, living only in two southwestern areas of Spain.
From the 1990s until 2021, lynxes vanished completely from Portugal.
Luckily, 47 specimens were released in the country in 2021, and reports suggest that roughly 1,000 Lynx pardinus can now be found nationwide.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
The bobcat is a lynx species found in North America, specifically in all U.S. states besides Delaware.
In 2011, an analysis estimated the Lynx rufus population at about 2.3-3.5 million specimens.
Also known as the red lynx, it has a conservation status of least concern.
Lynx rufus is about 20 to 24 inches tall, being as small as the Canada lynx and usually even smaller.
It’s the smallest lynx species in the world.
In simpler terms, a bobcat is usually twice the size of a house cat.
On the other hand, don’t forget that this is a wild animal and a predator.
The bobcat is much faster (up to 30 mph), can also hunt young deer much bigger than the small feline, and can leap up to 12 feet to catch prey.
On top of that, Lynx rufus can also be seen swimming and climbing when hunting, going beyond and above to catch its prey.
Last but not least, bobcats are known as highly vocal animals.
Like the other three species of lynx, bobcats meow regularly.
They can, however, also yowl, yelp, bark, hiss, and even purr, given the opportunity.