Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Leopardus
Species: L. pardalis
Binomial name
Leopardus pardalis
(Linnaeus, 1758)
Ocelot range

The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), pronounced /ˈɒsəˌlɒt/, also known as the dwarf leopard or McKenney's wildcat[citation needed] is a wild cat distributed over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean. North of Mexico, it is found regularly only in the extreme southern part of Texas,[3] although there are rare sightings in Southern Arizona.[4]

The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from 1972 until 1996, but is now rated "least concern" by the 2008 IUCN Red List.



The name ocelot comes from the Nahuatl word ōcēlōtl (pronounced [oːˈseːloːtɬ]), which usually refers to the jaguar (Panthera onca) rather than the ocelot.[5][6][7]


The ocelot's genus Leopardus consists of nine similar species to the ocelot, such as Geoffroy's cat and the margay, which are also endemic to South and Central America. All of the cats in the Leopardus genus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the ocelot being the biggest of its genus.


Certain ocelot subspecies are officially endangered, although the species as a whole is not.[citation needed] The following are the currently recognized subspecies of Ocelot:[1]

Physical characteristics

The ocelot ranges from 68 to 100 centimetres (27 to 39 in) in length, plus 26 to 45 centimeters (10 to 18 in) in tail length, and typically weighs 8 to 18 kilograms (18 to 40 lb), although much larger individuals have occasionally been recorded,[8][9][10] making it the largest of the generally dainty Leopardus wild cat genus. It has sleek, smooth fur, rounded ears and relatively large front paws. While similar in appearance to the oncilla and margay, which inhabit the same region, the ocelot is larger.

The coat pattern of ocelots can vary, being anything from cream to reddish-brown in color, or sometimes grayish, and marked with black rosettes. In many individuals, some of the spots, especially on the back, blend together to form irregular curved stripes or bands. The fur is short, and paler than the rest of the coat beneath. There are also single white spots, called ocelli, on the backs of the ears. Two black stripes line both sides of the face, and the long tail is banded by black.


An ocelot at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington.

The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and very territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. In addition, the cat marks its territory with urine. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share its spot with another ocelot of the same sex. Males occupy territories of 3.5 to 46 square kilometers (1.4 to 18 sq mi), while females occupy smaller, non-overlapping territories of 0.8 to 15 square kilometers (0.31 to 5.8 sq mi). Territories are marked by urine spraying and by leaving feces in prominent locations, sometimes favoring particular latrine sites.[9]

Ocelots hunt over a range of 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi), taking mostly small mammals (various rodents), reptiles and amphibians (lizards, turtles and frogs), crab, birds and fish.[11] Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself, with rodents, rabbits, and opossums forming the largest part of the diet.[9] Studies suggest that it follows and finds prey via odor trails, but the ocelot also has very good vision, including night vision.

Reproduction and life cycle

Ocelots typically breed only once every other year, although the female may mate again shortly after losing a litter. Mating can occur at any time of year, and estrus lasts from seven to ten days. After mating, the female will find a den in a cave in a rocky bluff, a hollow tree, or a dense (preferably thorny) thicket. Gestation lasts 79 to 82 days, and usually results in the birth of only a single kitten, with its eyes closed and a thin covering of hair. Litters of two or three kittens also occur, but are less common. The small litter size and relative infrequency of breeding make the ocelot particularly vulnerable to population loss.[9]

Compared with other small cats, ocelot kittens grow quite slowly. They weigh around 250 grams (8.8 oz) at birth, and do not open their eyes for fifteen to eighteen days. They begin to leave the den at three months, but remain with their mother for up to two years, before dispersing to establish their own territory. Ocelots live for up to twenty years in captivity.[9]

Distribution and habitat

Moche Ocelot. 200 A.D. Larco Museum Collection Lima, Peru

The ocelot is distributed over South and Central America and Mexico, but has been reported as far north as Texas and in Trinidad, in the Caribbean.[12] Countries in this range are: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Nicaragua, Suriname, United States and Venezuela. It's likely extinct in Uruguay.[2]

The ocelot once inhabited chaparral thickets of the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas, and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas.[13] In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona. On November 7, 2009, an ocelot was photographed in the mountains of Cochise County, Arizona. This was the first such verifiable evidence of the feline's presence in the state.[14] In February 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed the sighting of another ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona.[15]

The ocelot's continued presence in the U.S. is questionable, as a result largely of the introduction of dogs, being shot by ranchers, the loss of habitat, and the introduction of highways.[citation needed] Young male ocelots are frequently killed by cars during their search for a territory.[citation needed]

Ocelots only inhabit areas with relatively dense vegetation cover, although they may occasionally hunt in more open areas at night. They are found in tropical forest, thorn forest, mangrove swamps and savanna, at elevations ranging up to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft).[9]

As pets

Salvador Dalí and Babou the ocelot

Like many wild cats, it is occasionally kept as a pet. Salvador Dalí frequently traveled with his pet ocelot Babou,[16] even bringing it aboard the luxury ocean liner, SS France.[17] Musician Gram Parsons kept an ocelot as a pet in the back yard swimming pool area of his family's Winter Haven, Florida, home during his teens, in the mid-1960s.[18]

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped animals and often depicted the ocelot in their art.[19]


  1. ^ a b Wozencraft, W. Christopher (16 November 2005). "Order Carnivora (pp. 532-628)". In Wilson, Don E., and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2 vols. (2142 pp.). pp. 539. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3. 
  2. ^ a b Caso, A., Lopez-Gonzalez, C., Payan, E., Eizirik, E., de Oliveira, T., Leite-Pitman, R., Kelly, M. & Valderrama, C. (2008). Leopardus pardalis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 22 March 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ "The Nature Conservancy in Texas - Mammals - Ocelot". nature.org. http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/texas/animals/art25117.html. 
  4. ^ "North American Mammals - Carnivora - Felidae - Leopardus pardalis". Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. http://www.mnh.si.edu/mna/image_info.cfm?species_id=130. Retrieved 2010-02-23. 
  5. ^ "ocelot, n.". Oxford English Dictionary (draft revision Mar. 2004 ed.). 
  6. ^ Karttunen, Frances (1983). An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl. Austin: University of Texas Press. p. 176. 
  7. ^ Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. p. 228. 
  8. ^ Burnie, David; Don E. Wilson (2001). Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife. New York City: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7894-7764-5. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f Sunquist, Mel; Sunquist, Fiona (2002). Wild cats of the World. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 120–129. ISBN 0-226-77999-8. 
  10. ^ R. S. Moreno et al. (2006). "Competitive release in diets of ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and puma (Puma concolor) after jaguar (Panthera onca) decline". Journal of Mammalogy 87 (4): 808–816. doi:10.1644/05-MAMM-A-360R2.1. http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/staffpubs/docs/15933.pdf. 
  11. ^ Briggs, Mike; Peggy Briggs (2006). The Encyclopedia of World Wildlife. Parragon Books. ISBN 9781405436793. 
  12. ^ Trinidad. Paria Springs. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
  13. ^ Mammals: Ocelot The San Diego Zoo
  14. ^ "Rare ocelot photographed in southern Arizona". The Arizona Republic. 17 Apr 2010. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/04/17/20100417ocelot-spotted-arizona-ON.html. Retrieved 18 Apr 2010. 
  15. ^ "Rare ocelot observed in southern Arizona". Arizona Game and Fish Department. 09 Feb 2011. http://azgfd.net/artman/publish/NewsMedia/Rare-ocelot-observed-in-southern-Arizona.shtml. Retrieved 09 Feb 2011. 
  16. ^ Dali with Capitain Moore and Ocelot - Vintage photo. Ecademy.com. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
  17. ^ Huggler, Justin. "Chic ship too toxic for scrapping". ssMaritime.com. http://www.ssmaritime.com/norway-Justin%20Huggler.htm. 
  18. ^ "Return of the grievous angel: New bio of Gram Parsons offers tragic insights". Austin American Statesman. http://www.staytonbonner.com/storage/Gram%20Parsons%20review-%20Statesman%2007.pdf. Retrieved 2009-11-02. 
  19. ^ Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera (1997). Katherine Berrin. ed. The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueologico Rafael Larco Herrera. New York City: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 9780500018026. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • ocelot — [ ɔs(ə)lo ] n. m. • 1765; ocelotl 1640, mot aztèque ♦ Mammifère carnivore (félidés), grand chat sauvage d Amérique à pelage roux tacheté de brun. ⇒ chat tigre . ♢ Fourrure de cet animal. Manteau d ocelot. ● ocelot nom masculin (espagnol ocelote,… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • ocelot — OCELÓT, oceloţi, s.m. Mamifer carnivor din familia felidelor, răspândit în America de Sud, având blana gri cu puncte roşcate, foarte apreciată (Felix sau Leopardus pardalis). – Din fr. ocelot. Trimis de tavilis, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  ocelót …   Dicționar Român

  • ocelot — (n.) large wildcat of Central and South America, 1775, from Fr. ocelot, a word formed by French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon (1707 1788), from Nahuatl ocelotl jaguar (in full tlalocelotl, a compound formed with tlalli field ) …   Etymology dictionary

  • ocelot — [äs′ə lət, äs′əlät΄; ō′sə ət, ō′səlät΄] n. pl. ocelots or ocelot [Fr, use (by BUFFON) of Nahuatl o∶se∶lo∶λ, jaguar] any of various wild, spotted cats of North and South America; esp., a large species (Leopardus pardalis) with a yellow or gray… …   English World dictionary

  • Ocelot — O ce*lot, n. [Mexican ocelotl.] (Zo[ o]l.) An American feline carnivore ({Felis pardalis}). It ranges from the Southwestern United States to Patagonia. It is covered with blackish ocellated spots and blotches, which are variously arranged. The… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ocelot — (Ocelotl, Mbaracaya, Felis pardalis), Art aus der Gattung Katze, Abtheilung Pardel; hat auf rothgraulichem Grunde lange, falbe, schwarz gesäumte Flecken, welche an den Seiten bes. lang sind; Hals u. Bauch weiß, schwarzstreifig; lebt in Südamerika …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • ocelot — /fr. ɔs(J)&lo/ V. ozelot …   Sinonimi e Contrari. Terza edizione

  • ocelot — ocèlot m DEFINICIJA 1. zool. zvijer (Felis ili Panthera pardus) iz porodice mačaka, živi u Južnoj i Srednjoj Americi; ozelot 2. meton. cijenjeno krzno te životinje ETIMOLOGIJA njem. Ozelot ≃ nahuatl tlalocelotl ≃ tlalli: polje + ocelotl: tigar,… …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • ocelot — {{/stl 13}}{{stl 8}}rz. mż I, Mc. ocelotocie {{/stl 8}}{{stl 7}} amerykański kot drapieżny, brunatnoszary w liczne nieregularne czarne plamy i pręgi; ceniony ze względu na futro <fr. z azteckiego> {{/stl 7}} …   Langenscheidt Polski wyjaśnień

  • ocelot — ► NOUN ▪ a medium sized striped and spotted wild cat, native to South and Central America. ORIGIN French, from a Nahuatl word meaning field tiger …   English terms dictionary

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