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Big Cats - Puma

( Originally Published 1936 )

Next in size to the jaguar, of the Cats in North and South America, is the Puma, an animal inhabiting as a rule rocky or open country in preference to forests. It is much less courageous than the jaguar, but vastly more active, rivalling even the Leopard in agility. The head is very small, the limbs long and heavily made. It is lithe and wiry in construction, and has been known to make from an elevation enormously long leaps upon its prey.

At one time the Puma was quite common in the eastern part of the United States, and it has been known under many different names, some of them being Panther, or " Painter," Mountain Lion, Catamount, and Cougar.

The colour is tawny, somewhat like that of the lion, fading into white on the under part of the body. See Plate 12, Fig. 55. The cubs are very different in appearance from their parents, the fur being darker brown and covered with large spots, which gradually disappear as the animal grows older. They are very charming, playful little creatures.

The food of the Puma varies with the locality in which it is found. In Montana and other parts of the country inhabited by the wild sheep, that animal forms its principal diet. It also feeds on deer and small mammals, and is a great enemy to domestic sheep and cattle. It has the reputation, however, of being harmless to man in the wild state, and the Gauchos of South America will enter a cave where one has taken refuge and deliberately stab or shoot it to death—a method of hunting practically impossible in the case of a leopard or jaguar. In the western parts of the United States it is hunted by means of dogs, who track it out and drive it up into a tree, where it is shot. There are many terrible fights on record between Pumas and pursuing dogs, and often a number of dogs will be killed by a Puma before it is despatched by the hunters.

The call resembles the scream of a woman or child in distress. Even in zoological collections, the illusion is almost perfect when the captive animal screams, or gives its call, which it does at very rare intervals. Like most other cats, it growls a great deal, and when more than one animal is in the same cage, they keep up a continual growling and fighting, which, however, never seems to amount to anything, as they seldom injure one another.

The Puma is rather intelligent, and is quite easily tamed, but is a very nervous cat, and for that reason seldom figures in shows of trained animals.

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