True Wild Life | Panther | The term panther tends to be a general name that could refer to a few species of cat including the leopard, the cougar and the jaguar. The black panther is generally thought to refer to the black leopard, although it can also refer to the black jaguar. There have occasionally been reports of black cougars, but none have been documented with photos or a specimen. The panther tends to be black in colour and is otherwise identical to the feline species to which it belongs. The only real exception to this is the Florida panther found in the south east region of the USA, that is believed to be a subspecies of cougar and is quite rarely dark brown in colour. The Florida panther tends to have more of a speckled appearance.
The term "white panther" could refer to the leucistic or albino specimen of any of the three species mentioned. White jaguars have been documented, as has the occasional white leopard. There is a photo of a mostly white cougar killed by a hunter, and there are currently reported sightings of another. As with many other species of large cat, the numbers of both the normal spotted and the black panthers are declining rapidly due to hunting and habitat loss.
The cougar and the jaguar are found in the Americas. The leopard is found in Africa and Asia and tends to prefer dense, thick foliage and tropical forests. All three species are adept tree climbers. In addition, the jaguar is an enthusiastic swimmer that will even tackle crocodiles. As with other species of large feline, panthers are carnivores and tend to hunt more at night than during the day. The panther rests in the shade during the day and will head out at night to search for food. Being black can be an advantage here as they are well camoflaged in the dark.
Female panthers follow the same breeding pattern as more normally colored members of their species. In leopards the gene causing blackness is a simple recessive. Two spotted parents can have a black cub crop up in a litter if they are both carriers. In the jaguar, the gene causing melanism (blackness) is a simple dominant. Two black jaguars can produce a spotted cub. There is a black jaguar x lioness hybrid that inherited her sire's black coloration. In cougars a truly black specimen has never been documented. Its mode of inheritance is currently unknown.