Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Thursday, 16 August 2012


Computer-generated mock-up of a black puma (Dr Karl Shuker)

In all the time that I have been researching and documenting creatures of cryptozoology (almost 30 years now!), I have encountered few subjects engendering more controversy and confusion than the reality, or otherwise, of black pumas. Consequently, I have explored various aspects of this most contentious mystery cat in a number of different publications of mine. Yet as the subject still incites heated debate even today, I feel that it is now time to assemble together my disparate writings concerning it, and present them here (together with some previously-unpublished information) as a ShukerNature review article.

North American mystery black panther – a melanistic leopard, or a black puma? (William Rebsamen)

The two most commonly-voiced identities for Britain’s elusive ebony-furred mystery cats, as well as those reported in continental Europe, North America, and Australia, are escapee/released black panthers (i.e. melanistic, all-black specimens of the leopard Panthera pardus) and black (melanistic) pumas. Yet whereas the former is plausible, the latter is little short of impossible - for two extremely good, fundamental reasons.


Ordinarily, the puma Puma concolor (aka the cougar, mountain lion, panther, catamount, and painter) occurs in two separate colour forms (morphs) – tawny-red, and slaty-grey, both of which are common.

A normal tawny-coloured puma

Conversely, even though this species has the greatest native distribution range of any modern-day wild cat, occurring from the northernmost regions of North America to the southern tip of South America, the number of confirmed black pumas can be counted on the claws of one paw!

Not a single scientifically-confirmed preserved specimen exists. In 1843, a bona fide black puma was shot in the Carandahy River section of Brazil by professional hunter William Thomson, but regrettably its skin was not retained. In addition, I have seen various online mentions of an enigmatic taxiderm cat dubbed the 'Cherokee cougar' that has been claimed to be a black puma. Measuring 6 ft 2 in (1.87 m) long, and variously said to have been shot in Tennessee or Montana, it has been denounced by sceptics as a normal puma that has been dyed black, or some entirely different feline species. However, hair samples from it that were tested by researchers from the zoology department of East Tennessee State University confirmed that they had not been dyed, and DNA samples verified that it was a puma. Nevertheless, photos of it (not seen by me so far) apparently suggest that it is dark brown rather than truly black.

Unfortunately, however, no primary sources concerning this potentially significant specimen are provided by any online documentation that I have encountered so far. So if any reader can provide some, or can offer any further information or first-hand observations regarding it, I would greatly welcome receipt of them.

In 1998, American mystery cat investigator Keith Foster of Holcolm, Kansas, informed me that what had been reported to him by the person concerned as being a "glossy black puma" had been shot and killed in Oklahoma several years previously after it had been killing sheep on his father's farm. Afterwards, this person (a church pastor who was known to Keith) contacted the authorities, and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife duly confiscated the cat's carcase. Nothing more was heard about it after that, but Keith vowed to trace it. Unlike so many cryptozoological cases featuring a missing specimen, moreover, Keith did succeed in doing so, but was disappointed to discover that it wasn't glossy black in colour after all, merely grey.

As for pictorial evidence, only one clear, unequivocal photograph of a black puma is known. Reproduced below, this photo depicts a dead specimen shot in 1959 by Miguel Ruiz Herrero in the province of Guanacaste along Costa Rica's north Pacific coast. Estimated to weigh 100-120 lb, its carcase is seen here alongside Ruiz's herdsman, but what happened to it afterwards is unknown.

Ruiz's black puma (Miguel Ruiz Herrero)

In view of such exceptional scarcity of tangible evidence, it is evident that the prospect of any of Britain's, Europe's, or Australia's black mystery cats being escapee/released black pumas is unlikely in the extreme. After all, if there were such extraordinarily rare non-native cats as black pumas in captivity in any of these regions, they would surely have attracted immense publicity, and would have been far too valuable to be allowed to escape or to be released by their owners.

But what about in North America, where the puma is a native species? Surely a black morph could have arisen here? After all, countless sightings of seemingly very large all-black cats claimed by their eyewitnesses to be melanistic pumas have been reported all over this continent (most especially in the east), and continue to be today. There are even Native American traditions appertaining to such beasts, which they termed 'black devils' or 'devil cats'. But could they truly be melanistic pumas? Not according to Reason 2.


Whereas most melanistic cat forms are uniformly black all over, so-called black pumas only have black upperparts. Their underparts are noticeably paler, usually slate-grey or dirty cream. This provides crucial evidence for discounting such cats as the identity of Britain’s, Europe's, North America's, and Australia's pantheresque mystery cats, because these latter felids, just like bona fide black panthers (and also like melanistic specimens of the jaguar Panthera onca), are black all over.

A black panther, i.e. melanistic leopard (Qilinmon at the English language Wikipedia)

The black puma's distinctive two-tone colouration, black dorsally and paler ventrally, can be clearly discerned in Ruiz's specimen. Equally, the Carandahy River specimen's appearance was described by Thomson in his book Great Cats I Have Known (1896) as follows:

"The whole head, back, and sides, and even the tail, were glossy black, while the throat, belly, and inner surfaces of the legs, were shaded off to a stone gray."


Yet although exceedingly scarce today, black pumas do seem to have been more common in past ages, certainly in South (even if not in North) America, because there are a number of reports and even one or two early illustrations of such cats, sometimes dubbed ‘couguars noires’, in archaic natural history tomes. And these reports and illustrations often compare closely with the (very) few verified modern-day specimens - although in some cases there appears to have been confusion between, and amalgamation of, reports of black pumas and reports of black jaguars.

A black (melanistic) jaguar (cburnett/Wikipedia)

I examined this confusing situation as follows in my very first book, Mystery Cats of the World (1989):

"Referred to in Latin America as `black tigers', [melanistic jaguars] tend to be noticeably large, especially in the Mato Grosso. According to various antiquarian zoology tomes and native Guyanan beliefs however, a further type of black tiger would seem to exist within this continent, one which allegedly is very different morphologically from the typical melanistic jaguar. Nevertheless, its precise identity has never been satisfactorily ascertained.

"Nowadays a totally forgotten felid, this mysterious melanistic was referred to as the `cougar noire' by the eminent eighteenth-century naturalist de Buffon, and as the `jaguarete' (a less ambiguous name, which I therefore prefer and shall use hereafter in this book) by his equally eminent contemporary Thomas Pennant. However, in the virtually verbatim version of Pennant's description which appeared in Thomas Bewick's A General History of Quadrupeds, S. Hodgson referred to it merely as `the black tiger'. Hodgson's choice of name would seem to imply that the jaguarete is truly nothing more than a straightforward melanistic jaguar. Yet neither the illustration which accompanied Pennant's description nor that (by Bewick) which accompanied Hodgson's is compatible with such an identity. To quote Pennant:

"'Head, back, sides, fore part of the legs, and the tail, covered with short and very glossy hairs, of a dusky-color; sometimes spotted with black, but generally plain: upper lips white: at the corner of the mouth a black spot: long hairs above each eye, and long whiskers on the upper lip; lower lip, throat, belly, and the inside of the legs, whitish, or very pale ash-color; paws white: ears pointed. Grows to the size of a heifer of a year old: has vast strength in its limbs. Inhabits Brasil and Guiana (Guyana]: is a cruel and fierce beast; much dreaded by the Indians; but happily is a scarce species.'"

Bewick's 'black tiger', in which it is clearly two-tone (like a black puma) rather than uniformly black (like a black jaguar)

"In addition, Hodgson noted that it frequented the seashore and that it preyed upon a variety of creatures (including lizards, alligators and fishes) as well as devouring turtles' eggs and (rather curiously) the buds and leaves of the Indian fig."

Buffon's two-tone 'cougar noire'

Subsequent to writing Mystery Cats of the World, I discovered that in 1778, German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel Schreber had formally described the jaguarete and christened it Felis discolor ('two-coloured cat'). Yet, paradoxically, the accompanying colour illustration of it merely showed a mid-/dark-brown cat resembling a normal puma!

Schreber's monotone 'two-coloured cat' Felis discolor

Returning to my book's account of this mysterious cat:

"What could the jaguarete be? On first sight, a black jaguar identity seems most likely - in most specimens, the rosettes can indeed be seen as cryptic markings against the coat's abnormally dark colouration. However, the black jaguar is dark dorsallv and ventrally, just like the black panther and other melanistic felid individuals, thereby contrasting markedly with the near-white underparts, lowers jaw and paws of the jaguarete. Of course, it may be that the jaguarete is nothing more than an inaccurate description of a black jaguar, but arguing against this is the statement in a footnote by Pennant that two jaguaretes were actually shown in London during the eighteenth century; hence their appearance would have been familiar to naturalists of that time."

In my book, I went on to consider two additional jaguar possibilities. One was that the jaguarete was a jaguar possessing the rare recessive black-and-tan mutant allele of the agouti gene in homozygous (two-copy) form, because this yields a cat with black dorsal pelage but light or cream underparts, which corresponds well with the shot black pumas of Thomas and Ruiz. The other possibility was a pseudo-melanistic jaguar, i.e. one in which its rosettes had freakishly multiplied and amalgamated to yield a similar appearance – black dorsally and normal, paler colouration ventrally.

However, having given the matter of the jaguarete further consideration since writing that book, I now deem it more plausible that like so many other cryptids (such as the great sea serpent and the Nandi bear), the jaguarete was in reality a non-existent composite beast, erroneously created by combining together reports of wholly different animals. In the case of the jaguarete, those animals would seem to be normal South American melanistic jaguars (explaining the spots) and rare but nevertheless real South American melanistic pumas (explaining the two-tone colour scheme, which matches that of the Ruiz and Thomas cats). Certainly, some of the images that I have seen of the jaguarete greatly resemble black pumas of this nature, even including the puma's characteristic black facial bar, as seen, for instance, in the illustration below:

Engraving of the jaguarete in Thomas Pennant's A History of the Quadrupeds (1781)


As if the jaguarete had not muddied – and muddled - the taxonomic waters sufficiently in relation to black pumas and black jaguars, South America may also be home to a further melanistic mystery cat, and of quite prodigious size, as documented by me in another of my books, The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003). Known as the yana puma, it may even have been the inspiration for one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous short stories, 'The Brazilian Cat', which was first published by Strand Magazine in 1898, then republished in a 1923 collection of his horror stories, Tales of Terror and Mystery.

One of the illustrations by Sidney Paget accompanying the original 1898 publication of 'The Brazilian Cat'

Here is a condensed version of my book's account of the yana puma:

"Several years ago, I read a short story by Conan Doyle called 'The Brazilian Cat', published in 1923, which featured a huge, ferocious, ebony-furred felid that had been captured at the headwaters of the Rio Negro in Brazil. According to the story: "Some people call it a black puma, but really it is not a puma at all". Yet there was no mention of cryptic rosettes, which a melanistic (all-black) jaguar ought to possess, and it was almost 11 ft in total length - thereby eliminating both puma and jaguar from consideration anyway. Hence I simply assumed that Doyle's feline enigma was fictitious, invented exclusively for his story - but following some later cryptozoological investigations of mine, I am no longer quite so sure.

"To begin with: in Exploration Fawcett (1953), the famous lost explorer Lt.-Col. Percy Fawcett briefly referred to a savage 'black panther' inhabiting the borderland between Brazil and Bolivia that terrified the local Indians, and it is known that Fawcett and Conan Doyle met one another in London. So perhaps Fawcett spoke about this 'black panther' and inspired Doyle to write his story. But even if so, it still does not unveil the identity of Fawcett's panther. Black pumas are notoriously rare - only a handful of specimens have been obtained from South and Central America (and none ever confirmed from North America). Conversely, black jaguars are much more common, and with their cryptic rosettes they are certainly reminiscent of (albeit less streamlined than) genuine black panthers, i.e. melanistic leopards. However, the mystery of Brazil's black panthers is far more abstruse than this... [I then went on to discuss the Brazilian jaguarete, referring to the accounts of Buffon and Pennant already incorporated in this present ShukerNature article.]

"Yet as it seemed to be nothing more than a non-existent composite creature - 'created' by early European naturalists unfortunately confusing reports of black jaguars with black pumas - the jaguarete eventually vanished from the wildlife books. Even so, its rejection by zoologists as a valid, distinct felid may be somewhat premature. This is because some reports claimed that the jaguarete was much larger than either the jaguar or the puma - a claim lending weight to the prospect that a third, far more mysterious black cat may also have played a part in this much-muddled felid's history.

"Dr Peter J. Hocking is a zoologist based at the Natural History Museum of the National Higher University of San Marcos, in Lima, Peru. Aside from his official work, for several years he has been collecting and investigating local Indian reports describing various different types of mysterious, unidentified cat said to inhabit the Peruvian cloudforests. One of these, of great relevance here, has been dubbed by him 'the giant black panther'.

"In an article published by the journal Cryptozoology in 1992, Dr Hocking revealed that this particular Peruvian mystery cat is said to be entirely black, lacking any form of cryptic markings, has large green eyes, and is at least twice as big as the jaguar. Moreover, the Quechua Indians term it the yana puma ('black mountain lion'). This account immediately recalls Conan Doyle's story of the immense Brazilian black cat. The yana puma is apparently confined to montane forest ranges only rarely visited by humans, at altitudes of around 1600-5000 ft. If met during the day, when resting, it is generally passive, but at night this mighty cat becomes an active, determined hunter that will track humans to their camps and has sometimes slaughtered an entire party while they slept, by lethally biting their heads.

"When discussing the yana puma with mammalogists, Hocking has frequently been informed that it is probably nothing more than a large melanistic jaguar. Yet as he pointed out in his article, such animals do not attain the size claimed for this mysterious felid (nor do melanistic pumas) - and the Indians are adamant that it really is quite enormous. Nevertheless, the yana puma could still merely be a product of native exaggeration, inspired by real black jaguars (or pumas) but distorted by superstition and fear.

"However, a uniformly black, unpatterned felid does not match either a black jaguar or a black puma - yet it does compare well with Conan Doyle's Brazilian cat. Moreover, as some jaguarete accounts spoke of a black cat that was notably larger than normal jaguars and pumas, perhaps the yana puma is not limited to Peru, but also occurs in Brazil. Is it conceivable, therefore, that Doyle (via Fawcett or some other explorer contact) had learnt of the yana puma, and had based his story upon it? If so, it would be one of the few cases on file in which a bona fide mystery beast had entered the annals of modern-day fiction before it had even become known to the cryptozoological - let alone the zoological - community!"

Particularly intriguing in relation to the yana puma is an illustration that I recently came upon while browsing through Sir William Jardine's tome The Natural History of the Felinae (1834). It was a magnificent watercolour drawing by James Hope Stewart of an alleged black puma from Paraguay, dubbed ‘Felis nigra’, with big green eyes and unpatterned coat.

Felis nigra’, a black puma – or even the yana puma?

Yet unlike other abnormally dark pumas on record, the Jardine individual was black all over, rather than being black dorsally and paler ventrally. Consequently, its uniformly black, unpatterned pelage, together with its large green eyes, accord well with native descriptions of the Peruvian yana puma.


One further South American mystery cat worthy of mention here is a remarkable Brazilian felid known locally as the onça-canguçú. Its existence has lately been confirmed via the procuring of physical remains by Dutch zoologist Dr Marc van Roosmalen, who has discovered numerous new and unclassified mammalian forms in Brazil during his researches there over the past two decades, but its taxonomic identity currently remains undetermined. I have documented all of Marc's discoveries in my book The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (2012), so here is what I wrote about his mystery cat:

"White-Throated Black Jaguar
Last, and most mysterious, of all, this unclassified big cat, which is known locally as the onça-canguçú (‘bigger jaguar that goes in pairs’), resembles a very large black (melanistic) jaguar Panthera onca, but, uniquely, has a white throat and a tufted tail. Moreover, unlike normal melanistic jaguars, which, when viewed at certain angles, can be seen to be rosetted, the onça-canguçú is pitch-black with no coat patterning whatsoever. Marc has yet to see this creature personally, and also narrowly missed the opportunity to inspect one pelt – a hunter who had killed one of these cats threw its pelt away shortly before Marc arrived asking about this feline cryptid. Happily, he later obtained both a pelt and a skull, which should greatly assist in determining the onça-canguçú’s zoological status."

Dr Marc Van Roosmalen surrounded by specimens of some of the new Brazilian mammals that he has discovered, with the onça-canguçú's pelt and skull visible on the floor in this photograph's bottom-left-hand corner (Dr Marc van Roosmalen)

As only its throat (as opposed to its entire ventral surface) is white, as it compares in size to a large black jaguar (and hence is evidently bigger and burlier than a puma), and as it has a tufted tail (an extraordinary feature possessed only by the lion among known felids), I do not personally consider the onça-canguçú to have any relevance to the question of whether black pumas exist in South America. However, it will be most interesting to discover what DNA analyses on samples of the pelt owned by Marc reveal, and how closely the skull compares anatomically to those of jaguars and those of pumas.


Over the years, a number of explanations for claimed sightings of native black pumas in North America and escapee/released non-native black pumas elsewhere have been put forward, proposing that they are merely normal pumas observed under abnormal conditions. When tested, however, such theories have failed to deliver. To quote once again from my Mystery Cats of the World:

"[As contemplated by veteran puma investigator Bruce Wright:] Could normal-coloured pumas appear black when wet? To investigate this, Wright took the fresh hide of a newly killed puma from Vancouver Island, suspended it by its edges, filled it with water and left it overnight. When he examined it the following morning, however, despite viewing and photographing it from every conceivable angle, he was unable to make it appear black in colour. He also considered the possibility that backlighting of normal pumas could create the illusion of black fur, but this, when checked, proved untenable too."


Finally: The following account and images, included here as a ShukerNature exclusive, are excerpted from my forthcoming book Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2012). Once this book has been published, I shall remove the watermarks from the images below:

"As far as I was aware, no such animal [black puma] had ever been kept in captivity, at least not in Europe. But all that changed a while ago during one of my numerous visits to one of my all-time favourite places – Hay On Wye, Herefordshire’s world-famous ‘Town of Books’, nestling on the Welsh border.

"In addition to around 30 bookshops at present, this small town also has shops devoted to antiquarian prints. As an avid collector of such items, I was browsing in one of these shops one sunny Saturday afternoon during the late 1990s when I came upon a truly remarkable example – remarkable because it is not often that an antiquarian print depicts a cryptozoological cat!

"The print in question, which was an original hand-coloured copper engraving dating from 1862 (as written in pencil on its reverse), and which I naturally lost no time in purchasing, is duly reproduced here (its previous appearance, in an article of mine published by the now defunct British monthly magazine Beyond, where it was reproduced in its original full-colour format, may well have been the first time that it had ever been published anywhere), and appears to portray a bona fide black puma."

My black puma engraving (Dr Karl Shuker)

"Certainly, it comes complete with jet-black upperparts, slaty-grey underparts, and white chest – very different from normal pumas, which are either tawny brown-rufous or silver-grey (the puma exhibits two distinct colour morphs), but matching precisely those few confirmed black puma specimens. Most interesting of all, however, is the engraving’s caption: “The Puma. In the Gardens of the Zoological Society”. This means that if the puma in the engraving has been coloured accurately, and there is no reason why it should not have been, a black puma, that most mysterious of mystery cats, was once actually on display at London Zoo!

"When I first discovered this engraving, I wondered whether its astonishing black puma was exhibited at London Zoo at the same time as the zoo’s unique captive woolly cheetah, bearing in mind that the engraving was dated 1862. Who knows, if so, it may even have been in the enclosure next door!

"In February 2011, however, I discovered a second copy of the same puma engraving, but this one was dated 1825. (Moreover, the hand-colouring on this latter version, reproduced here, is much more skilful.)"

The second version of the black puma engraving (Dr Karl Shuker)

"So which (if either) is the correct date for it? The mystery deepens, and darkens – which is very apt for anything featuring a black puma at its core!"

Indeed it is. For as I have shown here, the all-too-commonly-cited 'explanation' in media reports of black mystery cats being black pumas is woefully unsubstantiated at the present time by confirmed evidence of such cats' existence. Or, to rephrase this situation in a more succinct manner – AWOL black pumas RIP!

NB - In most cat species, melanism is due to the expression in homozygous (two-copy) form of a recessive mutant allele; in the leopard and probably other species too, this is the non-agouti mutant allele of the agouti gene. Conversely, in the jaguar and also the jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi, melanism is due to the expression of a dominant mutant allele instead. In the case of the puma, however, the genetic basis of melanism is presently unknown, but as black pumas do not display a uniformly black pelage anyway but rather a two-tone pelage, it is likely to be due to a fundamentally different genetic scenario.

Holding a model of a black panther (Dr Karl Shuker)


  1. The cat in the first painting at the top of your post looks more like a jaguar than anything else to me, particularly in head/facial structure - in fact, I have photos of the large male black jaguar at Chester Zoo (which also seems to have a rather short coat for a jaguar, or at least much shorter than the spotted male it shares an encolsure with) looking extremely similar. I think, at least in the more southerly parts of the US, jaguars have to be considered a candidate for "mystery" large black felids.

    (The Malaysian and Indonesian subspecies of leopard, which are almost exclusively black - I think I have read that spotted leopards are virtually unknown in parts of Malaysia - have been claimed as likely identities for UK and Australian "black panthers" - presumably imported by human agency but without official knowledge. Of course in Australia there is the claim of feral (Felis) cats growing to huge sizes as well...)

    As for South American mystery cats, I believe Marc van Roosmalen has documented an "ethnoknown" unspotted large black cat in the upper Amazon region, and collected a skull comparable in size to a large male jaguar's, but with some noticeable differences (I can't remember exactly what, but I think someone else examined it and agreed it was noticeably different from a typical jaguar skull). Darren Naish (Tetrapod Zoology) may have posted about it (I think he did a series of posts on Roosmalen's discoveries).

  2. Yes, as I noted in some of my very early publications, black jaguars are a possibility re certain of the North American mystery black panthers (especially, as you note, those from the Southern USA), and extra-large black domestics are definitey involved re the Australian mystery black panthers. Other identities that may feature in the North American scenario are melanistic bobcats, jaguarundis, and even a large black mustelid called the fisher Martes pennanti, which is sufficiently feline in superficial form to have earned it the colloquial name of 'black cat'. Yes, I have documented Marc's mystery black cat and his many other new or unnamed Brazilian mammals in my book The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals (2012), which was in turn based upon an article of mine re these published in Fortean Times in August 2007. This black cat has a tufted tail, unlike either jaguar or puma, so seems unrelated to the black puma/jaguarete amalgamation, but obviously is still very intriguing.

    1. I live in S.TX and heard several people talking about seeing a black panther in the area. I wondered if they were seeing a black jaguar, which would have been wonderful on several levels or perhaps the elusive/mythical black puma; cougars are known to live in this part of the state, although now rare.

      So I kept my eyes peeled when I was in those places where I heard this mystery cat had been seen and was utterly surprised to see a large, very dark colored jaguarundi. The first I had ever seen period; not even on a TV nature show nor any wildlife books. I had to look it up on the internet.

      I saw the cat several times over the course of about three years and it was completely understandable how one could mistake it for one of its larger cousins; being a good bit larger than the domestic cat, seen from a mid distance the mistake would be an easy one to make, especially if the cat were in tall grass, disguising the shorter limbs.

      Of course to my shock I was told the animal could not possibly be a jaguarundi when I reported it the TX dept of Wildlife. They do not exist in the this area I was told. They said they did a two year study and found no evidence. Of course, they failed to say that since this is an endangered species if they had found one it may have pissed off more than a few hunters and those rancher that set snares willy nilly, since it would probably have changed some laws involving those activities.

      I doubt that the jaguarundi critters are still around now with all of the industrialization of our South TX plains and brush country. I am sure they have either moved on or perished under the onslaught. It's really too sad to contemplate.

    2. I live in Humboldt County, Ca. in an area with an unusually high population of bears, mountain lions and bobcats. Our area of about five thousand acres of land closed to the public is bursting with predators of all local types and their prey.
      My wife and I were standing next to my truck talking when I spotted a black mountain lion walking a brushy fence line with a freshly killed rabbit in it's mouth. The cat was in full view at a range of 150 yards on a hillside that sloped downward towards us, allowing for an unobstructed view of his whole body.
      We had seen so many mountain lions over the years that our first reaction was to note the color as it was the first black one we had seen. I used my 10x binoculars to survey its coloring. As far as I could see it was a nice shiny black except for the top of its head which was a very dark brown. Almost black. This cat was young and bold, weighing around 90# and very healthy.
      We were fascinated as much by his hunting technique as his color. He had one rabbit in his mouth and was looking for more. As we were discussing how it might pull off another kill with one already in its mouth he winded two deer on the ridge about 50 yards above it. It crouched low and began a stalk in the open on the deer. That didn't work as the deer were watching him before he caught their scent. They left.
      With the deer gone this young cat realized he was standing in the middle of a 4 acre pasture in ankle high grass. This made him nervous and he made his way into cover with his rabbit.
      The next time he was seen was at close quarters by one of my employees about a week later.
      My guy started a truck that was backed up very close to a black berry patch. As he stepped out of the truck to do his morning inspection of the vehicle the cat came storming from the rear area of the truck and ran by him "like his hair was on fire" was the way he described it. Straight line and over the hill.
      The next man to see it was a professor from MIT that I had been working with for about two years.
      I was to meet him less than a mile from where the two earlier sightings had been. He had no knowledge of this cat prior to his encounter.
      Upon reaching the job site he exited his car and I noticed at once that he was pale and very agitated. I spoke to him and he ignored me as he began to pace back and forth. I figured someone had died. Suddenly he whirled around and said "OK, I'm going to ask you this. Have you ever seen a black Mountain Lion?"
      I couldn't have been more relieved as I informed him this was the third sighting in as many weeks. He looked at me with a stunned expression as he told me that he had been sure he was losing his mind. Never seen a man so relieved.
      He had come around a corner in his car and almost hit it. He was amazed at the leap it had made to escape a collision.
      In talking to the old timers in the area I collected stories of two being killed in the valley over the last 100 years or so by sheep ranchers.
      My family had no idea this cat was so unusual as we had seen many bears of different color phases over the years and figured it was the same sort of thing. Just didn't seem like a big deal until I stumbled onto Dr. Shuker's article.
      Now I wonder years later if I had known about all the controversy; would I have shot it?
      A total of four people saw this cat from all angles and no white was seen in its coat.

    3. This question of melanistic puma in. southeastern United States was raised again recently when a field camera caught what is obviously a melanistic African Leopard. I am sure a captive release. I owned a wild life sancutary for captive raised wild cats 250lbs and under. I have owned a slate gray puma she would change shading seasonaly and as she aged. When she was wet she appeard blackish and would look black at a distance or in cover. I have worked with other scientist researching Eastern Puma Concolor. All the reports that I have studied from 1940 - present when mentioning a large black cougar in Appalachia have been viewed at some distance. In different lighting and shadows my cougar would appear very very dark. I have also noted the difference in shading on these cats depending on their specific habitat. Many of the cougars I have seen from say Arizona are more reddish those in Colorado are more tan. The Floridia cats are again much different even still.

  3. Any idea if the alleged white-throated black jaguar may factor into this?

  4. I have added a small section re the mysterious white-throated Brazilian black jaguar or onça-canguçú to my article above - check it out. All the best, Karl

    1. Karl Can you state for an ABSOLUTE Fact it would be IMPOSSIBLE for a Black Jaguar from mating with a North American Mountain lion? If you can't is is possible this hybrid is what people are seeing?

    2. Hi Doomsheep, Obviously it is impossible for anyone to state anything for an ABSOLUTE fact. However, in this particular instance, the following provisos apply: firstly, jaguars even of a normal colouration are extremey rare in the USA, and black ones do not ever seem to have been confirmed there, so that mitigates against one mating with a mountain lion (puma) to begin with. Then there is the question of how very unlikely a mating between these two very different species would be in the wild. Only one alleged (not confirmed) jaguar x puma hybrid has ever been reported from the wild, and that was in South America, not North America. It has occurred in captivity, but only between animals raised together from cubs and hence fully acclimatised to one another. The two species are very different in build and behaviour, arguing against the likelihood of mating in the wild state. And even if they did, their offspring would be very unlikely to reproduce as first-generation hybrids are generally sterile. Moreover, the mutant gene responsible for melanism in the jaguar is different from the one responsible for melanism in virtually all other cat species, plus melanism has never been confirmed at all in the puma, so even if a black jaguar did somehow manage to mate successfully with a puma in the wild, there is no guarantee that the resulting offspring would be black. In short, to answer your question, the chance of a black jaguar mating with a puma/mountain lion and producing black offspring, and in sufficient quantities moreover to explain the numerous sightings of big black cats all over North America, is so unlikely it is next to impossible, IMHO. All the best, Karl

  5. This fascinating article certainly answers the question I've often asked myself; "Why have I only ever heard of black pumas with regards to the mystery big cat phenomenon?" Clearly, the scarcity of such creatures is the solution to that.

    I've also always been puzzled by the suggestion of the melanistic jaguar or leopard as a putative identity for such mystery animals. I was of the understanding that such animals are rare mutations even in the countries in which they live naturally. In which case, for any breeding populations to exist in Britain, where black big cat reports seem to be the most common mystery animal sighting, wouldn't we expect more spotted versions to be reported? Or, are there breeding populations, perhaps in captivity, of melanistic big cats? Is that even possible?

  6. there are indeed breeding melanistic leopards in the UK - I saw one twice in 2000 and another in 2008. Due to the recessive gene black parents only produce black offspring and black leopards were most certainly the pet to keep - alongside puma, lion, leopard cat - in the 1960s and released in the same decade but mostly during the '70s and '80s. I know of no leopards of normal pelage being seen consistently in the British Isles.

    there is no evidence to suggest there are melanistic pumas in the UK. Strangely, I too now own a copy of the 'black puma' print and have mentioned many escapees in my recent MYSTERY ANIMALS OF THE BRITISH ISLES: LONDON book

  7. http://www.bigcats.org.uk/index.html If you scroll down on this link you will find that there is a picture of a black puma in the Drayton Manor Zoo I hope this helps!

  8. Hi Julia, Thanks for your message, but the animal in that photo is a black leopard (aka black panther), not a black puma. I know this park's zoo well, as I live quite near to it and have visited it many times. It has a pair of black leopards, but no pumas or normal spotted leopards. All the best, Karl

    1. I just saw a black puma, about 60 lbs. Run out of my concrete tubes (culvert), streaking up the hill on my property in 27 de Abril, Guanacaste, broad daylight. Email me if you are interested to know more theransnyder@gmail.com

  9. The Jaguarete and Felis bicolor sound a lot like they refer to the jaguarundi. The jaguarundi does indeed come in two color morphs, a reddish color and a dark, almost melanistic version which has the lighter, slaty colored underparts. The habits described at one point seem like they could fit this smaller cat as well. And taking into consideration that many reported sightings are going to be from people who are inexperienced or unaware of such a creature, or they are sightings that happen very briefly, at night, or in heavy brush, I think it's quite likely that someone could see a jaguarundi and see it as a creature that is much larger or different than what it actually was, and may try to place it as something they've seen before, like a melanistic puma.

    1. Because of the distinctly paler underside of the jaguarete and F. bicolor, I don't think that they could be explained by the dark phase of the jaguarundi, as this is uniformly dark, but I do think that sightings of the latter cat may explain some sightings of apparent black panthers in the USA.

  10. I've lived in Sarasota county and Charlotte county Fl most of my life and people have seen black panthers more often than cougars including me.In 1966 when I was 12 I was on a school bus going to Englewood from North Port around 8am when I seen a black panther run across the road right in front of the bus.It lept across the road in about 3 leaps and was gone.It was totally black and had a long tail and like I said earlier there has been more sightings of black panthers than cougars.There was a story in the paper in the 80s about a mother with cubs went after a old person on a 3 wheeler and the person had to put the bike between the panther and himself until a car came by and chased it away.

  11. The Herrero photo appears to be a forced perspective view, with the herdsman standing in line but behind the cat to make it seem bigger - could this be another species or an immature puma?

    1. The Herrero cat's black moustache muzzle marking is a characteristic of the puma, so it is definitely a puma, but I agree that forced perspective may be making it look bigger than it actually is, so a juvenile rather than an adult puma cannot be ruled out for its identity.

  12. Hello, I am fascinated by this article. I am an fictional animal artist and I was wondering if it would be ok to draw some of the fictional cats that were mentioned. I'm not sure about the laws and copyright stuff. :)

  13. Hi Moxy, Yes, as long as you don't copy the existing illustrations here but prepare your own original ones based upon the verbal descriptions, that's fine, as that doesn't break any copyright laws. I'd love to see any of your fictional cat artwork when you've completed them! All the best, Karl

  14. Black 'puma' seen several places in this area, several times,several people. As large as a German Shepherd with a very long tail, solid black, stalking small animals, and cats.

  15. I live in the diablo range of San bonito county CA. The farmers see and kill black pumas all the time. They hang circle hooks of meat from the trees to kill them so they don't attack the livestock. There are sooo many large cats around here. Just this week I saw a 50 lb bobcat that had no spots or any markings.

  16. The black pumas they see around here are really dark dark brown. They have a short life span, can't reproduce, look scruffy. How they know of the lifespan and reproduction aspects...who knows. It was amazing last week getting that close to a large cat in the wild. I'm talking ten feet away for a few minutes seeming like eternity! The large bobcat last year had all the markings, I thought it a lynx though being around 40 lbs. this one last week was such a solid color and big. Just a faint hint of stripes by the bob of the tail.

  17. If they kill black pumas all the time, why haven't they ever saved a carcase of one and submitted it for formal scientific identification and examination? To date, no scientifically confirmed black puma has EVER been documented from North America - fact. So if you can obtain a specimen of one of these black felids being regularly killed in your region, please do so and submit it for identification to a local museum, or even a vet. It would be a major scientific discovery if proven to be a genuine black puma.

  18. I have some VERY recent pics taken from a deer camera in Oklahoma. Can you help me identify it as a potential candidate for being a melanistic puma? We are not sure if it's a leopard, puma, or what but it's definitely out in the woods. I've seen several all over the place... in fact I've seen more black ones than tan but this is the first time that anyone in this area has caught one on camera.

  19. Hi Jade, Yes, I'd be very interested in seeing your pics. You can email them to me at: karlshuker@aol.com
    All the best, Karl

    1. here's a video of a black cougar:

    2. This is not a genuine black cougar, it is a normal one that has been dyed black - the video that you refer to is a clip from the 1977 Wonderful World of Disney film 'The Ghost of Cypress Swamp'. The whole film can be viewed on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0fzmDQ5RtQ&feature=youtu.be and the clip that you refer to begins at 1.25:10 and continues with a brief break featuring the dog's owner going for a gun for the next couple of minutes. And no, the dog isn't killed, not even in fiction - this is a Disney family film. I know that the cougar is dyed because there are a few clips of it in the film where the dye has worn off one of its shoulders, revealing its normal brown-red fur colouration, plus the fact that if it had been a real black cougar it would have been one of the biggest, most famous stars in Hollywood in its own right!

    3. I've just blogged about this video clip here: http://karlshuker.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/walt-disney-and-black-puma-that-never.html
      which gives the real facts behind it.

  20. My Mom told me that they have a black cougar near her place, eating dogs and deer. I looked up this article and she answered me back with the name of a gentlemen that lives near it and may have taken pictiures of it.

    They are near Poplar Bay, Pigeon Lake, Alberta, Canada.

    If you would like contact info you can send me an email at:



    PS I once slept in a tent near a cougar in heat that did an amazing shriek howl for probably more than an hour. That was near the town of "Rosebud" in northern california, where they had a large population of cougars in 1993.

    1. my boyfriend saw one in Alberta yesterday as well. 2 hours from Grande Prairie

    2. With all due respect, your boyfriend saw something that to him looked like a black puma, but without any physical evidence to examine, such an identity cannot be verified. I receive many accounts from people claiming to have seen black pumas - my response is: if they are so common, why has not a single specimen ever been obtained and scientifically examined anywhere in the whole of North America?

  21. In 2010 just outside Lyons Mississippi we came very close to running over a very large black cat. This is in the Delta area of Mississippi and with in a few miles of the river. It was night but the cat was in full view in high beam. At first I thought it was two black labs playing in the hwy but as soon as my wife slammed on brakes we could tell it was one large black cat. From the tip of tail to the tip of its nose was over 6 feet. We raise and breed English Mastiffs so we are very used to seeing very big dogs, that being said we did not mistake a house cat or a dog for it. I can not say I saw a black puma but I can say we saw a 6 foot close to 200 pound black cat.

  22. My mother and I saw a Black Panther near Bemidji Minnesota. It was in the winter it had just snowed. The giant black cat approached the road and we stopped the car. It walked around in front our car, pacing and whipping it's tail. It's coat was shiny and black. It had yellow eyes. It seemed fearless. We turned on our headlights to illuminate it even more and it snarled and then bolted off. We often told people about the event and one day I was informed of another sighting about 4 miles away that same year. It was a huge, pitch black cat, at least 6 feet from it's nose to it's tail. Beautiful and scary.

  23. It's folklore plus linguistics.

    Every TV-watching kid in America knows that "panthers" are black; their spotted sibs being leopards. Hence, as late as my childhood, when certain parts of the US still popularly called puma concolor "panther" (pronounced "painter"), city folks hearing of it assumed it had to be black.

    By the same token, my peers who went out to the country or woods reported seeing "reindeer"--which were actually odocoileus virginia, and not rangifer at all. However, everyone had heard about Santa Claus and his method of locomotion, even if they never paid attention to the blurbs at the zoo or museum.

    The issue's been with us a long time. A student of pre-Columbian America once informed me that the old Nahuatl word from whence we get "ocelot" really meant the jaguar--but we white folks from the Spaniards on down to Scandinavians, Ashkenazi Jews, and Assyrian Christians applied the term to leopardus pardalis.

    Maybe someone's captive melanistic leopard (or two, or three, or four) escaped or got abandoned and went roaming out in the woods. Otherwise, I suspect such reports are linguistic confusion plus folklore and imagination. But if people reported seeing a "brown panther" in my eastern US neighborhood, then I'd call the wildlife authorities.

    1. Yes, I agree that linguistics certainly muddy the waters when it comes to the question of panthers in the USA, just as tigers do in relation to jaguars in Latin America. Having said that, there is no doubt that some exceptionally large black cats are being seen in the USA, the problem is that without physical evidence of such animals to examine, their taxonomic identity cannot be conclusively ascertained.

    2. Now, maybe this sounds ridiculous coming from a guy who goes to church and reads a chapter or two of the Bible every day (we are, after all, supposed to be especially stupid and credulous folks), but I can't help but notice that people in America see flying saucers, little green or gray men, the Jersey Devil, and Elvis Presley walking around alive.

      Now, maybe if someone came up with at least a little hair or scat that DNA testing would associate with some kind of large felid; or if Elvis Presley showed up, submitted to a fingerprint test and proved to be the real guy, saying he wanted to get out of the limelight for a while or something, I'd be a bit more willing to credit reports of "black panthers" running wild in these here United States.

    3. Yeah, people report melanistic or otherwise unusual animals all the time. You most often hear these reports from areas of the country wherein said animals are not known to reside. I think much of it is "wishful sighting."

  24. I was really glad that there were two of us seeing this beautiful giant black cat. We can validate each other. We don't care what people want to call it officially but there was no confusion as to what we saw.
    It was a giant, all black cat that looked similar to a mountain lion, maybe a little sleeker, jet black and yellow eyes.

    1. Patricia Rose, Am I interested in your experience. In the mid 1970's, I had a similar experience near Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. I saw a 100 lb or so black cat at the edge of the woods sleeking; it was close enough that I could tell it wasn't a dog or other animal, but what looks to my like a black panther. The way it was sleeking along was just like a cat... and the long tail is memorable along with the head. This is a lot of years ago, but the memory is so engrained in my mind, I can still see the scene. I was the passenger, so I had plenty of time to study the animal. Growing up on a farm with animals, I was pretty good at identifying form. For me, I was shocked to see this as I didn't know that black panthers could be around. We just though that possibly a zoo animal got loose.

  25. In the first two books of the 'little house' autobiography series by Laura Ingalls Wilder panthers are mentioned. One in Wisconsin where it hunted Laura's grandfather, the tracks of another were seen by a stream- also in Wisconsin and a third was seen by Laura's father and eventually was shot by a member of a nearby native american tribe.
    The panthers are described as having a high pitched scream that is very similair to a woman screaming and hunt by dropping down onto their prey from trees.
    Here is the most detailed description in the books:

    "One night Pa looked at Black Susan, stretching herself before the fire and running her claws out and in, and he said:

    "Do you know that a panther is a cat, a great, big wild cat?"

    "No," said Laura.

    "Well, it is," said Pa. "Just imagine Black Susan bigger than Jack, and fiercer than Jack when he growls. Then she would be just like a panther."

    He settled Laura and Mary more comfortably on his knees and he said, "I'll tell you about Grandpa and the panther."

    "Your Grandpa?" Laura asked.

    "No, Laura, your Grandpa. My father."

    "Oh," Laura said, and she wriggled closer against Pa's arm. She knew her Grandpa. He lived far away in the Big Woods, in a big log house. Pa began:

    The Story of Grandpa and the Panther.

    "Your Grandpa went to town one day and was late starting home. It was dark when he came riding his horse through the Big Woods, so dark that he could hardly see the road, and when he heard a panther scream he was frightened, for he had no gun."

    "How does a panther scream?" Laura asked.

    "Like a woman," said Pa. "Like this." Then he screamed so that Laura and Mary shivered with terror.

    Ma jumped in her chair, and said, "Mercy, Charles!"

    But Laura and Mary loved to be scared like that.

    "The horse, with Grandpa on him, ran fast, for it was frightened, too. But it could not get away from the panther. The panther followed through the dark woods. It was a hungry panther, and it came as fast as the horse could run. It screamed now on this side of the road, now on the other side, and it was always close behind.

    "Grandpa leaned forward in the saddle and urged the horse to run faster. The horse was running as fast as it could possibly run, and still the panther screamed close behind.

    "Then Grandpa caught a glimpse of it, as it leaped from treetop to treetop, almost overhead.

    "It was a huge, black panther, leaping through the air like Black Susan leaping on a mouse. It was many, many times bigger than Black Susan. It was so big that if it leaped on Grandpa it could kill him with its enormous, slashing claws and its long sharp teeth.

    "Grandpa, on his horse, was running away from it just as a mouse runs from a cat.

    "The panther did not scream any more. Grandpa did not see it any more. But he knew that it was coming, leaping after him in the dark woods behind him. The horse ran with all its might.

    "At last the horse ran up to Grandpa's house. Grandpa saw the panther springing. Grandpa jumped off the horse, against the door. He burst through the door and slammed it behind him. The panther landed on the horse's back, just where Grandpa had been.

    "The horse screamed terribly, and ran. He was running away into the Big Woods, with the panther riding on his back and ripping his back with its claws. But Grandpa grabbed his gun from the wall and got to the window, just in time to shoot the panther dead.

    "Grandpa said he would never again go into the Big Woods without his gun"

    1. Thank you so much for posting this, as its description of a mystery black panther shows that back in the days when these books were first published (early 1930s), such animals were known about and being seen. The creature's high-pitched scream is instantly reminiscent of a puma's, so perhaps it really was a melanistic puma. But without physical evidence, we can only ever speculate, sadly.

    2. Did Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandfather actually say that the panther was black? By the scream, I'd guess it's puma concolor, coupled how lots of people who shot the ones that bothered the livestock called them "panthers" (and would've described them as brown could they come back from the dead).

    3. In the story it says it was black, but yes, a brown or dark brown animal would likely appear black during the night.

  26. I live in the okanagan valley of BC CANADA. I have photos of a large black cat the size of a mature black bear. The pictures are from a distance as I have enjoyed seeing such a rare large cat. Almost every morning he/she is in my sights.

    1. There is a gentleman by the name of Alfred Willis who has written a book entitled, "Black Panthers: Little Known North American Treasure". He has interviewed many people who have seen and/or had experiences with these animals, as has he, himself. He is gathering information for a second book and would love to speak with anyone having any such experience. He especially would love to see photos. Please contact him at 2740 Perkinsville Road; Maidens, VA 23102, or at Panther Research LLC, P.O. Box 298, Goochland, VA 23063; phone 804-556-5076.

    2. There is a gentleman by the name of Alfred Willis who has written a book entitled, "Black Panther: Little Known North American Treasure". He has interviewed many people who have seen and/or had experiences with these animals, as has he, himself. He is gathering information for a second book and would love to speak with anyone having any such experience. He especially would love to see photos. Please contact him at 2740 Perkinsville Road; Maidens, VA 23102, or at Panther Research LLC, P.O. Box 298, Goochland, VA 23063; phone 804-556-5076.

    3. I am sure I saw a huge black cat alongside the Nooksack River near the Washington/British Columbia border yesterday, also the size of a mature bear, and about three times the size of the male lab I was with.

  27. My name is Kolemann and I work for a tree trimming company contracted with power companies in western Kansas. I was working in Russell Springs, a very rural nearly deserted settlement, this last week when I saw something I couldn't explain. One block in front of me I witnessed a very large black cat the approximate size of a mountain lion running across a vacant lot at high speed looking for cover. I saw it for a mere 30 seconds but it was close enough for me to see it had absolutely no pattern in its fur and was completely black from head to the tip of its tail and large enough for me to be somewhat concerned for my safety. I have been perplexed by this encounter since and seek some rational explanation to my sighting. It may be irrelevant but while driving to work that very day I saw two antelope and know mountain lions will follow these animals perhaps this animal was also. If anyone has suggestions or answers to my dilemma please email me at kolemannmp@gmail.com

  28. 5 years ago we were travelling on highway 96 in northern California. It was evening my bright lights were on on the side of the highway was high Brown dry grass we saw in the grass huge blueish eyes we slowed down and in the grass we all saw a huge head and shoulders crouched down of a huge black cat....in the rugged mountains of this area their have been stories going back to the 1800s of big black cat attacks.

  29. I grew up in Edmond Oklahoma, my mother and I, and a neighbor also on the road headed opposite direction, had a huge black panther looking animal cross in front of our cars in the headlights. Pure shiny black, with yellow greenish eyes. We were absolutely shocked. We were on our wooded neighborhood street in North Edmond Oklahoma back before it was fully developed the way it is now. I don't think my mother ever reported it. Dont know if the other person in the other card did.

  30. In Edmond Oklahoma, my mother and I, had a black panther looking animal cross in front of our car in the headlights on our wooded neighbor hood street. It was a huge pure black shiny cat with yellow greenish eyes. We were extremely shocked. Another car approaching us from the opposite direction saw it as well. We were afraid to let our dogs out off leash for a very long time! I don't think my mother ever reported it. Not sure if the other person reported it either. I've always wondered exactly what it was and where it possibly could have come from. Looked like it should have been from the zoo. We had never heard of black cats in Oklahoma. It was huge, probably 6ft long! Had trouble getting this comment to post, hope it doesn't end up posted repeatedly?

  31. Hello, I am here researching black pumas because a rancher here in Mexico,Baja Norte, told me that there was one getting their goats up in the hills. You never know what to believe?

  32. I saw a black puma first hand in Leavenworth Washington in 2001-2, it was summer maybe June or July. It was maybe 100-150 yards from me across the river clear as day. I watched it walk down river, so big, so agile.

  33. I saw a black puma first hand in Leavenworth Washington on the summer of 2002. I was at the river and it was on the other side maybe 100-150 yards from me. It was mid day no shadows, I watched it's full profile walking.

  34. I live in Chicago but was driving in through Montana three days ago, about 28 miles south east of Lewistown on west 200MT. As I drove, a black figure cought my eye in the field to the right of me. As I approached closer, I could see that it was a large cat only about 50 yards from the road. The cat was pitch black, had a thick tail over two feet long and about 55 to 60 pounds based off the size of our 40 pound dog at home. The cat was slowly stalking through the field as if it was sneaking up on pray. I knew that this was something significant and needed to be posted. i felt like I had just seen something on the level of Bigfoot, but the fact is this cat was right there! Anyone driving west bound would be able to see this super rare event!!!

  35. Enjoyed ur article very much. I have been an avid hunter and wild animal enthusiast over 35 years. Being from the south and my knowledge of its wild animals and birds (nc/sc stateline mountain area) I am to constantly called about someone who has seen a black panther. I try to go check the area of the sightings if its within an hour drive and give my opinion. I have set out trail cameras multiple times at these areas,checked tracks,scat and livestock/deer kills,etc. Unfortunately I have never seen a single piece of evidence to prove their existence. What I see or find is juvenile black bear,bobcat,coyotes,large dogs and large common house cats. When the day comes that I see one alive,dead or even a trail cam pic of my own.... I will possibly believe. However, chances are even then it will be a melanistic couger, melanistic bobcat, someones pet or zoo escapee. Ive done a pile of research myself and have never even heard of scientists finding a true panthers remains or fossils in my area. The screams people hear at night are generally bobcats. "Do cougars exsist here in my area?" is another question im asked constantly. There is no proof of this that ive seen either as far as them making this area their home. They did 100 years or so ago. Its possible that we get a roaming cougar from time to time. One was killed in central Georgia few years back that had came all the way from the glades. The one that was killed on Pennsylvania highway few years ago had traveled all the way from the Dakotas. So yes they can roam but is not the norm. Most time it is juvenile male that has been drove from his area by a dominant male and his natural compass goes haywire. He basically just sets out in wrong direction to find a new life in search of food and a mate. 25 years ago there were no coyotes in my area or anywhere within couple hundred miles of here. Now they are everywhere. So yes anything can migrate, but I dont think it possible that a black planther has swam the atlantic ocean from Africa and Asia to get here......

    1. Your account is the one that sounds credible to me--I'm just a reader, zoo goer, and sightseer. But I'll readily listen to outdoorsmen/hunters/wildlife biolgists.

    2. You seem to equate the term black panther only with melanistic leopards in your comment about them swimming the Atlantic to get here. The black panthers native to North and South America are melanistic jaguars.

    3. I use the term 'black panther' in its strictest zoological sense, i.e. as an alternative term for melanistic leopards. It is only used re melanistic jaguars in a colloquial sense - formal scientific papers do not refer to melanistic jaguars as black panthers.

  36. I was chatting with my mother today about a cougar that was spotted near town recently. She then began telling me about a black cougar her and two friends saw in a remote area of northwestern California, Del Norte County, some 18 or so years ago. She remembered how they were all stunned that it was black. I did some research today to find out how common they are and found this post. I told her she had a better chance of spotting Bigfoot than a black cougar! Bill......

  37. Panthera onca as a species had a late Pleistocene range that extended as far north as Canada, the species was not formerly restricted to tropical/sub tropical habitats. Like Panthera pardus, Panthera leo and Puma concolor they can withstanding a wide range of habitats,temperatures and prey species and occurred in different subspecies. It's improbable but not implausible that the early sightings of large, melanistic cats in North America were the last remnants of the North American subspecies of Panthera onca or recent colonists from the south filling the vacuum after the late Quaternary extinction.

  38. I understand skepticism, I realize the odds against these sightings. But I know what I saw last summer. We have found whales that have been put on the books as extinct for hundred of years why is it so outrageous to believe a land animal is still alive? This magestic creature roams our lands and derserves our respect and admiration, most of all our protection from those who would seek to destroy it for its rarity.

    1. Hi there, Thanks very much for your comment. However, please do understand that I'm not saying that it is outrageous that a black puma could exist - all that I am pointing out is that despite countless claimed sightings of such animals, no physical evidence (i.e. a carcase or part of one) for the reality of black pumas has ever been obtained and submitted for scientific examination, which seems odd if such creatures exist and are as widespread and common as the frequency and range of sightings would seem to indicate. As you have correctly pointed out, whales have been found that were previously believed extinct for long periods of time, but the operative word here is FOUND, not merely seen, i.e. actual carcases or skeletal remains have been found that have been examined and duly identified. So for black pumas in North America to be recognised by science, tangible physical evidence is required. Sightings are only deemed to be anecdotal evidence, however good they may be, because they cannot be physically examined independently by others. Like you, I think it likely that there are unusually-coloured pumas out there, but without physical evidence they cannot be recognised, sadly. All the best, Dr Karl Shuker

  39. My wife and I beleive we saw a black puma cross near house in the Kansas Country side this past Sat. We know what we saw was not a canine and way too big to be a large domesticated cat. It moved like a big cat. Very unsettling to us as we have 3 young daughters.

  40. I had no idea Black Panthers were controversial. I've seen two in my life. One in San Augustine County, Texas around 1979. The other about two weeks ago in Kendall County, Texas. There were four of us that watched it walk across a field with a clear view in bright sunlight. All four of us had our phones and cameras and none of us thought to take a picture. I now understand they may not exist, but that hasn't stopped me from seeing two of them.

  41. my wife son and i saw a large black cougar on read island in bc canada several years ago. we did not know they were rare. we were very close as we were on a boat on a dock and the cat walked the rocks along the beach less than 50 yards away and did not see us inside our boat. we watched for about 2 minutes till it went out of sight. we saw its long tail and long body and were so surprised we forgot to even take a picture. only later did we learn that they supposedly do not exist. there were three of us at close range in good light for a couple of minutes who saw this. sorry no photo. seems like almost a mystical beast.

  42. Hello Karl,
    What is your opinion on felis dorsalis aka the Dorsal jaguar ?

    1. Only just noticed this comment, sorry. Quite possibly a partially pseudo-melanistic jaguar, with coalescing of rosettes dorsally creating the black saddle effect, as has been recorded from certain pseudo-melanistic leopards.

  43. I live in Eatonville,WA and saw a black cougar run across the road close to where I live. I live in an isolated area and it scared the crap out of me. If I had to guess I would say the creature was 80-100lbs. I didn't want to tell many people because I didn't want to sound crazy!

    1. I too have seen one and people are thinking im crazy but I know what I saw. Theyvsaying I am on drugs but I am a clean living Christian do not drink smoke or take drugs even perscription ones. I was very alert when I saw it, it was all black and had an extremely long tail

    2. they will hunt and kill it best thing to do is let neighbors know or make sure wild life experts relocate the animal do not just let them take care of the matter with out following up on the animals and them actually proving and showing the re release the animal. the Brazilian black cat is a puma, naturally a jaguar grows larger quicker and reaches its max weigh before a puma, but a puma max weigh far exceeds a jaguar. a puma is larger but they get hunted before reaching max weigh.natives do not mix up the all black Brazilian cat from a spotted all black jaguars, its usually explores and researches that try to teach people who have been living with these animals over 2000 years what it is. and they are the ones mixed up not the natives, the large male lion size black cat is a puma.

    3. Not sure where you have obtained your info, Jay fresh, but the max weight of a puma most definitely does NOT far exceed that of a jaguar - indeed, it doesn't even come close. The max weight of a jaguar exceeds 300 lb, famously making it the third largest and heaviest cat in the world, exceeded only by the lion and tiger. And you have no idea who mixes up what in relation to black pumas and jaguars; to say so categorically that the native people don't, especially in view of what I have documented here, is total unsubstantiated speculation on your part.

    4. I have received additional comments from Jay fresh re his claim that the puma exceeds the maximum weight of the jaguar, but I shall not be posting them here because the claim is totally nonsensical - the jaguar is unequivocally established as the world's third largest species of wild cat, with occasional confirmed specimens of approximately 350 lb, the size of a small tigress, whereas the largest confirmed puma specimen, shot in 1901, was only 232 lb (over 100 lb lighter than the heaviest jaguars). He has sent me a link to a video that he claims to show a puma as big as the heaviest jaguar, but this animal turns out to be an obese captive specimen with no actual details of its weight; but in any case a puma in the wild would not attain this obese state, which for a species as naturally slender and active as a puma is not normal. I shall not be responding further to comments from this person.

  44. I saw a Black Panther 10 am in the Morning it had a really long tail all black. I live in the country in Western Australia 2 .5 hours from Perth. It was chrystal clear when I saw it it went infront of me whilst I was driving to Perth one morning. Looks like its been killing livestock in our area.

  45. My detailed account for the record...
    I've never publicly told my personal experience before.

    Letter sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    To whom it may concern,
    Last Sunday morning (March 7th, 2009) I was driving southbound on the Florida Turnpike near Leesburg, as I was headed towards the Orlando International Airport. It was at 5:55 AM when I encountered a very large animal, which appeared to me to be a black panther (as strange as that may sound).

    Here is what happened and what I observed:
    The animal ran in full stride directly across the highway in front of my vehicle from the left side, while I was driving at a constant speed of 70 mph set via the cruise control. It first became visible via my left eye's peripheral vision. Instantaneously, I swerved my car towards the left, to avoid a collision. The fact is that it was so close to the front of my car that I actually lost sight of it momentarily, but somehow I missed it. Then in a split second, I could faintly see it lunged across the roadway to my right side.

    The best description I can give:
    The animal I observed was completely jet black, (not dark brown). It had a low profile physique, and a muscular looking torso and relatively muscular legs. It easily stood at a height of 1-1/2 - 2 ft. to the shoulder. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that what I saw was a feline type of species, as opposed to some other type of cat. It was much too large and heavy, with big paws. I would estimate that the body alone was approximately 36 inches long, with a large head and relatively small ears. The tail was very long, a minimum of 18 inches, and like a heavy 3” thick mooring rope, like a typical cougar. I would conservatively estimate the weight at 110 - 120 lbs, based on my familiarity with other wild animals. For comparison of scale and weight, my wife had a 168 lb. St Bernard dog and it appeared smaller than that according to her. I didn't see it head on, but my wife did, and vividly recalls it’s muscular body and it’s bright yellow eyes.
    When it ran in front of the car, the end of it's thick, tail flipped above the hood on my car, from the change in the air, or perhaps the animal readjusted it's balance to make the final leap.
    Although I slowed down the car as we passed it, for a better look behind me, I lost sight of it. Not knowing the safety risk of an encounter, we decided not to stop the car or get out of the car. Frankly it scared us, and I wanted to get away from the area immediately.

    I had my fog lights turned on so there was plenty of bright light, providing clear vision.

    My wife observed exactly the same thing I did at the same time. She had a better view of the animals face and eyes than I did as it approached our car. I would be willing to take a polygraph test to confirm I am speaking the truth.

    The reason I am sending this message is that I feel compelled to notify the state authorities for the purpose of communicating my experience, so others may be on the lookout for this potentially dangerous and equally rare animal, and to substantiate what it actually is.
    Mr. Michael Blouch

  46. Excerpts from a letter sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

    To whom it may concern,
    On March 7th, 2009 my wife and I were driving southbound on the Florida Turnpike near Leesburg, headed towards the Orlando Airport.

    Here is what happened and what we observed:
    The animal ran in full stride directly across the highway in front of my vehicle from the left side, while I was driving at a constant cruise controlled speed of 70 mph. It first became visible via my left eye's peripheral vision. When it lunged onto the road I instinctively swerved my car towards the left to avoid a collision. It was so close to the front of my car that I actually lost sight of it momentarily. Then in a split second, I could faintly see it jump across the roadway off to my right side, and it quickly disappeared into the brush, on the shoulder of the road, as I reacted and slowed down.

    The best description I can give is as follows:
    The animal we observed was completely jet black, not dark brown and with NO rosette markings in it's coat. It had a low profile physique, and a muscular looking torso and muscular legs. It stood at a height 1-1/2 to 2 ft. tall to the shoulder. It was large and heavy, with big paws. I would estimate that the body size alone was 36 inches long, with a large head and relatively small ears. The tail was notably very long and a minimum of 24 inches, and thick like a 3” mooring rope, and dense, like a cougar’s. I would conservatively estimate the weight to be 120 pounds. For comparison of scale and weight, my wife had a 168 lb. St Bernard dog and it appeared smaller than that. I did not see it's face or eyes or teeth head-on, just a very quick glancing profile view, but my wife did observe it longer, and vividly recalls it’s muscular body it’s bright yellow eyes.

    When it ran in front of the car, the end of it's thick, heavy tail briefly flipped above the hood on my car - it was that close! As I said before, much to my surprise I missed hitting it! Although I slowed down the car as we passed it, for a better look behind me, I completely lost sight of it. I decided not to stop the car or get out of the vehicle to search for it for safety reasons.

    To further validate my experience and the story I explained above, I would be willing to take a polygraph test to confirm I am speaking the truth.

    The reason I am sending this message to the FFWCC is that I feel compelled to notify the state authorities for the purpose of communicating my unexpected experience, so others may be on the lookout for this potentially dangerous and equally rare animal, and to substantiate what it actually is.

    Mr. Michael Blouch

  47. Definite Black Cougar. Duchesne River in Utah at the confluence with Wolf Creek. Fishing midstream I look up and saw a very large pitch black cat with a long tail is padding along the river bank, ten yards away. The cat doesn't see me. I then whistle for my friend 15 yards downstream fishing to look up and see it. The cat stops and turns to me, slowly looks me up and down for 5 or 6 seconds. Definitely Cougar, I have seen many, round face, triangle ears. He decides he doesn't want to get wet and pads off upstream. Huge paw prints on bank show he extended claws when I whistled and he turned to me.
    Follow up, a week later my friend is at Strawberry Reservoir watching Kokanee run, sees a DWR guy and tells him the story. DWR officer says, "You saw him? I saw him two years ago at the top of Wolf Creek drainage and nobody will believe me"
    For what it's worth, he was ten yards away, looked right at me, walked slowly, I know what I saw. I have over 40 years living in the mountains of Utah and Montana.

  48. I live in Austin Texas and work as a farrier all around the city and have met several people who have or know those who have encountered large black cats in the area around Dale, Lytton springs and west of Lockart in the Mac Mahan area. One client whose neighbor saw a huge black panther cross her driveway at night from her car just feet away around the same time had all her cats killed and decapitated whilst her mastiff dog went missing for several days only to return severly mauled and with festering shoulder wound that I observed 2 weeks later. It had mostly healed by then but the hair had yet to grow back and the skin was still peeling. There were 4 long distinct claw marks spread 11 inches apart because I measured them. I have large hands and this was twice as wide as I could spread my four fingers. I'm no expert but I think this puts this in the Jaguar size category which jibes with the neighbors description of the cat being as tall as the hood of her car and at least as long as the width of the car if not the driveway.

  49. In 1987 my youngest daughter and I were driving in the mountains east of Bountiful Utah and on our way down the mountain a very large jet-black male Puma came down the bank to cross the road about 60 feet in front of my car. He stopped and looked at us. I had stopped too. My daughter, about 8 at the time asked me, "What do we do?"
    I said, "Roll up your window."
    The big cat studied us for like 7 seconds and then went on his way down the trail on the other side of the road that he had just crossed. I didn't have a camera with me.
    I didn't know at the time that black pumas were said to be a myth, but I found out soon enough. It could not have been a leopard or Jaguar, he stood taller and lighter in weight that one of those big cats. Could it have been a hybrid? Possibly. I just know he was startlingly big, had classic Puma lines and was coal black.

  50. When I was about 12, my father and I saw a huge black cat - the strangest part of this story is that it was in the city of Philadelphia. We were by the Delaware river; it crept out from some bushes next to a building and slowly walked out of sight. I absolutely know what I saw. It was maybe 50 yards away. And then, about 10 years later, I was watching a show about strange animal sightings and low and behold, there was a segment about big black car sightings in the PA, NY and NJ area. I was dumbfounded. I indeed encountered a large and mysterious black cat in the eastern US.

  51. I seen a black cougar on the mountain just off Westsyde road towards karindale road in kamloops BC about 25 years ago. Told my folks I seen a panther. No one believed me but I tell yah what I seen it as a kid so there's no telling me otherwise.

  52. I've been interested in cougar sightings in the East(I live in North Carolina) since childhood, and find that the Big Cat sighting phenomenon has a LOT in common with Bigfoot and giant water critter sightings! Although I think we WILL have a reproducing population of cougars here eventually(especially in the Appalachian Mountain chain, which is IDEAL cougar habitat), as they expand naturally Eastward, I don't think we do YET. As for the whole black cougar/panther notion, I have had the sad(so sad!) experience of seeing so-called professionals I work with(I work in a large zoo) who were called in to look at a very clear video taken of a supposed "black panther" nearby, by a woman who swore it was as big as a Labrador Retriever. I was asked to look at the video, which was a very nice one of an OBVIOUS black housecat(a BIG old wide-cheeked tom, but felis domesticus, nonetheless!) It also AMAZED me that no one thought to look for TRACKS, as the film was taken during a recent snow. I was sent out to look for tracks, and of course all I found was housecat tracks! A HUGE cage trap was set(my influence and opinion not being valued particularly, and/or just not as interesting!) which eventually caught--you guessed it, a black housecat! But people still denied it and INSISTED they saw a "panther"! The local news crews and law enforcement turned it all into a 3-ring circus--and I learned that yes, many people DO see a black housecat and cry "panther"! Hard as that may be to believe! Even the so-called "experts"! This SAME phenomenon happened a few years later, with this time a tan-colored housecat claimed to be a LIONESS!!(tabby marking clearly visible on it's tail!) It was filmed walking across a frozen pond in North Carolina(where virtually no pond ever freezes enough to support a 250+lb.lioness!) by a woman from her deck, and she was TERRIFIED! Another field day from the local zoo officials, press, and law enforcement, although local Wildlife Officials tried to tell them it was just a housecat. I was not asked my opinion at all this time, having been such as spoilsport during the last go-round!.....to be continued....

  53. :o Soooo many comments! Well, cats are fascinating and inspiring, perhaps more so than any other predators.

    I just want to ask if there's been any results from the DNA analysis of Dr Marc Van Roosmalen's onça-canguçú pelt, or indeed results of comparing its skull. I had a little web search, but found much more about the man than the cat. The only page I found with specific info on the cat (apart from the one to this post) is a wikia article written this year but with no new concrete info over this post. The doctor's own website appears to be in Vietnamese! Perhaps he's now working there, if it's still his website at all. Anyway, given the large number of new species to his credit and his apparent status as a primatologist, I guess the cat may have been pushed down his to-do list. ... I'm obviously a cat-lover, because this possibility annoys me! :)


    1. Sadly, no additional news re the skull or pelt.

    2. Still no update? Reading about it here really peeked my interest, as it reminds me of the one I saw, as impossible as it may be. Even tho authorities claim the Eastern mountain lion is extinct,they're are still mountain lions here, I cant count the number of people I know that's seen them. And even though science claims there is no "black Panthers" here, I know of 5 people that have seen them, most recently a neighbor seen a black one along with a litter of kittens. Years ago we had a game cam picture of what appeared to be a very large, black felid. Nothing concrete of course, but the muscly leg and long tail looked more feline than canine to me. Reading the above description of a black puma being white underneath makes me want to ask the neighbor more specifics about the one he saw. It also made me more confident in what I had seen years ago, for when I had told my friends and family about they told me I must have been mistaken because the black Panthers are solid black and don't have any white on them.
      As I said, Impossible as it may seem, this is what happened:
      Approximately 20 years ago I was riding to town with my grandmother, there was a long straight stretch, maybe several hundred yards or so, and the house at the end of it had a bunch of pine trees planted along the road. As we approached the yard with the trees described, I saw it walking along the road toward us, between the road and the trees. We had to slow down because of sharp turns ahead so I got a pretty good look at it. It looked big, bulky, muscular, had a pretty large cat head, had a long slender tail, it was solid black, except for under his head, when he looked up at the car his neck/chest was white. As I said later on as I told people they said I must have been mistaken because of the white I saw. So reading this has peaked my curiosity even as impossible as it may seem

  54. Very nice page! Learned everything about pumas and their melanistic appearance!!

  55. Captured a different looking mountain lion on my wildlife cam. The cat doesn't appear to be totally black, but much darker than all the other lions I've captured. Any thoughts on this? Here's the link:

    1. Hi Austin, Very interesting video, thanks for linking to it above in your comment! Although not widely realised, the puma (aka mountain lion aka cougar) occurs in two confirmed but very different colour forms or morphs - the familiar brownish-red morph and the less familiar grey morph, which can appear darker than the brown one. I suspect that the first puma in your video is a dark grey puma and the second one the more familiar brown one. I saw on YouTube once a video of two puma cubs next to each other, one of which was brown, the other one dark grey, and they looked very different, with the grey one darker than the brown, and yet both forms can occur within a single litter (thereby proving that they are not separate species or sub species, merely genetically-induced colour forms). I'll see if I can find that video, and if I do I'll post a link to it here. All the best, Karl

  56. Found it, or one very similar to it, featuring a brown puma cub with a grey puma cub, both still possessing spots (which are lost as the cubs grow older): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PntYVa-wst4

    1. Hi Dr.Shuker, thanks so much for posting the video and identifying the puma I captured. This is very interesting knowledge. I've set many trail cams (in Southern California), so I'll be sure to be on the lookout for the mysterious "black puma".

  57. Very nice and interesting article

  58. Biologists are quite mistaken to say that black pumas, (felis concolor) (we've always called them cougars or mountain lions) do not exist. They may be EXTREMELY rare, but at least ONE existed. In 1975 my kid brother Charlie, and his friend, Anthony took my dog for a walk and encountered one. This was in the woods less than 1/2 mile from a subdivision (housing tract) Fairwood West near Renton, King County, Washington State, USA. Not far from Seattle. We frequently heard Cougars from the forested hills not far away. My brother and his friend encountered a black cougar. My dog stood between my brother and his friend and growled and barked. The cougar decided that discretion was the better part of valor and retreated. I'd never heard of a black cougar and neither had my brother. He and his friend were both 7 at the time and I was 21. He did not say "Gray" or "Silver-Gray", or "Dark Brown" he said "Black". I know he was telling the truth because he was TERRIFIED. There are many cougar sitings in our area because humans are building further and further out into the woods. I've never heard of a cougar attacking a human locally. If you e-mail me I will give you a more detailed account. If you send me a mailing address I will send you maps of the area, photos(at least of my brother at & and the dog) and an account from my brother in his words. At the time, I didn't know that there was anything remarkable about a black cougar. Never heard of a gray one. Only in the last couple of years have I had any interest in Cryptozoology and learned they were controversial. Your article said they may have existed once. No doubt a few modern Cougars have inherited some genes from this cat, which though usually unexpressed, rarely produce a throwback. I recently read an article about how many unexpressed genes we have, some even from viruses. Someday, unless someone captures a live example, when the total genome of felis concolor has been sequenced, the matter will be settled. Jon T. Todd (jonttodd@yahoo.com)

  59. About 1985, I saw for several days 2 adolescent cougars, they were jet black. 200 yards, through 10 power binoculars. They were playing together, in the open, in the sun. Location. Los Altos Hills CA.
    In tuolumne County CA, I believe i have seen the same lion twice in 2 years.It was dark brown, like Schreber's drawing above. Both sightings about a mile apart. Last sighting 8/19/20 Location Lyons lake road/trail from Confidence, the old rail bed. I biked up behind the lion both times, about 200 feet away.
    Say what you want, this is what I saw.