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PUMA, a name, probably of native origin, introduced into European literature by the early Spanish writers on South America (as Garcilaso de la Vega and Hernandez) for one of the largest cats (Felis concolor) of the New World. It is generally called " couguar " by the French, " Icon " by the Spanish Americans, and " panther " by the Anglo-American hunters of the United States (see CARNIVORA). Though often spoken of as the American lion, chiefly on account of its colour, it rather resembles the leopard of the Old World in size and habits: usually measuring from nose to root of tail about 40 in., the tail being rather more than half that length. The head is small compared with that of other cats and has no mane. The ears are large and rounded. The tail is cylindrical, with some bushy elongation of the hairs near the end, but not forming a distinct tuft. The general colour of the upper parts and sides of the adult is a tawny yellowish brown, sometimes having a grey or silvery shade, but in some cases dark or inclining to red; and upon these and other differences, which are probably constant locally, a number of sub-species have been named. The lower parts, inner surface of the limbs, throat, chin and upper Up are dirty white; the outside of the ears, particularly at their base, and a patch on each side of the muzzle black; the end of the tail dusky. The young are, when first born, spotted with dusky brown and the tail ringed. These markings generally fade, and quite disappear before the animal becomes full grown.

The puma has an exceedingly wide range of geographical distribution, extending over a hundred degrees of latitude, from Canada in the north to Patagonia in the south, and formerly was generally diffused in suitable localities from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, but the advances of civilization have curtailed the extent of the districts which it inhabits. In The Puma (Felis concolor).

Central America it is still common in the dense forests which clothe the mountain ranges as high as 8000 or 9000 ft. above the sea level. Though an expert climber, it is by no means confined to wooded districts, being frequently found in scrub and reeds along the banks of rivers, and even in the open pampas and prairies. Its habits much resemble those of the rest of the group to which it belongs; and, like the leopard, when it happens to come within reach of an abundant and easy prey, as the sheep or calves of an outlying farming station, it kills far more than it can eat, either for the sake of the blood only or to gratify its propensity for destruction. It rarely attacks man, and when pursued escapes if possible by ascending trees. Several instances have occurred of pumas becoming tame in captivity. Edmund Kean, the actor, had one which followed him about like a dog. When caressed pumas purr like domestic cats.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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