People usually call Panther to any big black cat, I did so until I watched Apocalypto and saw they were calling the black cat Jaguar which confused me. (I have no biology knowledge)

It was kind of a shock to discover that Tigers and Lions, among other species, where Panthers too, and it surprises people when I tell them.
Does anybody know why and when this started to happen?

* I realize this might not be related to biology but actually to popular culture, but I couldn't find a stackexchange site about that.


1 Answer 1


Tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards are all different species. Panthera is a genus, a broader classification than a species. Tigers are Panthera tigris, lions are Panthera leo, and jaguars are Panthera pardus. In each cases the formal species name is the genus followed by the species identifier. Common usage rarely gives a hoot about the subtleties of biological classification.

Your initial impression was correct: any member of the Panthera genus that has a black coat is called a black panther. In South America they are jaguars, in Africa and Asia they are leopards.

  • $\begingroup$ Now I am somehow wondering if there could be black tigers. $\endgroup$
    – skymningen
    Feb 23, 2017 at 13:21
  • $\begingroup$ @skymningen Yes, (sort of): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_tiger_(animal) $\endgroup$
    – Koen vd H
    Feb 23, 2017 at 16:08
  • $\begingroup$ @KoenvdH Is it just me, or is there something strange about black tiger and her cub? The face/head seems a bit unusual. $\endgroup$
    – Harris
    Feb 23, 2017 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @HarrisWeinstein the small head/big nose might mean they are south chinese tigers from what little looking around I did. $\endgroup$
    – Koen vd H
    Feb 24, 2017 at 12:30
  • $\begingroup$ Oh I see, I was using Panther and Panthera interchangeably. Mainly because both sound the same in spanish (Pantera and Panthera) my native tongue. $\endgroup$
    – Petruza
    Feb 24, 2017 at 22:09

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