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lynx

lynx, name given to several related small, ferocious members of the cat family. All have small heads, tufted ears, and heavy bodies with long legs and short tails. All are primarily terrestrial, although they are able to climb trees. The Eurasian lynx, Lynx lynx, is found in coniferous forests of N Eurasia. As a result of hunting by humans and the general deforestation of Europe, the northern lynx is now very restricted in its European range and may be extinct in W Europe, but efforts have been made to restore it to parts of its former range.

The Canada lynx, L. canadensis, is similar in size and appearance as well as habitat to its Old World counterpart; it ranges from the northern limits of the Canadian forests to the extreme N United States. The Canada lynx may attain a length of more than 3 ft (90 cm), with a 5-in. (13-cm) tail, and may weigh up to 40 lb (18 kg). Its long fur is yellow-brown to grayish, slightly spotted with black. It has long black ear tufts and large feet, adapted to moving on deep snow. A nocturnal hunter, it preys on a variety of game, sometimes as large as deer, but is particularly dependent on the snowshoe rabbit as its staple diet. The Canada lynx population fluctuates in cycles correlated with the fluctuation of the snowshoe rabbit population. Efforts have been made to return the Canada lynx to parts of its former range in the United States (Colorado).

The bobcat, L. rufus, also known as bay lynx or wildcat, is a small North American lynx found in thickets, swamps, and rocky areas from the S of Canada to central Mexico. It has a longer tail, shorter ear tufts, and smaller feet than the Canada lynx; its coat is a redder brown and more spotted. It commonly weighs about 20 lb (9 kg), although some individuals grow much larger. It lives on a variety of small and medium-sized prey; its raids on livestock and poultry have made it a target of farmers. The Iberian lynx, or Spanish lynx L. pardinus, which once ranged over the Iberian Peninsula, is now found only in small areas in S Spain, where its population numbers about 1,000 to 1,500.

The term lynx is also used for a number of unrelated cats. The jungle cat, or jungle lynx Felis chaus, of N Africa and Asia, is more closely related to the domestic cat. It lives in a variety of habitats, especially open woodlands and scrub. The caracal, Caracal caracal, of the dry country of Africa and W Asia, is also called the Persian, African, or desert lynx.

Lynxes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, family Felidae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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