Sunday, October 23, 2016

Why Do Big Cats Roar?

Here at IEAS, we have many different species of cats with different vocalizations. It turns out that not all of our cats roar! There are only four species of feline that have the ability to roar: lions, tigers, jaguars, and leopards. Currently, we are home to three out of the four species that roar! The lion is the only feline that roars habitually- Every morning and evening Odin (our male lion) can be heard roaring.

Odin, our male lion, giving a nice big roar
According to the National Wildlife Federation, these large cats have tough cartilage running the length of their hyoid bone up to their skull that prevents purring. They also have an incompletely ossified hyoid bone, allowing them to roar. This is one of the distinctions between the genera Felis and Panthera.


Hyoid bone
There are five species of Panthera; their common names are: Lion, Tiger, Jaguar, Leopard, and Snow Leopard. All five species of Panthera are on the IUCN Red List (, an organization which tracks the threat level of known species. The Felis genera are not only are able to purr, but also have pupils that narrow into slits when contracted. The snow leopard is an
exception to the Panthera rule: they have incompletely ossified hyoid bones, but aren’t quite able to roar, nor are they able to purr.

Wiki, our resident Jaguar (left) and Karen, one of our resident White Bengal Tigers (right).
Interestingly, cheetahs have the ability to purr, but are classified in their own genera (Acinonyx) because their claws cannot retract. Cheetahs are also unique because they make a “chirp” that sounds similar to a bird or my fellow intern, Lexi’s hiccups. Our resident cheetah, Mau, can be seen chirping in the morning around breakfast time. Be sure to check out his adorable videos on our website, or you can visit him on one of our tours everyday at 11:00 AM and an additional tour at 3:00 PM on Saturday. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to hear him in person!

Mau, starting his morning "chirps"

Author: Kate LeBlanc

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