PUMAPARD & PUMA/JAGUAR HYBRIDS

PUMAPARD (PUMA/LEOPARD HYBRID)

 

The black and white photograph also appears on page 46 of "Animals of the World" (1917, 1947) captioned "This is a photograph from life of a very rare hybrid. That animal's father was a puma, its mother a leopard. It is now dead and it may be seen stuffed in Mr. Rothschild's Museum at Tring.

1904 photo of puma x leopard hybrid. This pumapard was exhibited at the Tierpark in Stelingen (Hamburg) and resulted from male puma x Indian leopardess

 

A pumapard is the hybrid of a puma and a leopardess. In the late 1890s/early 1900s, two hybrids were born in Chicago, followed 2 years later by three sets of twin cubs born at a zoo in Hamburg, Germany from a puma father and leopard mother. Carl Hagenbeck apparently bred several litters of puma x leopard hybrids in 1898 at the suggestion of a menagerie owner in Britain; this was possibly Lord Rothschild (as one of the hybrids is preserved in his museum) who may have heard of the two hybrid cubs bred in Chicago in 1896 and suggested Hagenbeck reproduced the pairing.

Both male puma x female leopard and male leopard x female puma pairings have produced offspring. Hamburg Zoo had a hybrid (the one in the black and white photo) fathered by a puma bred to an Indian leopardess. A specimen purchased in 1898 by Berlin Zoo from Carl Hagenbeck was a cross between a male leopard and a female puma (the same as the Chicago hybrids).

Hagenbeck's puma/leopard hybrids may have been inspired by a pair of leopard x puma hybrid cubs born in Chicago on 24 April 1896 at Tattersalls indoor arena where Ringling Brothers Circus opened its season. Details about the two cubs were published in The Chicago Chronicle on 25th April 1896: Two tiny cubs which look like young leopards were born at Tattersall's where Ringling Brothers circus is housed, yesterday (24 APR [18]96). They are not leopards, however, Their mother is a mountain lion or cougar and their father is a leopard. They take after their father decidedly, and are the daintiest little members of the cat family ever born in captivity. In fact they are the only ones of their kind, so far as known, ever born, either within the confines of a cage or anywhere else. These black and yellow youngsters were on exhibition yesterday and were admired by all who saw them. They will probably be on view the rest of the time the circus exhibits in Chicago.

In The Field No 2887, April 25th, 1908, Henry Scherren wrote "There was, and probably is now, in the Berlin Garden an Indian leopard and a puma male hybrid, purchased of Carl Hagenbeck in 1908. In his "Guide", Dr Heck described it as "a little grey puma with large brown rosettes." Another hybrid between the same species, but with a puma for sire and a leopard for dam, was recently at Stelingen; it resembled the female parent in form as may be seen from the reproduction from a photograph taken there."

C Hagenbeck (1951) wrote that a male puma and female leopard produced a hybrid cub that was reared by a Fox terrier bitch (this was common practice to ensure a tamed individual) at Hagenbeck Tierpark, Hamburg. The hybrid was male and intermediate between the puma and leopard in colour and pattern, having faint leopard spots on a puma-coloured background. The body length was much less than either parent and the tail was long, like the puma.

H Petzsch (1956) mentioned that puma/leopard hybrids had been obtained by artificial insemination.

Dr Helmut Hemmer (1966) reported a hybrid between a male Indian leopard (P pardus fusca) and female puma as being fairly small with a ground colour like that of the puma and having rather faded rosettes.

One specimen resembled a little grey puma with large brown rosettes. The cubs apparently grew to be only half the size of the parents. There is a stuffed Puma x Leopard hybrid at the Rothschild Museum at Tring, England (photographs below).

 

Nancy Neff in her introduction to Guy Coheleach's "The Big Cats": "the ability to hybridize may seem to contradict the status of...cats as separate species, since species are usually defined as populations of animals who interbreed among themselves but who are unable to interbreed under natural conditions with other such groups." Neff viewed with "extreme interest," instances of captive cross-breeding between the more distantly related puma and leopard (as opposed to lion-tiger, lion-leopard and leopard-jaguar pairings) since - at the time she wrote her introduction - the puma was not considered a pantherine. Thus, referring to the puma, "the ability to hybridize with the leopard is quite unexpected." She felt the ability of pumas and leopards to interbreed may be explained by immunological findings placing them both in the pantherine lineage.

More recently, the American "X-Project Magazine" reported that Britain's Exmoor Beasts are believed to be descended from a black puma x leopard hybrid. The limited gene pool "fixed" the recessive black colour and the adaptability of the puma ensured its survival. This is actually impossible because melanism has never been verified in pumas; the black big cats kept as pets in Britain were black panthers (leopards) and black jaguars and moreover, a self-sustaining population of hybrid big cats is extremely unlikely due to problems of sterility in the males. Additionally there is the problem of dwarfism observed in puma x leopard hybrids. (See Hybrid Big Cats In The British Countryside )

Confusingly, it has been reported that most pumas kept as pets in the United Kingdom were black rather than tawny; the rarity of black pumas makes this extremely unlikely. This confusion arises because pumas are also known as panthers and black panthers (black leopards) were indeed kept as pets. The confusion is worsened by articles which erroneously refer to "the black puma out of The Jungle Book" (pumas are not found in India!). Unlike black panthers, supposed "black pumas" ("couguar noire") have dark upper parts, but pale bellies.

PUMA/JAGUAR HYBRIDS

A supposed puma x jaguar hybrid was shot in the Mato Grosso, South America in the early half of the 20th Century. It was killed by Sacha Siemel whose opinion was that it was a puma x jaguar hybrid. It was heavily built with brown spots on a fawn background and a dark stripe down its back. Pumas and jaguars are both present in the area, but occupy different niches and would be unlikely to meet, let alone mate. The description of the supposed puma/jaguar hybrid was very similar to that of the captive-bred pumapards. Successful hybridization between pumas and jaguars in captivity has been alleged (in a report by Dr Helmut Hemmer, 1966), but there is no photographic evidence. The hybrids would look similar to pumapards, but with jaguar-like, rather than leopard-like, markings and would possibly be more powerfully built.

Like lion cubs, puma cubs have rosetted markings; the supposed hybrid might have been an individual which had retained its spots into adulthood.

PUMA/TIGER HYBRIDS

An article in the Long Island Ocelot Club newsletter of November/December 1980 noted that hybrids were prevented in the wild through different reproductive behaviour and geographical barriers, but in zoos the different species became familiar enough that the normal sexual behaviour was subtly modified. Hybrids between the big cats attracted the most attention and listed these as: ligers, tigons and leopons as well as "less well-known hybrids" of leopard x jaguar, puma x tiger, lion x jaguar and jaguar x puma (referencing Gray, 1972).

The reference to puma x tiger appears to be a mis-translation of "panther x tiger" indicating the leopard x tiger cross that is known in captivity as a tigard and known in India as a dogla. A North American would assume a panther to be a puma.

INTRASPECIFIC PUMA HYBRIDS

Intraspecific hybrids of puma subspecies are common in zoos e.g. Puma concolor capricornensis x Puma concolor concolor (International Zoo Yearbook of 1968 reports 2 males, born in Brasilia, Brazil, 1966).

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Historical reports of puma/leopard hybrids: O Antonius (1951), CJ Cornish et al (undated), C Hagenbeck (1951), T Haltenorth (1936), H Hemmer (1966), H Petzsch (1956), R Rörig (1903), H Scherren (1908)

Textual content is licensed under the GFDL.

Many thanks to Paul McCarthy for tirelessly researching back issues of The Field and The Times.

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