Animal Info - Iberian Lynx

(Other Names: 拟虎猫, スペインオオヤマネコ, Lince Ibérico, Lobo Cerval, Lynx d’Espagne, Lynx Pardel, Pardel Lynx, Pardelluchs, Pardine Lynx, Spanish Lynx)

Lynx pardinus (Felis pardina or pardinus, Felis lynx pardina, Lynx lynx pardina)

Status: Critically Endangered


1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Taxonomy, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Size and Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Dispersal, Maximum Reproductive Age, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior, Social Organization, Mortality and Survival, Density and Range)
5. References


Pictures: Iberian Lynx #1 (29 Kb JPEG) (IUCN Cat Specialist Group); Iberian Lynx #2 - Kitten (31 Kb JPEG) (Large Carn. Init. Eur.); Iberian Lynx #3 (46 Kb JPEG) (O Lince Ibérico)

The Iberian lynx weighs 9 - 13 kg (20 - 30 lb). It usually occurs in a mosaic of woodland or dense scrub and open pasture where it feeds mainly on rabbits. This cat is predominantly nocturnal and is an excellent tree climber. It uses a variety of locations for breeding lairs, even including old stork nests as much as 9 - 12 m (30 - 40') above the ground. Home ranges of males and females generally do not overlap other ranges of the same sex. Male ranges overlap one or more female ranges.

The Iberian lynx was formerly found throughout Spain and Portugal. Although it began to decline in the first half of the 20th century, the decline accelerated after the 1950's due to the spread of myxomatosis, a disease which decimated populations of the European rabbit, the lynx's main prey. Additional factors in the lynx's decline include habitat loss (which affects both the lynx itself as well as its rabbit prey), illegal hunting, accidental killing by snares and poison baits set for other animals, and roadkill. By 2000 it was considered to exist in a heavily fragmented population in which only two groups are large enough to have long-term prospects of viability.


*** The Iberian lynx is one of the world's rarest mammals.

*** The Iberian lynx is rated as the most endangered cat species in the world because of its low total numbers, the fragmentation and limited number of habitats it uses and its small range. (Cat News 1998)

*** The ecology of the Iberian lynx differs from that of the Eurasian lynx. The Eurasian lynx lives in the forest and eats ungulates such as deer, while the Iberian lynx prefers scrub vegetation and eats mainly rabbits. The Iberian lynx is about half the size of the Eurasian lynx.

*** Although the following was written about the Eurasian lynx, it probably also illustrates attitudes towards the Iberian lynx at the time:

"The lynx makes his dwelling-place in the thick forests of Europe, and in rapacity only exceeded by the wolf, is quite as much dreaded. Creeping from his lair in the caverned rock, he marks the place where the animals herd, and, climbing up a tree, leaps down on man or beast, whichever may stand below. He seizes the victim by the neck, lays open the veins of the throat, sucks the blood, eats part of the flesh, and buries the remainder..." (Myers 1870)

*** Although the Iberian lynx appears not to fear man, it will not live in areas where permanent settlements are established. (Simon & Geroudet 1970)

*** One of the principal reasons for the decline of the Iberian lynx was the decline of its most important prey, the rabbit. Rabbits experienced massive mortality due to the disease myxomatosis, which was introduced into France from Australia in 1952 by a French pediatrician to control the rabbits that had attacked his vegetable garden. The disease spread throughout Europe and across the Pyrenees into Spain. (Milne & Milne 1961)

Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

  • 1960's: Vulnerable
  • 1970's - 1994: Endangered
  • 1996 - 2000: Endangered; (Criteria: C1)
  • 2001 - 2004: Critically Endangered; (Criteria: C2a(i)) (Population Trend: Decreasing(IUCN 2004)

Countries Where the Iberian Lynx Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Portugal and Spain. (IUCN 2004)


Recent genetic analyses have lead to the proposal that all modern cats can be placed into eight lineages which originated between 6.2 - 10.8 million years ago. The Iberian lynx is placed in the "lynx lineage," which diverged from its ancestors as a separate lineage 8.0 million years ago. The lynx lineage also includes the Eurasian lynx, the Canada lynx, and the bobcat. (Johnson et al. 2006)

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The Iberian lynx was formerly found throughout Spain and Portugal and likely in the French Pyrenees. Numbers declined in the first half of the 20th century due to the decline of goat-herding (which helped maintain habitat for rabbit, the main food source of the Iberian lynx) and its replacement by grain cultivation. The decline accelerated in the 1950's because myxomatosis, a disease which decimated rabbit populations, spread into Spain from France, where it was introduced in 1952.

By the early 1970's, the Iberian lynx was essentially limited to the southwestern corner of the Iberian peninsula, in some of the more inaccessible mountainous regions (e.g. the Montes de Toledo and Sierra Morena areas) and several controlled hunting areas ("cotos") in the Guadalquivir River delta. As of 1996 it occurred mainly in the southern Iberian Peninsula in over 100 isolated sub-populations, with a range of about 14,000 sq km (5400 sq mi) (Nowell & Jackson 1996).  By 2001 it was considered to exist in a heavily fragmented population in which only two or three groups were large enough to have long-term prospects of viability and no subpopulation contained more than 50 mature breeding individuals (IUCN 2003a).

Distribution Map # 1 (13 Kb JPEG) (Large Carn. Init. Eur.)
Distribution Map #2
(58 Kb JPEG) (O Lince Ibérico)
Distribution Map #3 (60 Kb JPEG) (O Lince Ibérico)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

The decline of the Iberian lynx in the second half of this century has been mainly due to the decline of its main prey, the rabbit (caused by disease and loss of the pasture-scrub-woodland habitat preferred by rabbits) and loss of the lynx's habitat. Illegal hunting (sport hunting as well as persecution due to its alleged damage to livestock), accidental killing by snares set for rabbits and poison baits set for foxes and other predators, and road kill have also been factors.

Data on Biology and Ecology

Size and Weight:

Length: 85 - 110 cm (34 - 43"); Average weight: 9.3 kg (20.5 lb) (female), 12.8 kg (28.2 lb) (male)


The Iberian lynx prefers a mosaic of woodland or dense scrub for shelter during the day and open pasture for hunting rabbits. It is found mainly between 400 - 900 m (1300 - 3000') but occurs up to 1600 m (5200').

In the Doñana region, Mediterranean scrubland was the main habitat type in home ranges and the only preferred habitat for resident lynx.  Its use was higher during the pre-dispersal phase (75% of locations) than during the post-dispersal (52%) or the dispersal phase (50%). During pre-dispersal, the remaining habitats were rarely used (on average none above 9.4%), but during both dispersal and post-dispersal, pine plantations were frequently used (25 - 30%). Lynx were infrequently located in open habitats (pastureland, crops, marsh, and dunes) in any phase. (Palomares et al. 2000)

The Iberian lynx is one of the species that live in the Mediterranean Basin Biodiversity Hotspot (Cons. Intl.).

Age to Maturity:

A female Iberian lynx can breed in her first year, but will do so only if there is an available territory for her to occupy.

Gestation Period:

Approximately 2 months.

Birth Season:

March - September, with a peak during March - April.

Birth Rate:

No more than 1 litter per year; 0.6 - 0.8 litters/female/year in areas of good habitat; usually 3 (2 - 4) young per litter (Ferreras et al. 2001).


Young Iberian lynx stay with their mother until she mates again in the winter. They then remain in her territory an average of 20 months before dispersing a distance of up to 30 km (19 mi).

Maximum Reproductive Age:

10 years (female & male).

Maximum Age:

Up to 13 years.


The Iberian lynx eats European rabbits almost exclusively (93% of prey by weight during the summer), with approximately one rabbit per day needed to fulfill energy requirements. (Nowell & Jackson 1996) When rabbits are less available, red deer fawns, fallow deer, juvenile mouflon and ducks are eaten.


The Iberian lynx is predominantly nocturnal. It is an excellent tree climber. Daily travel distance averages about 7 km (4.3 mi).

A variety of locations are used for breeding lairs, including cavities under thorn thickets where twigs and grass are used to build nests, burrows, hollow trees, and even old stork nests high off of the ground.

Captured prey is usually carried or dragged a considerable distance before being eaten, and the remains are buried.

Social Organization:

Home ranges of males do not overlap. Home ranges of females are generally exclusive, but may overlap somewhat. Male ranges overlap one or more female ranges.

The mating system of the Iberian lynx is polygyny with a tendency towards monogamy when there are high densities of both sexes (Ferreras et al. 2001).

Mortality and Survival:

Annual survival  rates for Iberian lynx in optimum/average habitat (Ferreras et al. 2001):

Density and Range:


  • In good quality habitat in the Coto Doñana National Park, lynx density (including sub-adults but not kittens) was estimated at 0.16 individuals/sq km (0.42 individuals/sq mi)
  • Densities across lynx range for nine genetically isolated subpopulations were estimated at 0.045 - 0.10 individuals/sq km (0.12 - 0.26 individuals/sq mi)

(Nowell & Jackson 1996)



Arkive, Beltran 1987, Burnie & Wilson 2001, Burton & Pearson 1987, Cat News 1998, Cat News 2002, Cat News 2003, Cons. Intl., Ferreras et al. 2001, FFI Update 2006, Fisher et al. 1969, IUCN Cat Specialist GroupIUCN 1966, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Johnson et al. 2006, Large Carn. Init. Eur., Milne & Milne 1961, Mountfort 1958, Myers 1870, Nowak 1999, Nowell & Jackson 1995, Nowell & Jackson 1996, O Lince Ibérico, Oryx 2004c, Palomares et al. 2000, Seidensticker & Lumpkin 1991, Simon & Geroudet 1970, Thornback & Jenkins 1978, Ward 2004

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Last modified: June 18, 2006;

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