Generally, canids and felines are not the best of friends. When it comes to sharing a territory – as it happens with coyotes and bobcats – these two species could turn into sworn enemies.
But who would come out victorious in a fight?
In a one-on-one, bobcats and coyotes would have about the same chances of winning a fight. Coyotes are larger, stronger, and faster than bobcats, but bobcats have very sharp claws coyotes don’t possess. As felines, bobcats are also more agile, and they can climb trees. However, when faced with a coyote pack, a solitary bobcat wouldn’t stand a chance.
The table below shows a quick comparison and strength differences between coyotes and bobcats*:
|Body size||3.3 to 4.3 feet||2.3 to 4 feet|
|Paw size||2 x 2.5 inches||1.5 x 1.37 inches|
|Weight||20 to 50 pounds||11 to 30 pounds|
|Speed||43 mph||30 mph|
|Teeth length||1.45 inches||Approx. 1 inch|
|Bite force||727 PSI||827 PSI|
|Strike force||Up to 2,150 lb.-ft./s||Up to 900 lb.-ft./s|
|Behavior||Social; aggressive||Solitary; aggressive|
|Habitat||North & Central America||North & Central America|
|Conservation status||Least concern||Least concern|
*For comparison purposes, we considered the species Canis latrans (coyote) and Lynx rufus (bobcat). Characteristics can slightly vary for coyote and bobcat subspecies belonging to the species mentioned above, but these averages apply to most coyotes and bobcats.
Strike forces were calculated based on the maximum weight of each species multiplied by the maximum speed mentioned in the table.
Coyote Vs. Bobcat: Key Differences And Similarities
1. Body size
One of the main differences between coyotes and bobcats is the body length and height.
Coyotes are generally larger than bobcats, measuring between 3.3 and 4.3 feet from head to the tip of the tail, on average. Height-wise, coyotes stand at about 24 inches at the shoulder.
Some bobcats can grow up to 4 feet in length, but their average length is generally shorter, between 2.3 and 3.08 feet. This is generally about two to three times the size of an average domestic cat.
The shoulder height of a bobcat is about 10 inches smaller than a coyote’s – around 14 to 15 inches.
This size difference gives coyotes several advantages in the battlefield. However, bobcats also have a few aces up their sleeves. Keep reading to find how they could win against a coyote.
2. Paw size
The paw size difference between bobcats and coyotes doesn’t come as a surprise; after all, a bigger body generally pairs with bigger paws.
Getting into specifics, coyotes’ paws measure about two by two-and-a-half inches. This makes it easy to tell apart coyote vs. grey wolf traces in the wild, as wolf paws are about two times larger.
Bobcats have smaller paws, measuring around 1.5 by 1.37 inches.
From a visual standpoint, bobcats’ paw prints are similar to that of cougars; they are relatively round. Bobcats (and mountain lions) also leave no claw prints; this is possible because bobcats – like most felines – have retractable claws.
Coyotes’ paw prints are elongated, with a narrower width. Like all canids, coyotes don’t have retractable claws; thus, the imprints on the ground also show their claws (which are generally dull and relatively useless in a fight).
Larger bodies are generally synonymous with a bigger body mass, so their size gives coyotes another advantage when it comes to heft.
Typically, coyotes weigh between 20 and 50 pounds. Comparatively, bobcats are about two times lighter – they weigh between 11 and 30 pounds.
However, this doesn’t mean that all coyotes weigh as much. In fact, researchers concluded that modern coyotes are more likely to range in weight between 15 and 46 pounds, with an average of 33 pounds.
Yet, while modern coyotes are often smaller and lighter, bobcats can weigh more than 30 pounds. In fact, males can often grow larger, reaching hefts up to 35 pounds.
Thus, many coyotes could have the same weight – and more or less the same size – as bobcats.
If some coyotes and bobcats can have a similar size and weight, coyotes are always at an advantage when it comes to speed.
The weight and speed combined give coyotes an advantage, helping them increase their impact force.
5. Teeth length
As you can expect, coyotes also have longer teeth compared to bobcats.
While there aren’t many studies on the teeth length of coyotes and bobcats, researchers at Eastern Illinois University study coyotes’ teeth to determine physiological and oral health alterations due to aging.
According to this study, coyotes’ canines are about 1.45 inches in length.
A similar study, but this time in dental eruption rather than aging, was performed on bobcats.
According to researchers, bobcats lose their deciduous dentition, and their permanent teeth grow at around 16 to 19 weeks of age. Their permanent canines reach a length of approximately one inch.
Both bobcats and coyotes have sharp canines, although the teeth of bobcats are generally sharper.
6. Bite force
One of the most common misconceptions about coyotes and bobcats is that coyotes have a more powerful bite due to their size.
However, when it comes to bite force, bobcats are actually at an advantage.
In a study about the comparative bite force in big biting mammals, researchers found that coyotes have a bite force quotient (BFQ) of 88.
However, bobcats have a BFQ of 100, which is closer to that of some of the biggest cats, including cougars (108) and lions (112).
Comparatively, wolves have a BFQ of 136, which is closer to that of bobcats than coyotes.
Things get more complicated when it comes to translating the BFQ in pounds per square inch (PSI) because the size of the mouth and overall size of the animal is directly involved.
However, bobcats generally manage to exert about 827 PSI when biting. Coyotes have a bite force of about 727 PSI.
7. Strike force
Bobcats may have a stronger bite, but that’s about it. Coyotes win another round when it comes to sheer power.
The main advantage coyotes have in terms of the strike force is their size and speed – the impact force is directly influenced by these two factors.
While there are no studies on the actual strike force of coyotes and bobcats, we can easily calculate it by multiplying the top speed by weight.
As you might have figured out, the actual strike force varies from animal to animal and situation to situation.
However, some of the strongest coyotes can output a force of 2,150 lb.-ft./s (around 66 pounds of force). The strongest bobcats can muster around 900 lb.-ft./s, which turns out to be around 30 pounds of force.
Coyotes and bobcats alike are aggressive animals. However, their behaviors have radical differences that give coyotes an extra edge.
The main advantage here is the social behavior and structure.
Although coyotes are semi-solitary, they still form bonds with other coyotes and often live in packs.
Even if they generally hunt or forage alone, pack members usually move together and can even feed or together, depending on prey availability.
Meanwhile, bobcats are solitary animals. Males and females only interact during the mating season, each gender establishing its own territories.
Generally, a successful male has a large home range (usually several miles in size) that overlaps with the home range of several females. Sometimes, a male’s territory can even overlap with another male’s territory.
Females have smaller home ranges, and their territories don’t overlap.
Due to these social differences, bobcats generally have to face dangers and potential predators on their own. Coyotes are almost always backed by pack members.
While coyotes are generally considered omnivores, they are also predators, and their diets consist of over 80% meat. Their natural diet consists of small mammals, fruit, and insects.
However, coyotes are also opportunists and can become scavengers.
Bobcats are strictly carnivores and agile hunters. Due to their smaller size, most bobcats go after smaller game, including rabbits, squirrels, and other rodents.
However, they can also successfully hunt small deer, sheep, goats, poultry, and even domestic animals, such as dogs and cats.
Although bobcats usually eat prey they kill themselves, they are also opportunistic and can become scavengers – especially in periods of scarce food availability.
More often, the scavenger behavior is the reason why coyotes and bobcats face one another.
Bobcats and coyotes often share a habitat. Both species are found in North and Central America, their geographic range stretching from Canada all the way to Mexico.
Bobcats are resilient mammals, their habitats varying from forests to semi-deserts, brushland, and mountains.
Coyotes are extremely adaptable, inhabiting forests, swamps, grasslands, and deserts. They might also occur near human settlements due to both habitat reduction and opportunistic behavior.
Similarly, bobcats may take advantage of human settlements for easier prey access (yard animals and pets).
11. Conservation status
Coyotes and bobcats alike have a least concern status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Because of their abundant numbers, both bobcats and coyotes can be hunted across America. Regulations and seasons may vary from state to state, but coyotes can generally be hunted with only a general license all year round.
The bobcat season is generally closed during shotgun deer season, at least in some states. There might also be restrictions regarding the actual season or prohibited hunting days, so you should check the regulations in your area.
Who Would Win A Fight?
If it came to a clash between a bobcat and a single coyote, both animals would have about the same chances of scoring a victory.
Coyotes are larger, faster, and generally more powerful than bobcats. However, speed is often their only advantage.
Bobcats may be slower, but they are excellent climbers. They can go up a tree to escape the coyote or even stalk the coyote and attack when least expected. Moreover, bobcats have retractable claws which are very sharp and that prove to be trustworthy allies in a clash.
Bobcats also have stronger bites, so a bobcat could win or determine a coyote to withdraw.
Things are different if the bobcat has to face a pack of coyotes. In this case, the coyotes will almost always come out victorious.
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