Canada lynxes and bobcats are similar animals that can sometimes share a habitat.
Whether you’ve spotted a big cat in the wild or have found wild cat tracks, you may wonder how to tell the two apart.
Lynxes are taller than bobcats and have a duller fur color with faint dark spots. They have larger ears with long, black tufts and long facial ruffs. Bobcats have more compacted bodies with shorter hind legs. Lynxes have long hind legs that can make their backs look arched. Neither species leave claw prints, but bobcats have round tracks, whereas lynx tracks are more oval.
The table below shows a comparison between Canada lynxes and bobcats*:
|Classification||Lynx canadensis||Lynx rufus|
|Geographic range||Canada, USA||USA, Mexico|
|Habitat||Tundra, forests, deserts, scrub forests||Forests, mountains, dunes, savannas, grasslands, deserts|
|Appearance||Grey, rusty, brownish, or yellow-brownish fur. Short and ringed tail. Long legs compared to body size and longer hind than front legs. Minimal spotting. Prominent black tufts on ears.||Various shades of buff and brown, faint to distinct markings, and black tip of tail and ears. Shorter ear tufts and more compact body compared to lynxes.|
|Body size||2.6 to 4 feet; 24 inches tall||2.3 to 4 feet; 15 inches tall|
|Paw size||3.5 to 5 inches||2.25 inches|
|Weight||20 to 44 pounds||11 to 30 pounds|
|Speed||50 mph||30 mph|
|Teeth length||Approx. 1 inch||Approx. 1 inch|
|Bite force||636 PSI||827 PSI|
|Strike force||Up to 2,200 lb.-ft./s||Up to 900 lb.-ft./s|
|Behavior||Solitary; aggressive||Solitary; aggressive|
|Diet||Strictly carnivore||Strictly carnivore|
|Conservation status||Least concern||Least concern|
*For comparison purposes, we only considered the Lynx canadensis species, which can occur in the same geographic ranges and habitats as bobcats. There are two other lynx types in Europe and Asia, the Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) and Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus). The characteristics above may be different for these species.
All data in the table was sourced from scientific publications, governmental reports, wildlife magazines, almanacs, and other official sources cited throughout the article. Strike forces were calculated by multiplying the top speed mentioned in the table by the heaviest weight.
15 Differences Between Lynx Vs. Bobcat
Lynxes and bobcats are not only similar in appearance, but they are actually two species in the same genus.
There are four different species in the lynx genus: Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), and bobcats (Lynx rufus).
All these species are closely related, even though there are some differences in their coat coloring and size.
For the purpose of this article, we compared bobcats to the Canada lynx, which is the only species that can occur in the same habitat as bobcats.
2. Geographic Range
Lynxes and bobcats live in slightly different geographic ranges, even though they can occur in the same areas.
Canada lynxes, as their name suggests, are found throughout Canada. However, their geographic range expands to the United States all the way to western Montana, Idaho, and parts of Washington.
Small populations can also occur in Oregon, Wyoming, and Utah.
Bobcats are found throughout North America, their range expanding from southern Canada to southern Mexico. The higher density is in the United States, mostly in the southeastern regions rather than the western ones.
However, bobcats can be found anywhere across the USA.
Bobcats are adaptable creatures that occur in a variety of habitats. They can be found in boreal coniferous and mixed forests, scrublands, coastal swamps, and deserts.
In southern regions, bobcats also live in savannas and grasslands.
Lynxes are also adaptable, but they prefer fewer habitats.
They are typically found in boreal forests with full canopy, even though hunting mostly occurs in younger, mixed forests with thick vegetation where hunting for small prey is possible.
In the northernmost regions, lynxes also live in the tundra and desert areas.
The major distinction between lynxes and bobcats is their appearance.
Bobcats have the physical characteristics of typical tabby house cats, even though they are about twice as large. They have compact bodies with robust legs and paws and almost straight backs.
These cats have thick but short coats that can vary in color from buff to brown on the head, back, and paws. The color fades to white under the chin, belly, and tail, the tip of which is black.
While bobcats have facial ruffs, they have rather short ear tufts and no tufts on the paws.
Fur spots or stripes can vary in intensity from nearly visible to black.
Unlike bobcats, lynxes have an awkward body shape. They are about the same length as bobcats but much taller. The longer legs look disproportionate and not as elegant as other felines.
The hind legs are also longer than the front ones, a trait that makes a lynx’s back look arched. Coat colors vary from yellowish-brown to rusty with a grey undertone. Markings can be present, but they are a lot fainter compared to bobcats.
Lynxes live in colder regions and have wide paws that provide better traction on snow. They also have longer ears, long ear and paw tufts, and more facial ruffs.
5. Body Size
As mentioned, Canada lynxes and bobcats can grow to similar sizes – usually up to four feet long. However, because of the longer legs, lynxes are much taller and look larger than bobcats.
They typically reach heights of about 24 inches at the shoulder, which is about as high as a coyote.
Bobcats reach a typical shoulder height between 14 and 15 inches.
It should also be said that while bobcats can grow up to four feet long, most individuals are smaller, their size ranging between two feet and two feet and a half.
6. Paw Size
Lynxes are wild cats living in cold climates and, hence, present adaptations to the environment. Their large paws that measure between three and five inches across are one of these adaptations.
Bobcats can live in cold climate zones, but they are adapted for living in temperate climate areas. They have smaller paws than lynxes that measure around 2.25 inches across.
7. Track Appearance
An important difference when trying to tell lynxes from bobcats based on tracks is that lynxes have larger paws shaped like a sort of fan, wider in the toe area and narrower at the heel.
Bobcat tracks are round and similar to most other cats, including house cats and mountain lions.
Both bobcats and lynxes have retractable claws, so claw marks are not visible in the paw prints.
While both bobcats and lynxes are robust mammals, the former have a higher body mass.
Lynxes can weigh anywhere between 20 and 44 pounds. Bobcats are smaller and, thus, lighter, weighing between 11 and 30 pounds.
Another point in favor of lynxes – as far as strength and abilities are concerned – is speed. Even though they live in hostile areas with deep snow, they are very fast, reaching speeds up to 50 miles per hour.
Meanwhile, bobcats can only reach speeds up to 30 miles per hour. This is still fast enough to catch prey but not fast enough to escape potential predators.
10. Teeth Length
A similarity between the two cats is the size of their canine teeth, which can grow about an inch long.
Considering that mountain lions, which are a lot larger than lynxes and bobcats alike, have canine teeth between 1.5 and 2.25 inches long, it is safe to say that these two wild cat species have rather long fangs for their size.
11. Bite Force
Despite their larger size, lynxes actually have a weaker bite force than bobcats: about 636 PSI compared to the bobcat’s 827 PSI.
According to scientists, this difference results from the different cranial shapes and structures. Lynxes have longer skulls, which appear to show less comparative bite force than shorter skulls, such as those of bobcats.
However, that doesn’t mean that lynxes have a weak bite force. To put things into perspective, African lions have a bite force of 650 PSI.
12. Strike Force
Unlike the teeth lengths and bite forces that were determined scientifically, there are no studies that demonstrate the actual strike force of either bobcats or lynxes.
The impact force is easy to calculate, though, by multiplying the body mass by the speed at the moment of the impact.
For comparison purposes, we considered the heaviest weight and top speed for each species. It results that lynxes can be around two times stronger than bobcats.
However, not all lynxes are that strong, and not all bobcats are that weak. The odds can be in favor of any species in a fight, depending on the actual weight and speed at the moment of the impact.
As wild cats, both lynxes and bobcats are solitary animals. Males and females only come together during the breeding season and live in separate home ranges.
In both species, the female territories can sometimes overlap. However, male territories don’t overlap, and they can sometimes fight one another for the home range.
Fights can also occur between lynxes and bobcats that want to establish themselves in a particular area.
Both cat types are nocturnal and mostly terrestrial, even though they are also agile climbers. In lynxes, females can sometimes hunt cooperatively with the young, presumably to teach the latter how to catch prey.
Similar to all wild cats, lynxes and bobcats are strictly carnivores. Both species usually prey on small mammals but are also scavengers. Fish, birds, and reptiles also constitute part of their diets.
In fall and winter, lynxes shift their diets from small mammals to large ungulates, most likely to preserve energy while getting more food.
Bobcats also eat small ungulates sometimes, but they can also take advantage of their proximity to human settlements and go after livestock, poultry, and even pets.
15. Conservation Status
Canada lynxes and bobcats have a stable population, and they are not threatened, according to IUCN.
However, biologists may have different opinions.
According to Conservation Northwest, Canada lynxes are critically endangered, with fewer than 50 individuals left in the wild.
Who Would Win A Fight?
Drawing a clear line between lynx and bobcat strength is challenging.
Lynxes are taller, faster, and stronger physically than bobcats. However, bobcats have a stronger bite.
Who would win the fight would largely depend on the actual size of both participants and whether the bobcat manages to bite the lynx or not.