LYNX (Lat. Lynx, Gr. λύγξ, probably connected with λεύοσειν, to see), a genus of mammals of the family Felidae, by some naturalists regarded only as a subgenus or section of the typical genus Felis (see Carnivora). As an English word (lynx) the name is used of any animal of this group. It is not certain to which of these, if to any of them, the Greek name λύγξ was especially applied, though it was more probably the caracal (q.v.) than any of the northern species. The so-called lynxes of Bacchus were generally represented as resembling leopards rather than any of the species now known by the name. Various fabulous properties were attributed to the animal, whatever it was, by the ancients, that of extraordinary powers of vision, including ability to see through opaque substances, being one; whence the epithet “lynx-eyed,” which has survived to the present day.
Lynxes are found in the northern and temperate regions of both the Old and New World; they are smaller than leopards, and larger than true wild cats, with long limbs, short stumpy tail, ears tufted at the tip, and pupil of the eye linear when contracted. Their fur is generally long and soft, and always longish upon the cheeks. Their colour is light brown or grey, and generally spotted with a darker shade. The naked pads of the feet are more or less covered by the hair that grows between them. The skull and skeleton do not differ markedly from those of the other cats. Their habits are exactly those of the other wild cats. Their food consists of any mammals or birds which they can overpower. They commit extensive ravages upon sheep and poultry. They generally frequent rocky places and forests, being active climbers, and passing much of their time among the branches of the trees. Their skins are of considerable value in the fur trade. The northern lynx (L. lynx or L. borealis) of Scandinavia, Russia, northern Asia, and till lately the forest regions of central Europe, has not inhabited Britain during the historic period, but its remains have been found in cave deposits of Pleistocene age. Dr W. T. Blanford says that the characters on which E. Blyth relied in separating the Tibetan lynx (L. isabellinus) from the European species are probably due to the nature of its habitat among rocks, and that he himself could find no constant character justifying separation. The pardine lynx (L. pardinus) from southern Europe is a very handsome species; its fur is rufous above and white beneath.
|From a drawing by Wolf in Elliot’s Monograph of the Felidae.|
Several lynxes are found in North America; the most northerly has been described as the Canadian lynx (L. canadensis); the bay lynx (L. rufus), with a rufous coat in summer, ranges south to Mexico, with spotted and streaked varieties—L. maculatus in Texas and southern California, and L. fasciatus in Washington and Oregon. The first three were regarded by St George Mivart as local races of the northern lynx. A fifth form, the plateau lynx (L. baileyi), was described by Dr C. H. Merriam in 1890, but the differences between it and the bay lynx are slight and unimportant.