One of the biggest concerns conservationists have these days is the ever-decreasing population of big cats across the planet. Their concerns are certainly warranted as a large number of big cats have gone extinct since the animals first began appearing some two million years ago. While most people are familiar with the likes of the famed sabre-toothed cats, there are recent examples of tigers, the Barbary lion, and other familiar animals that have disappeared in the 20th century.
Starting with the most recently extinct animals, this list of extinct big cats includes many that went extinct thousands of years ago, but there are a few examples of animals that disappeared in the 1900s. Protecting the remaining lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, and others is imperative if we want to keep lists like this one of extinct cats as short as possible.
History - The Zanzibar leopard was the largest African leopard that existed in an isolated population on the Unguja Island. It is believed to have gone extinct sometime in the late 20th century, though sightings have suggested it may still exist.
Physical Description - Similar to extant leopards in size, coloring, and body-length.
Size - The Zanzibar leopard was the smallest species of leopard, though it featured an especially long tail.
Location - Unguja Island in the Zanzibar archipelago of Tanzania
Modern Relatives - All extant species of leopard.
- Scientific Name: Panthera pardus pardus
- Type Of: Leopard
History - The Javan tiger was a separate, but distinct population of tigers that lived until the 1970s when it was declared extinct. It likely diverged when it colonized the islands during the last glacial period some 110,000 to 12,000 years ago. They were hunted to extirpation to make way for human habitation.
Physical Description - Javan tigers were smaller than Asian tigers, but looked similar. They had the traditional striped pattern and other characteristics shared by modern tigers.
Size - Their body weight was approximately 310 lbs. for the larger samples and had a body length of approximately 8 feet.
Location - The Indonesian island of Java.
Modern Relatives - The Asian tiger is the closest living relative.
- Scientific Name: Panthera tigris sondaica
- Type Of: Tiger
- Photo: Metaweb (FB) / Public domain
History - The Barbary lion was a population of lions that roamed North Africa. They were declared regionally extinct by the 1960s. They were believed to be a subspecies of lions, but DNA analysis conducted in 2017 concluded they were a separate population of the Asiatic lion. Barbary lions were important culturally throughout the Roman Empire and were imported to be used during gladiatorial games.
Physical Description - Large, beautiful manes, which extended over the shoulders and under the belly.
Size - Barbary lions were larger than most other species of lions, reaching up to 8 feet in length and weighing in as much as 660 lbs.
Location - The Atlas Mountains between Morocco and Egypt.
Modern Relatives - They were genetically identical to the Asiatic lion, which remains extant.
- Scientific Name: Panthera leo leo
- Type Of: Lion
History - The Caspian tiger was a distinct, yet isolated population of tigers that went extinct in the mid-20th-Century. It was extirpated sometime in the 1960s, though sightings continued for decades after it was declared extirpated.
Physical Description - Caspian tigers shared the same traits as modern tigers. They had striped patterns and weren't dissimilar in appearance or size.
Size - They were an intermediate size between the Siberian and Bengal tigers and could reach a length of 7.4 feet with a weight around 530 lbs.
Location - The Caspian region of Asia ranging from Eastern Turkey to China.
Modern Relatives - The Siberian and Bengal tigers are the closest living modern relatives.
- Scientific Name: Panthera tigris tigris
- Type Of: Tiger