Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cats in Art: Ocelot or Leopard-Cat (Audubon)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. Currently I'm turning for a few weeks to John James Audubon. 

Image credit The Philadelphia Print Shop, here, Ocelot or Leopard-Cat. John James Audubon.

If you recall from last week's post, here, Audubon is much better known for his stunningly beautiful paintings of birds.  Per Wikipedia, "His major work, a color-plate book entitled The Birds of America (1827–1839), is considered one of the finest ornithological works ever completed."

What many folks don't know is that Audubon also set out to depict all North American quadrupeds (primarily four-footed mammals). His three-volume The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, published in 1845, contained this illustration.

In contrast to last week's painting of an almost freaky-looking bobcat, this ocelot looks normal and lifelike.  Audubon really captures three key elements of any wild cat: grace, power, and stealth.

Quick primer on ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), courtesy of National Geographic:

Twice the size of the average house cat, the ocelot is a sleek animal with a gorgeous dappled coat. These largely nocturnal cats use keen sight and hearing to hunt rabbits, rodents, iguanas, fish, and frogs. They also take to the trees and stalk monkeys or birds. Unlike many cats, they do not avoid water and can swim well.

The  range of the ocelot is south and central America, just barely extending up to the U.S. in Texas.  So there is hope--however slight--for Ultrarunners here in the U.S. to encounter one in the backcountry.

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