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The largest of the small spotted cats, the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) is one of the best known and most common cat species in its range, and also arguably one of the most beautiful. The short, sleek fur varies in colour from tawny yellow, to reddish, to grey, and is marked with both solid black spots and open, dark-centered rosettes, which often run in parallel chains along the side of the body, the typical pattern of the species. The head bears black spots, two black stripes on each cheek, and a prominent white spot on the back of the otherwise black ears. There are also parallel black stripes on the neck, on which, unusually, the fur grows ‘reversed’, slanting forwards. The underparts are white, with one or two black bars on the insides of the legs, while the tail is banded and spotted with black. Each individual ocelot has a unique coat pattern. The female ocelot is roughly one third smaller than the male, but otherwise similar in appearance. The ocelot is quite a variable species, with around ten subspecies currently recognised. Although very similar to the closely related margay (Leopardus wiedii), the ocelot can be distinguished by its larger size, less plush fur, relatively smaller eyes, and by its shorter tail, which, unlike in the margay, is shorter than the hindleg, and barely touches the ground.




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