This is a very good question. As the carnivore keeper at the Houston Zoo- Josh Young said, “Saying you are sculpting a panther is like saying you are sculpting a bird.” “Panthera” is basically the genus of large cats, which would include lions, leopards jaguars, tigers cheetahs etc. What is the cat that most people think of when they say panther? It is a melanistic variant of another cat, most likely it is a black leopard or a jaguar. Now here is something really interesting, as the name states above, you can see spots on a “panther” black leopard if you look in the right light. So, for clarification we are looking at black leopards for this sculpture. But…. the black leopard does appear to be a smaller big cat… I went to my sources for this. Here is what Sam at the zoo had to say.
“Thanks for being patient with me as I gathered my facts for you! You were asking about black leopards specifically, so I will try to answer your questions without being too vague. Leopards are an interesting species to study as they are found in so many different habitats from Africa to Asia. Melanistic (or black) phased individuals are primarily found in southeast Asia and nearly all of the leopards on Java are melanistic. That being said, evolutionarily speaking, the black phase seemed to develop in the more densely forested areas as the darker color blends in better and these individuals could be more successful in hunting and avoiding detection. Another trait that develops in densely forested areas is smaller body size. Smaller predators can move more easily through the dense trees than larger ones. The reason I am telling you this is that if you look at leopard sizes they have a varied range (even among melanistic). Male Leopards average about 150lbs, but in some regions they can routinely reach 200lbs or more. Our spotted male weighs 130lbs and the black female weighs about 67lbs. Leopards average 3-6 feet from nose to tail, with tails averaging about 23-44 inches. Since you are looking at the melanistic phases, I would use the low end of that scale.”
Just to be safe we made our “panther” much bigger. I mean… it is, after all, a representation of something very big.
This is from the Prairie View A&M Blog created for this project.