Marvel’s highly acclaimed Black Panther has been a smash hit with comic book fans all over the world. However, what about the actual big cat that is its namesake? In this post, let us explore more about the real black panthers in the wild and how the truth about them leads to surprising facts about black cats in general!
Fun Fact #1 – ‘Black panthers’ are not a single species.
That’s right. The truth is that ‘black panther’ is actually a name given to several black-haired variants of big cats, notably jaguars and leopards. This is due to a fairly common phenomenon called melanism.
Melanism is when an animal has large amounts of a dark pigment called melanin on the skin. What is most interesting is this is generally why there are black kitties across a number of domestic cat breeds!
Fun Fact #2 – Both black jaguars and black leopards are rare.
It is not clear why but melanistic big cats are rare across all the species they are found. This rarity is what initially led some scientists to assume that the black jaguar was a different species
from the regular one. It was only upon closer inspection that they were found to be one and the same.
It is highly suspected that natural selection plays a key role in the variant’s rarity, with black coats proving less effective camouflage in the wild (at least for black jaguars). Researchers have also attempted breeding melanistic pairs and have reported smaller litters.
Fun Fact #3 – They are not just found in Africa.
Given that melanism goes across species, you can easily assume that the ‘black panther’ can be found in different parts of the world outside Africa (and the fictional nation of Wakanda). It is very likely that black leopards were the ones who inspired Marvel’s big cat superhero. These are found in areas like Mt. Kenya and are arguably even more common in Asia, particularly Java and the rainforests of Malaya.
Meanwhile black jaguars are generally associated with South America. And while they are scientifically the same species as their spotted variants, some tribes still believe black jaguars are more dangerous.
Fun Fact #4 – Marvel is not the only one with a black panther hero
Lastly, some of you might remember that the Marvel superhero isn’t the first time a black panther was used as a character. Way back in 1894, a man named Rudyard Kipling wrote a series of stories inspired by his time in India. These stories would then eventually become known as the Jungle Book.
If you are familiar with those stories (or their Disney adaptations), then you will remember that the character Bagheera is also a black panther! In fact, ‘black panther’ is the literal translation of his Hindi name. And much like T’Challa, Bagheera serves a heroic mentor and best friend in his story.
As you can see, the black panther is a widely reaching icon both in scientific and cultural terms. And when you think about it, the little black cats of the world are black panthers in their own way. It is really amazing how even a distinctly colored variant can have its own celebrity status!
“Uh-oh! A black cat just passed by!”
“Quick! Pull out a pair of rabbit’s feet!”
Kitties are uniquely adorable. They’re completely devious looking, but totally not in many ways. They’re the perfect pet for owners who do not want to be clung-on frequently.
Superstition says that the black ones ought to bring bad luck. What’s up with that?
In ancient times, they were once gods.
Ten thousand years ago, cats (Mau) were considered sacred in the ancient Egyptian society. Bast (also known as Bastet) their cat goddess represented protection, fertility, and motherhood. A lot of Egyptians worshipped cats in, especially Bast. This veneration came to a point of worship. The practice of mummification which was only done to preserve human bodies extended to felines. Back in the days, these kitties were treated above the likes of men that killing them was considered a mortal crime.
What happened then?
It wasn’t until the resurgence of the European-based Witchcraft (Wicca) that turned the images of these kitties from being praised to wanting to be erased.
A popular lore that changed the course of history for our kitty cats.
The story began in Lincolnshire back in 1560’s. It was said that on a dark and moonless night, a father and son came across an unidentifiable creature darting along their path. Scared, they threw stones out in the open. Out of the dark, an injured black cat scurried and limped towards the adjacent home of a woman suspected to be a witch. The next day, the father and son encountered the woman on the street. Her arms were wrapped around with bandages and her face was bruised. She was now walking with a limp. And, ever since that day, black cats in Lincolnshire were suspected to be witches in disguise.
The lore spread across the globe. As the witch scare mounted to paranoia, a lot of women and house pets were burned alive, especially black cats.
During the Salem Witch Trials, black cats were considered familiars of witches. They were believed to walk the streets unseen from the townsfolk taking in the form of their familiars. This hypothesis ignited the people’s dread and disgusted perceptions towards our black kitties.
Since then, every time people encounter a black cat, an inter-cultural whiplash about cats as harbingers of doom or the bringer of unfortunate events are the second if not the first thing that comes into people’s minds. For feline haters, a fusion of timeless historical horrors condemns the color of these poor little kitties.
But we wouldn’t want to end our topic today with a bad image for our beautiful black kitties, no. In some parts of the world, stories of their wonders still warm the hearts of our fellow ailurophiles.
In some parts of England, black cats ought to bless marriages. Having black kitties at home will bring marriages the best of luck and the longest and happiest of life together. They’re also believed to be lucky charms for sailors to return from their voyage to their homes safe – why black cats in ye olde times were expensive.
In France, they believe that black cats called “matagots” or “magician cats” will reward them with fortune and wealth if they treat them with respect. Also, when you are in a crossroad, a black cat is believed to lead you where the treasure is.
Freya, the Norse god of beauty, love, and fertility, rides a chariot pulled by two black cats. According to Norse mythology, farmers would have to win the favor of these two black cats for Freya to bless them with a good harvest. That is through this notion, having a black cat in the house is said to keep your lives happy and safe.
In the end, different cultures have different stories and myths to tell. So, the next time you see a black cat, instead of pulling a pair of rabbits, gather up your wits and think this:
Whatever their color is, cats will always be cats. They will always chase mice and lasers, jump in the presence of cucumbers and be lazy most of the time. The best we do is love them; love them with all we got, because in turn, they will bring us the joy and love no other animal or luck can.
Meow for now… Kristian
Cats have style, cats have panache and cats have class. They’re not content slumming it like dogs.
So why not get some inspiration from these amazing design ideas and make your home both cat friendly and great looking.
One idea we liked was hanging a cat bridge over a door. So your cat could pass the time stretched out and sleeping above you. You could also have a bookcase that doubles as a cat staircase, so that your cat slink their way up and down to their heart’s content.
One of the main drawbacks of having a cat is what to do with the litter box. In this piece you can find a few great ways to have a litter box in your home while keeping your space as stylish as you would like.
As the infographic shows, there are also many ways you can incorporate perching space into your house that complement the overall aesthetic you are going for.
We hope this fun infographic gives you plenty of food for thought when it comes to deciding how to improve your cat’s life, but not at the detriment of your sense of style.
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