The Eurasian lynx is a solitary animal; a secretive creature that prefers dense forests full of hiding places and stalking opportunities. Often the only way humans know lynx are around is by footprints in the snow. One of the most successful of cats, the lynx was originally found from the UK to China, though in the modern age it has reduced greatly in number through Western Europe where populations are now mostly small and fragmented.
Eurasian lynx are medium sized felids that come in a variety of colours and patterns according to their locality; the Northern European lynx are typically grey with a white, lightly spotted belly. As you move further south throughout the lynx’s range they tend to be more red/brown in colour and more heavily spotted. Coat colour can also vary with the season, red/brown being more common in warm months and grey/silver in winter months.
Long legged with huge, snowshoe-like webbed paws to keep them an effective and fast predator even in deep snow, they have a distinctive ruff of hair around their face and neck and a short tail typically around 8 inches long; this is always black tipped, just like the small tufts of black hair on each ear which improves their hearing. The coat is thick, dense and double layered for protection against cold weather.
Greatly varied in size Eurasian lynx tend to be between 80 to 130 cm length and up to 70cm at the shoulder, generally weighing 18 to 40kg.
Lynx prey largely on small to fairly large sized mammals and birds. Among the recorded prey items for the species are hares, rabbits,marmots, squirrels, dormice, other rodents, mustelids (such as martens), grouse, red foxes, wild boar, chamois, young moose, roe deer,red deer, reindeer and other ungulates. Although taking on larger prey presents a risk to the animal, the bounty provided by killing them can outweigh the risks. The Eurasian lynx thus prefers fairly large ungulate prey, especially during winter when small prey is less abundant. They are the only Lynx species in which ungulates provide a great portion of their diet in relation to lagomorphs or rodents. Where common, roe deer appear to be the preferred prey species for the lynx. Even where roe deer are quite uncommon, the deer are still quantitatively the favored prey species, though in summer smaller prey and occasional domestic sheep are eaten more regularly.
The main method of hunting is stalking, sneaking and jumping on prey, although they are also ambush predators when conditions are suitable. In winter certain snow conditions make this harder and the animal may be forced to switch to larger prey. Eurasian lynx hunt using both vision and hearing, and often climb onto high rocks or fallen trees to scan the surrounding area. A very powerful predator, these lynxes have successfully killed adult deer weighing to at least 150 kg (330 lb).
This lynx occurs from western Europe through the boreal forest of Russia to central Asia and the Tibetan Plateau. They are found throughout the northern steppes of the Himalayas to an elevation of 2,500 metres.
The Eurasian Lynx is found in deciduous and mixed forests in Europe and Russia; open wooded regions and semi deserts in Central Asia; thick scrub and barren rocky areas on the northern slopes of the Himalayas and even up the Arctic tundra in northern latitudes.
Their population in central and southern Europe is estimated at 8,000, but is small and fragmented. They are thought to be doing well in Russia, with an estimated population of 30,000-50,000 animals. The Mongolian population is estimated at 10,000.
One of the earliest known depictions of the lynx in Greco-Roman mythology is recorded in Ovid’s epic poem,Metamorphoses. The goddess Demeter (often conflated with the Roman goddess Ceres) commands Triptolemus to travel the world teaching the art of agriculture. He arrives at the court of King Lyncus, who grows desirous of the goddess’s favour, and plots to kill Triptolemus in his sleep. No sooner than he raises his sword, however, he is transformed into a lynx.
In medieval times, the lynx was said to produce a gem. According to many bestiaries, the lynx would urinate in a hole that it had dug in ground, and then cover it with dirt. After a number of days, the urine would harden into a gem that resembled a carbuncle. It was believed that the Latin name for amber, ‘Lyncurium’, was derived from this superstition.