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      The usefullness of a long strong Tail 

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Her tail drapes & curves, an object of both elegance & strength.


The tail is a strange and prominent appendage of cats worldwide; it can be worn in the short stubby fashion of a bobcat, or the long & strong rope style of a panther.  


A tail can reveal a panther’s mood, be used to communicate subtle thoughts and express intense emotion. It can be twitched & flicked, curved & swished; its movement can give away what its possessor is feeling, from slight concern to annoyance, anticipation, or anger, it can hang in complete relaxation, or be poised in quiet reserve.


One thing you will never see a panther’s tail engaged in and that is standing straight up in the air, only our domestic cats hold court with their tails in this way – raised high to the sky. Panthers strong taught muscles will not allow it to do so. It is never at a right angle to the body unless the muscles are completely relaxed or the panther unconscious.


We use our hands to touch; a panther can use its tail, ever see a cat run its tail along or over an object? We can feel this furry limb that seems to have a life of its own when rubbed against our leg, or watch it come to rest on the body of another cat as if it were a part of some secret conversation, a tail has a language all its own.  A mother may curl her tail around her kits like a blanket, or when alone wrap it around her own body for added warmth. And it may at times be employed in earnest as a fly swat.  


When on the move, the tail is used as a counter balance to offset the weight of a panther while running, and to help steer or balance the body when dodging, shifting, springing or leaping. It is a very functional, powerful, and yet also graceful part of panther anatomy.  When walking the tail will usually drape down behind its body with a beautiful curve at the end, and casually swish from side to side.


A panther’s tail equates for about a third of its body length, and is comprised of 19 caudal vertebrae (tail bones). These bones are bound with tendons & muscles then completely wrapped in fur, the fur is tawny colored except for the end portion which is auburn to dark brown. Older family lines of Florida panther had a kink or crook at the end of their tail, the result of in breeding.



Courtesy of John Ososky Smithsonian Institution

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