Once again back it's the incredible series that dares to go where only drunken bar bets have before. This time, Jason Toon and Matthew Norman focus on a question that barely effects us all: Who would win in a fight, a bobcat or a person?
My money’s on the person by Jason Toon
Zoologists are divided on whether the bobcat is the smallest of the big cats, the biggest of the small cats, or the sole member of its own phylogeneric microclass, medium-sized cats. But one question about this tufty-faced feline has been definitively resolved through empirical observation: a dude could totally whoop up on a bobcat.
Some would say that the shock of encountering a threatening bobcat would overwhelm a typical person’s faculties, reducing him or her to so much defenseless bobcat chow. But Homo sapiens didn’t climb out of the muck by coming in second-best to what is essentially a steroidal family pet. When the veneer of civilization falls away, man’s savage animal nature takes over. Cupcakes and Snuggies aside, it turns out we can be pretty bad-ass when the bobcat hits the fan.
“A 62-year-old Florida man depended on his instincts when a bobcat attacked him, and it paid off,” says the Fox News account of a 62-year-old Floridian’s bobcat triumph. Even taking into account that network’s notorious bias in favor of foxes, those words should give pause to any bobcat who’s considering having a go. “I started choking it when got a good hold,” said Dale Rippy of Wesley Chapel, Florida. “I choked it ‘til he died. I got scratched up pretty good.” Does that sound like prey talking?
Bobcats are also known to be genetically susceptible to the “Hey, what’s that? Look over there” routine, a vulnerability that evolution has eradicated from most terrestrial predators. Combined with the bobcat’s lack of natural defenses against the two-fingered eye-gouge, we can conclude that any member of the Three Stooges would be well-equipped to survive a hostile bobcat encounter, with the possible exception of Curly Joe.
Don’t get me wrong: bobcats are beautiful, enchanting creatures and an essential part of the North American ecosystem. But the second it gets any ideas beyond looking pretty and patrolling the food chain, us naked apes stand ready to deliver the smackdown.
Man is the scratching post that bleeds and screams, by Matthew Norman
Jason, you ignorant slut.
This is a perfect example of the kind of inflated self-regard one commonly finds among people who die on alpine hikes, on float trips, and a quarter-mile off the snowshoeing trail.
Yeah, lah dee dah, you unearthed a few stories about unarmed humans killing wild cats. Color me a deep shade of not particularly impressed. You know why you can find stories like these to cite? Because they’re SENSATIONAL. It is NOT NORMAL. It’s CRAZY those people killed bobcats bare-handed. They prove a person can strangle a bobcat the way an article from ESPN might prove “a person” can throw a no-hitter.
You notice there are very few articles about people stepping on cockroaches and killing them? What you’ve done here is read a series of man-bites-dog pieces and extrapolated a natural order of things in which people generally bite dogs.
Ask yourself why mankind, as a species, outperforms the bobcat. It’s simple. It’s the same reason we have dominion over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth: Because of our high-powered, outsized brain. That big gray glob is a tremendous advantage! And a necessary one. Without it, we’re just slow-moving prey. With it, we’ve devised traps, concocted poisons, and built weapons. We’ve constructed cities where our otherwise essentially defenseless species can thrive without having to enter into direct personal competition with the other, stronger beasts.
You look at humankind, apparently prosperous and strong, but you fail to see the playpen of civilization that affords us the safety to have become so. You mistake us for being fit for wilderness survival. WTF, dude?
Though your limbs are weak, your lungs feeble, your teeth dull and your nails soft, you’re convinced that, in a do-or-die situation, you could shrug off the trappings of civilization—your only edge in the struggle against nature—like a boxer doffing his robe before a prizefight, and best the bobcat in a bare-handed fight to the death. Actually, you know what we might more properly call such a competition? A test of bobcat skills. I imagine somewhere in the mountains of Colorado, the Jason Toon of bobcats is convinced he’d do pretty well pitted against a human on the SATs.
Do you know what most people actually do in do-or-die situations? They die.
Have you ever seen how badly messed-up a person can be by a comparatively puny house cat when it's ornery?
Remember that THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode about the woman who got fought to a standstill by a mere raccoon?
A bobcat, of course, can eat a raccoon for breakfast. That’s not a figure of speech; it’s literally true. A bobcat can take down a full-grown white-tailed deer. Your average present-day American can’t take himself up three flights of stairs without stopping for a breather.
And where, I wonder, do you imagine this man-on-wildcat bout taking place? Because the bobcat has a huge home-court advantage. In true wilderness, far from hospitals and taxicabs and Neosporin, a cut that’s merely “pretty bad” back home could be fatal. So could a twisted ankle, for that matter. Or damp clothes. This is how fragile you are. A person sits in the comfort of his TV room watching Bear Gryllis’s fantasy hour, or drives out to peep at the Grand Canyon, and imagines he’s prepared for nature’s savagery. He is not. He’s a domesticated marshmallow.
And this is the puny, ignorant, baselessly self-assured sack of soft meat you want to bet on? seriously? Twenty-first-century, first-world man? Against 30 pounds of feline ferocity that’s been killing to eat for almost two million years? Nuh-uh. In an unarmed face-off, a bobcat will cut any man I know to ribbons. And "unarmed, face off" will be an apt description of the human loser afterward, too.
Of course, I hope a bobcat attack never happens to anyone I know. Likely it won’t. It is, in fact, the extreme unlikelihood of bobcat wrasslin’ that affords my friends like Jason the luxury of their delusions about how well they’d fare. But if, by some truly weird series of events, some human pal of mine ever faces down a feral bobcat, and he enters into this hypothetical interspecies grudge match with anything like the overconfidence on display above, here will be the limits of my compassion:
I will not say “I told him so” at the funeral, and will refrain from forwarding his Darwin Award nomination to any grieving relatives.
Cheeky Bobcat by dinglepup, Bobcat by Mark Gstohl, Bobcat (Lyxn Rufus) by Cliff1066, Bobcat kitten by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Bobcat by Otacon are all used under the Creative Commons License