Blue bobcats are also called “Maltese,” a term popularized among cat breeders for blue-grey cats. As with house cats, blue bobcats happen when a bobcat is born with two copies of a gene that causes melanism (black coloration) and also two copies of the dilution gene, which lightens the animal’s fur.
Both of these genes are very rare in bobcats, but have historically been recorded primarily in the South, where our dense forests historically provided a shadowy habitat where dark bobcats could hunt more effectively.
From 1700 to 1900, there were only a few records of trappers selling blue bobcat fur. These rare animals were presumed extinct until a trophy hunter in Grimes County, Texas spotted this animal and killed him.
It’s possible that the world may see another blue bobcat one day, maybe even right here in Tennessee. Unfortunately, blue bobcats and other rare color phases of bobcat don’t have special protections in most areas, so any remaining blue bobcats are at a very high risk of being killed for their beautiful fur.
This isn’t the first time history has seen the extinction of a “Maltese” wild cat. The bobcat’s distant cousin, the Bengal tiger, was also said to once exist in a blue-grey form, but none have been sighted since 1925.