They were honored Native leaders—Tecumseh of the Shawnee and Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce.
Their 21st century namesakes in Cincinnati, Ohio are, however, furry members of the biological family felidae, which also includes cheetahs, tigers, and the domestic cat.
Appropriateness or lack thereof aside, the two male cougars in the Cincinnati Zoo named Tecumseh and Joseph are part of a new exhibit that will offer a close-up look at the cats, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The cougars will be displayed in an outdoor exhibit that simulates their natural habitat of rocks, a waterfall, pool, and trees on which they can climb.
The cougars join America’s wildlife lore in which they are variously known as the ghost cat, catamount, puma, painter, panther or mountain lion, as well as cougar, says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
“The many names given the nation’s largest cat convey the mystery surrounding this solitary hunter,” the FWS notes.
The variety of names also demonstrates the cougar’s original distribution throughout North America and from Southern Canada to the tip of South America, a vast habitat now restricted to wild lands in the western U.S. and Canada.
In a further nod to the animal’s decline, the FWS Northeast Region in March concluded that the eastern cougar subspecies is extinct and it was removed from the list maintained under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Despite the outcry of hunters and others who cling to a belief in the elusive cat, the FWS says observers probably saw cougars of other subspecies, often South American cougars that escaped or released to the wild or western cougars that migrated eastward.
Along with zoo cougars like Tecumseh and Joseph, other cougar subspecies exist, though ESA-listed. The Florida panther, which once ranged throughout the Southeast, now includes 120 to 160 animals that live in less than 5 percent of their original habitat.