In most respects, the Iberian lynx resembles other species of lynx, with a short tail, tufted ears and a ruff of fur beneath the chin. While the Eurasian lynx bears rather pallid markings, the Iberian lynx has distinctive, leopard-like spots with a coat that is often light grey or various shades of light brownish-yellow. The coat is also noticeably shorter than in other lynxes, which are typically adapted to colder environments. Some western populations were spotless, although these have recently become extinct. The head and body length is 85 to 110 centimetres (33 to 43 in), with the short tail an additional 12 to 30 centimetres (4.7 to 12 in); the shoulder height is 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 in). The male is larger than the female, with the average weight of males 12.9 kilograms (28 lb) and a maximum of 26.8 kilograms (59 lb), compared to an average of 9.4 kilograms (21 lb) for females; this is about half the size of the Eurasian lynx.
It hunts mammals (including rodents and insectivores), birds, reptiles and amphibians at twilight. The European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is its main prey (79.5-86.7%), with (5.9%) hares (Lepus granatensis) and rodents (3.2%) less common. A male requires one rabbit per day; a female bringing up cubs will eat three rabbits per day. As the population of rabbits in Spain and Portugal has declined due to myxomatosis, the Iberian lynx is often forced to attack young fallow deer, roe deer, mouflon, and ducks. The Iberian lynx competes for prey with the red fox, the Egyptian mongoose (Herpestes ichneumon) and the wildcat. It is solitary and hunts alone; it will stalk its prey or lie in wait for hours behind a bush or rock until the prey is sufficiently close to pounce in a few strides.
This lynx was distributed over the entire Iberian Peninsula as recently as the mid-19th century. It is now restricted to very limited areas of southern Spain, with breeding only confirmed in two areas of Andalucía. The Iberian lynx prefers heterogeneous environments of open grassland mixed with dense shrubs such as strawberry tree, mastic, and juniper, and trees such as holm oak and cork oak. It is now largely restricted to mountainous areas, with only a few groups found in lowland forest or dense maquis shrubland.