Jaguar (Panthera onca)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family:    Felidae
Size:    Height: 30 to 36 inches (76 to 91 cm)  Length: Up to 6 feet (1.8 m)
Weight: 100 to 300 pounds (45 to 136 kg)
Diet: Monkeys, peccaries, tapirs, fish, crocodiles, frogs
Distribution: Mexico, Central and South America, sometimes Arizona, New Mexico, Texas
Young:  1 to 4 cubs
Animal Predators:  None
IUCN Status: Lower Risk, Near Threatened
Terms: Young: Cub
Lifespan: Up to 25+ years in captivity



·       Jaguars are the largest cats in the western hemisphere.

·       The name “jaguar” comes from the South American Indian word “yaguara” which means “beast who kills prey with one bound.”

·       Jaguars are the third largest cat in the world, ranking behind the tiger and African lion.

·       An Indian legend claims the jaguar got its spotted coat by dabbing mud on its body with its paws.



Jaguars are sometimes mistaken for leopards because they both have spots. However, the spots and rosettes (brownish patches surrounded by smaller black spots) on a jaguar are larger than that of a leopard, and jaguars are larger, with a stockier head, bigger body and shorter tail and legs. Jaguars are usually a yellow-orange colour under the spots, but sometimes can be black. Black jaguars also have spots, but the spots are difficult to see except in a very bright light, so they appear solid coloured. 



Jaguars can be found in the forests and the swampy areas of Central and South America. A few jaguars from the Mexican populations occasionally wander into territories along the extreme southern borders of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico.


Feeding Habits

Unlike most other big cats, jaguars do not kill their prey by biting the neck—instead, they bite through the temple bones of the skull, usually killing the prey with one bite. The jaguar stalks whatever is available including fish, crocodiles, frogs, monkeys, peccaries, tapirs and sometimes domestic livestock. 



Mating can take place at any time of the year and the males go their own way before the cubs are born in their mother’s den. The pregnancy lasts three to four months and the cubs are born with spotted fur, closed eyes and weighing one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half pounds (0.6 to 1.1 kg). By three months they are weaned and begin to go along with their mother on hunts. They will stay with her until they are two years old. Like leopards, jaguars may give birth to both yellow cubs with spots and black cubs in the same litter. 



Jaguars can be found near water in order to cool off on hot days. They enjoy swimming and will hunt in water for food. Jaguars roam great distances and have been seen in high altitudes as well as open country. Jaguars are non-aggressive towards humans and never attack unless cornered and provoked. There are stories of jaguars following men for great distances, without harming them or approaching them, and then suddenly disappearing. It is believed that, rather than stalking them, the jaguars were escorting them off their territory. 



Humans have made huge encroachments on the jaguar’s territory, not only by cutting down forests, but by hunting the same animals on which the jaguar relies. This encroachment has altered the ecosystem in many areas of South and Central America. All eight subspecies are threatened and some are extinct, except in zoos. It is estimated that there are 15,000 jaguars left in the wild. During the 1960s and 70s up to 18,000 jaguars were killed every year for their gorgeous coats. Poaching exists today, but in lesser quantities. Still, the survival of jaguars is uncertain, because of the destruction of their habitat due to logging, farming and ranching.



Jaguar Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US