The jaguar is a relatively large cat measuring 1.1-1.9m (43in-75in). The jaguar is 63 to 76cm (24.8-29.2in) in height. They are heavier and stockier than their cousins the leopard. They weigh between 56 and 96kg (123.5-211.6lbs). The female is between 10 and 20% smaller than the male.
The majority of jaguars are orange, yellow or tan. They have spots which are known as rosettes as they look like roses. These rosettes have a spot inside which can be used to distinguish them from leopards.
Some colour variations occur including black and albino. Albinos are very rare as the species is easy for predators to spot. Black jaguars are regularly found. These are known as melanistic jaguars. They are selected by nature to live in dark environments where this makes them camouflaged.
The jaguar is a carnivore. Their a diet comprises over 80 different species. They are able to take food both on land and in the water allowing for their large diet.
They will take caiman (a large crocodile), deer, capybara, tapir, peccary, dogs, foxes, anacondas, turtles, frogs, mice, birds, fish, sloths, monkeys, pacas and armadillos. They have a preference for large ungulates.
There is some evidence that they eat the roots of one plant.
With human settlement they have begun to hunt sheep, horses and cattle. This has led to persecution by humans.
Wild 15 years
Captive 23 years
The jaguar is found throughout North, South and Central America. They are found throughout Brazil, Argentina, Belize, Ecuador, French Guiana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guyana, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela and the United States.
Jaguars inhabit rainforest areas, swamps, grasslands, woodlands, dry forests and deserts.
They favor habitats near water.
Jaguars will mate at any time throughout the year. Males and females are solitary and only come together when it is time to mate. The female is fertile for 6-17 days every month. She will leave scent mark and roar to indicate she is ready to breed.
After mating it takes 3 months for them to give birth. The average litter size is three cubs who are born blind. The male will remain with the female up until she gives birth. After this he is not tolerated as he may kill the cubs. The eyes of the cubs open between days 3 and 13. At one month of age their teeth start to come through. They are weaned off milk at three months of age. They remain in the den till six months as the female still needs to feed them.
After one to two years they will leave the den and establish their own territory. Sexual maturity is reached between 2 and 3 years of age for females. Males mature later at 3-4 years.
They use a large range of vocalisations including roars, grunts and meows. They can also communicate using scent marking.
The jaguar is crepuscular being more active at dawn and dusk. They are an energetic feline spending 50-60% of the day active.
Jaguars are able to swim well and are very athletic on land. When swimming they are capable of carrying their prey item, even if it is large, incredibly well. They are able to carry a cow up a tree. The jaguar has the strongest bite force of any predator.
The jaguar is featured prominently in native Indian, Maya and Aztec cultures.
Their name is derived from the native American word Yaguar. This means “he who kills with one leap.”
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Quigley, H., Foster, R., Petracca, L., Payan, E., Salom, R. & Harmsen, B. 2017. Panthera onca (errata version published in 2018). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T15953A123791436. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T15953A50658693.en. Downloaded on 16 May 2020.