This page contains information about jaguars, and includes a list of jaguar facts for kids. This article is part of our Rainforest Animals series.
The jaguar’s size, strength and expert hunting ability means that it’s an apex predator in the rainforests of South and Central America. Read on to find out more about this deadly rainforest cat…
Jaguars And The Cat Family
The jaguar is a large, powerfully-built cat. Its coat is pale orange and marked with rings called “rosettes”. Within each rosette are one or more smaller black spots.
Jaguars are members of the cat family Felidae – the same family to which your pet cat belongs! Members of this family are known as felids.
Jaguars belong to a subfamily of Felidae called Pantherinae. Other members of this subfamily include lions, tigers, leopards and snow leopards.
Jaguars are the third-largest cat species: only tigers and lions are bigger. The jaguar is the biggest cat native to the Americas.
The jaguar belongs to a group of felids known as the “big cats”. You can find out more about big cats on this page: What Is A Big Cat?
- You can see a list of every cat species on this page: Cat Species List with Pictures and Facts
Jaguars are solitary creatures, each living in its own area, known as a “territory”. Jaguars protect their territories from other jaguars.
Female jaguars give birth to 1 – 4 kittens at a time, and cubs live with their mothers for 2 or more years before they go off on their own.
Jaguars are powerfully built, and are excellent climbers and swimmers.
Jaguar Vs Leopard… vs Panther?
Jaguars and leopards are very similar. Both are large, spotted, big cats. However, Jaguars are bigger and more heavily built. Jaguars’ rosettes are bigger, less densely spaced, and have a central spot which leopards don’t have.
Jaguars live in the Americas, and leopards are found in Africa and Asia.
Some jaguars (and leopards) have markings that are so dense that the animals looks completely black. These animals are known as ‘panthers’, but they are in actual fact just jaguars or leopards, and not a separate species.
Where Do Jaguars live?
Jaguars are found in North, Central, and South America. Jaguars are even occasionally seen in Arizona, in the United States!
However, jaguars are mainly forest creatures, and prefer the dense rainforests of South America. They are also found in wetlands and grasslands.
Jaguars are most numerous in the Amazon Basin (the area around the Amazon river) and The Pantanal — a large wetland area in Brazil and parts of Bolivia and Paraguay.
Jaguars often live near water. Unlike other cats, jaguars are excellent swimmers, and can swim across rivers. They will also approach ambush prey from the water.
Watch the video below to see how at home a jaguar is in the water.
How Big Are Jaguars?
The length of a jaguar’s body is between 4 – 6 feet, and their tails add another 20 – 30″. The jaguar’s tail is the shortest of any big cat.
Jaguars weigh between 100 to 250 lbs (45 – 113 kg). Males are larger than females, and have been recorded to weigh as much as 348 lbs (158 kg).
Jaguars are 25 to 30 in (63 to 76 cm) tall.
What Does A Jaguar Eat?
Jaguars are carnivores (meat eaters). Their diet includes many kinds of animals, including fish, birds, caimans, deer, monkeys, capybaras and tapirs. Jaguars are also known to eat turtles, and their jaws are strong enough to break open turtles’ shells. Jaguars generally prefer larger prey.
Jaguar Hunting Methods
Jaguars prefer to stalk or ambush their prey, rather than pursue it. Jaguars are known to climb trees in order to ambush their prey.
In fact, jaguars are known as one of the best ambush hunters of all! If you are in the rainforest, always keep one eye on the trees above you!
Jaguars dispatch their prey with a strong bite to the neck that suffocates the animal. Jaguars can also use their strong jaws to crush the skulls of smaller prey animals, killing the prey instantly.
Are Jaguars Endangered?
Jaguars are classed as being ‘Near Threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). As with many rainforest species, the biggest threat to Jaguars is habitat loss due to deforestation. They are also shot by farmers protecting their livestock, and even today some are shot for their fur.
There are only about 15,000 jaguars living in the wild in their natural habitat.
Top 10 Jaguar Facts For Kids
- Jaguars are solitary creatures, and adults spend most of their time alone.
- Unlike most cats, jaguars are excellent swimmers and can swim across rivers.
- The word ‘jaguar’ comes from the Native American word ‘yajuar’, which means ‘he who kills with one leap’.
- Jaguars have the third most powerful bites of all cats.
- Jaguars can see six times better than humans.
- The jaguar’s scientific name is Panthera onca.
- Jaguars are masters at ambush hunting and stalking.
- In the wild, jaguars live for 12-15 years.
- Jaguars are carnivores, with varied diets that includes fish, reptiles, birds and mammals.
- Jaguars’ rosettes are bigger than thos of leopards, and have a spot in the centre.
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You can discover more amazing rainforest animals on this page: Rainforest Animals List with Pictures & Facts