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Species Facts

The jaguar is the largest felid in the Americas. It has the look of power: it is a strong, stocky cat, deep chested, with an unusually large head and short, sturdy limbs. Even the jaguar’s canine teeth are more robust and convey a more powerful bite than those of the other big cats.

  • Scientific Designation: Panthera onca
  • Endangered Status: Near Threatened (NT)
  • Lifespan: 11-12 years
  • Weight: 36-158 kg
  • Body Length: 112-241 cm
  • Shoulder Height: 45-76 cm
  • Tail Length: 43-75 cm


The back and sides of a jaguar are covered with large black or dark brown clusters of spots, called rosettes. These mark a background color that varies from pale yellow to tawny. The rosette pattern extends onto the white belly, throat, and insides of the limbs. The tail is marked with black spots on its first half and several black rings or bands on its second.

The jaguar is a solitary opportunistic predator that is capable of killing almost any prey it encounters, ranging from and two-pound armadillos to large wild or domestic animals. Even so, it is not averse to eating such things as turtle eggs, if the opportunity presents. The jaguar usually hunts by walking slowly along trails, watching and listening for prey. However, it may also utilize the sit-and-wait ambush technique. Interestingly, the jaguar’s best-known form of communication is roaring: the jaguar is one of only four large cats that is able to roar.

Species Distribution

The jaguar is distributed throughout Central and South America, inhabiting a variety of tropical and subtropical habitats from sea level to about 1,200 meters. The species is a denizen of dense, tropical forest, but also can be found in a wide range of other habitats, including arid scrub, swampy grassland, and forest. The jaguar is usually associated with streams and watercourses and is an excellent swimmer.

Distribution map courtesy of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), compiled in 2017 by Panthera.

Threats to the Jaguar

Competition with humans for food and living space threatens the jaguar. Other threats include hunting by humans for its skin and retaliatory killing by herdsmen who have lost livestock to a jaguar attack.

The jaguar is currently classified as Near Threatened (NT) by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and protected under appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

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