Panthera onca

Last updated: June 27, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
Image Credit Gary M. Stoltz - Public Domain by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The largest feline on the American continent!

Jaguar Scientific Classification

Scientific Name
Panthera onca

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Jaguar Conservation Status

Jaguar Facts

Deer, Capybara, Tapir
Name Of Young
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
The largest feline on the American continent!
Estimated Population Size
Biggest Threat
Hunting and habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Beautiful rosetted fur pattern
Gestation Period
90 - 105 days
Rainforest, swamp and floodplains
Average Litter Size
  • Crepuscular
Common Name
Number Of Species
Central and South America
The largest feline on the American continent!

Jaguar Physical Characteristics

  • Brown
  • Yellow
  • Black
  • White
  • Tan
Skin Type
Top Speed
50 mph
12 - 15 years
36kg - 160kg (79lbs - 350lbs)
1.1m - 1.9m (43in - 75in)
Age of Sexual Maturity
3 - 4 years
Age of Weaning
3 months

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View all of the Jaguar images!

Classification and Evolution

The Jaguar is the largest feline on the American continent, and is the only one of the world’s ‘big’ cats to be found in the New World. Jaguars are animals that are closely related to Leopards and have a number of similar characteristics including the distinctive spotted pattern on their fur. The Jaguar is the third biggest Cat in the world behind the Tiger and the Lion and is well known for its immense power and agility. In fact, the name Jaguar is said to come from the Native American word yaguar which means “he who kills with one leap”. Despite their incredible power however, Jaguars have been hunted through the ages mainly for their staggeringly beautiful fur. Although hunting for Jaguar fur is now prohibited, population numbers have declined throughout much of their natural range, with Jaguars having completely disappeared from a number of areas.

Types Of Jaguar Animals

While the official taxonomic species of Jaguar is: Panthera onca, there are many different types of jaguar animals, from the Arizona Jaguar, to the Northeastern Jaguar. A complete list of different jaguar types is found below:

  • Panthera onca arizonensis (Arizona jaguar)
  • Panthera onca centralis (Central American jaguar)
  • Panthera onca onca (East Brazilian jaguar)
  • Panthera onca palustris (South American Jaguar)
  • Panthera onca veraecrucis (Northeastern jaguar)
  • Panthera onca paraguensis (Paraguay jaguar)
  • Panthera onca peruviana (Peruvian jaguar)
  • Panthera onca goldmani (Yucatan Peninsula jaguar)
  • Panthera onca hernandesii (West Mexican jaguar)

Anatomy and Appearance

The Jaguar is a large and muscular animal that has a heavier and sturdier body than that of a Leopard. They have a large, broad head with jaws so strong that they are said to have the most powerful bite of all the world’s Cats. Jaguars tend to have a cover of either tan or dark yellow fur, which is dotted with darker rose-like patterns that are similar to those of a Leopard (besides the fact that they have dark spots in the middles). Known as rosetting, the pattern on the Jaguar’s fur is unique to each animal much like fingerprints are unique to individual people, and despite its beauty, it actually acts as the perfect camouflage in the surrounding jungle. This camouflage turns out to be so vital to their chances of survival, that those Jaguars found in the rainforest are darker in colour and often smaller than those found in more open areas.

Distribution and Habitat

The Jaguar is an animal that is indigenous to the Western Hemisphere, where it primarily inhabits the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Although the historic range of the Jaguar stretched across the whole continent and even into the southern states of the USA, they are today confined to remote pockets of rainforest particularly in the moist Amazon Basin. Jaguars tend to prefer thick, dense, moist jungle where there is plenty of cover in order to successfully hunt and then ambush prey. They are nearly always found close to water and prefer either permanent swampland or seasonally flooded forests. The Jaguar has been severely affected by habitat loss throughout much of its natural range along with poachers who shoot them when they get too close to the growing Cattle ranches.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Although this elusive animal spends most of its time either resting in the safety of the trees or hunting in the dense undergrowth, Jaguars are animals who love to be in the close proximity of water such as floodplains and slow-moving rivers (which is rare amongst felines), and they rarely venture into arid, more desert-like areas. The Jaguar is an excellent swimmer and can move through the water at surprising speed particularly when in pursuit of prey. As with many other Cat species, the Jaguar is a solitary animal with the exception of the first couple of years that Jaguar cubs spend with their mother. Males are particularly territorial and although their home range will overlap those of a number of females, they will defend their patch fiercely from other males. Jaguars mark their territories with urine, by scratching marks onto trees, and asserting themselves with growling vocal calls.

You can check out incredible facts about jaguars.

Reproduction and Life Cycles

Despite the fact that most Jaguar cubs are generally born between the months of December and March, it is not uncommon for them to be born at other times of the year. During the mating season, the female Jaguar will use loud vocal calls to attract a male into her territory. Female Jaguars typically give birth to two or three cubs. Once their cubs are born however, the female Jaguar will not tolerate the male in her territory as she becomes very protective of her young at this stage. Jaguar cubs are born blind and gain their sight after about two weeks. They are weaned by their mother when they are around 3 months old, although the cubs will rely on their mother to hunt and provide for them until they are about 6 months old. At 6 months, the Jaguar cubs will then start to accompany the female jaguar on hunts but will not venture out on their own until they are one or two years old and have established a territory for themselves.

Diet and Prey

The majority of a Jaguar’s hunting is done down on the ground but they are also known to hunt for prey both in the water and from the trees, from where the Jaguar can easily ambush its prey often killing it with one powerful bite. Learn more about the toughest animals in the world here. Medium sized mammals make up the majority of the Jaguar’s diet including Deer, Capybara, Peccaries and Tapirs, which they stalk in silence through the dense jungle. When in the water, Jaguars hunt Turtles, Fish and even small Caiman when the opportunity presents itself. The Jaguar is known to be a formidable and aggressive hunter and is thought to eat more than 80 different animal species in order to supplement its diet. With growing Human settlements, the Jaguar has also been blamed by ranch owners for stealing their livestock, particularly in areas that encroach on the Jaguar’s territory.

Predators and Threats

Due to the large size and dominant nature of the Jaguar, there are no other wild animals that are known to actually consider it as prey. Once found throughout the South American continent, they have been hunted by Humans mainly for their fur which has led to drastic declines in Jaguar population numbers everywhere. Despite now having legal protection and a reduction in the hunting of them for their fur, the Jaguar is at increasing risk from loss of habitat mainly in the form of deforestation to make way for agriculture or growing Human settlements, which means these large and majestic animals are being pushed into more remote regions of their native range.

Interesting Facts and Features

Jaguars have the strongest bite force of all Cats (learn about the strongest animals in the world here) and like other ‘big’ Cats they can roar (other Cats cannot). The Jaguar is undoubtedly a strikingly beautiful animal and has naturally caught the attention of both scientists and hunters alike, with many individuals sadly having been poached for their distinctively patterned fur. Although Jaguars usually have yellowish coloured fur, other colours are also known including black and white. As with black Leopards, they are not completely black as you can still see the spotting (although faint) in strong sunlight. Jaguars are said to be able to cross-breed with both Leopards and Lions. A Lepjag was produced by the film industry to produce a Cat that had the appearance of a Jaguar but was easier to handle with the temperament of a Leopard. He lives in retirement now in a Big Cat sanctuary, and like other ‘big’ cat hybrids he is sterile.

Relationship with Humans

Historically, Jaguars have featured throughout Native American culture, as these people were well aware of the power of this dominant predator with some believing that the Jaguar was the lord of the underworld. They are feared by Humans who inhabit areas close to the jungle and are also often blamed by ranch owners for their missing livestock. Although Jaguars hold the reputation for being very aggressive, unprovoked attacks on Humans are rare. Jaguars have been severely affected by deforestation throughout much of Central and South America, primarily for agriculture with the highest numbers now found in the Amazon Basin.

Conservation Status and Life Today

The Jaguar was once found from the tip of South America right up to and beyond, the Mexico-USA border but hunting for their fur and habitat loss has led to drastic declines in population numbers. They are today very, very rarely seen in the USA and are considered endangered throughout much of their natural range, although the Jaguar is listed by the IUCN Red List as an animal that is Threatened in its surrounding environment. Although the exact population number is unknown, there are an estimated 15,000 Jaguar individuals left roaming the rainforest today.

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Jaguar FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Jaguars herbivores, carnivores, or omnivores?

Jaguars are Carnivores, meaning they eat other animals.

What Kingdom do Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the Kingdom Animalia.

What class do Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the class Mammalia.

What phylum to Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the phylum Chordata.

What family do Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the family Felidae.

What order do Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the order Carnivora.

What type of covering do Jaguars have?

Jaguars are covered in Fur.

What genus do Jaguars belong to?

Jaguars belong to the genus Panthera.

Where do Jaguars live?

Jaguars live in Central and South America.

In what type of habitat do Jaguars live?

Jaguars live in rainforests, swamps, and floodplains.

What are some predators of Jaguars?

Predators of Jaguars include humans.

How many babies do Jaguars have?

The average number of babies a Jaguar has is 3.

What is an interesting fact about Jaguars?

Jaguars are the largest feline on the American continent!

What is the scientific name for the Jaguar?

The scientific name for the Jaguar is Panthera onca.

What is the lifespan of a Jaguar?

Jaguars can live for 12 to 15 years.

What is a baby Jaguar called?

A baby Jaguar is called a cub.

How many species of Jaguar are there?

There is 1 species of Jaguar.

What is the biggest threat to the Jaguar?

The biggest threats to the Jaguar are hunting and habitat loss.

How many Jaguars are left in the world?

There are 15,000 Jaguars left in the world.

How fast is a Jaguar?

A Jaguar can travel at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

Would a jaguar or crocodile win in a fight?

Jaguars often come face-to-face with caimans, which are crocodilians that live in South America. In these battles, the jaguar usually comes out on top as many caiman species are smaller than other crocodiles found across the world. If a jaguar were to face-off against crocodiles outside its habitat (such as saltwater crocodiles or Nile crocodiles), it would be unable to hunt these giant beasts.

What's the difference between a jaguar and a mountain lion?

When it comes to mountain lion vs jaguar, the differences go beyond the spots. Mountain lions are spotless, while the jaguar has characteristic markings, but these felines also enjoy unique habitats and display distinct behaviors.

Who would win a fight between a jaguar and a mountain lion?

A jaguar would win a fight against a mountain lion.

This fight is going to end with one big cat wrapping its mouth around the other’s neck. Jaguars are larger and more powerful on average, have a speed advantage, know how to attack from cover, and have a far more powerful bite.

How to say Jaguar in ...
Jaguar (dyr)
Jaguar (Katze)
Jaguar (životinja)
Jaguar (dyr)
Jaguar (djur)
Báo đốm Mỹ
  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animal, The Definitive Visual Guide To The World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) The World Encyclopedia Of Animals
  3. David Burnie, Kingfisher (2011) The Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) The Atlas Of Endangered Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Animals
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Encyclopedia Of Animals
  7. David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) The Encyclopedia Of Mammals
  8. Jaguar History, Available here:
  9. Jaguar Information, Available here:
  10. Jaguar Facts, Available here:

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