Geographical Range Mexico, Central and South America
Habitat Tropical forests, swamps, grasslands, deserts
Scientific Name Panthera onca
Conservation Status Near threatened

Colorful Cats

The jaguar is the largest of the New World cats; of all of the big cats, only the lion and tiger are larger. Males are usually larger than females and may weigh as much as 250 pounds. Jaguars are equal to leopards in height and length, but are much more powerfully built. They can, for example, use their powerful jaws to break large bones. They are skilled swimmers and agile climbers. Their normal coat ranges from light yellow to orange, although there are also black jaguars. All individual coats, even black ones, are spotted with black rosettes. Coat color and pattern are similar to that of the African leopard. In contrast to the leopard coat, however, the jaguar rosettes each contain one or more black spots in the center.

Hog Wild

In the wild, the jaguar’s natural prey consists of peccaries (tiny wild pigs) and capybaras (very large rodents), supplemented by deer, mountain sheep, otters, rodents, ground-dwelling birds, turtles, caimans and fish. Jaguars are good swimmers and frequently hunt around bodies of water. At the Zoo, our jaguars eat feline diet, occasional chicken necks and a large bone once a week.

Family Life

The jaguar is a solitary animal. The male and female stay together for a few weeks while breeding.  Adults are usually sexually mature by three years of age. A litter of one to four young are born after a gestation period of around 100 days. The cubs are born in a secure den in dense vegetation, among rocks or in a hole in a riverbank. The male plays no part in raising the cubs, while the female is aggressively protective of them. The young stay with their mother for about two years, after which they become independent and she is then receptive to breed again.

Vanishing Spots

The jaguar is becoming rarer each year due to habitat loss and hunting for its magnificent spotted coat. Although it is protected, poaching continues to threaten the jaguar’s number in the wild.