Panthera onca (jaguar)

The jaguar is a big cat - a feline in the Panthera genus. It is the only Panthera species found in the Americas.

It is the third largest feline after the tiger and the lion, and is the largest and most powerful feline in the western hemisphere.

This big cat closely resembles the leopard - although it is usually larger and sturdier. But, when it comes to behaviour and habitat, it is more like a tiger.

The jaguar’s present range extends from Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina.

Efforts are underway to conserve the species as it may be threatened with extinction in the near future.

Species detail

The base coat of the jaguar is generally a tawny yellow colour, but can range to reddish-brown and black.

Its coat is covered in ‘rosettes’ for camouflage in its jungle habitat. The spots vary between individual jaguars. Its underbelly, throat and outer surface of the legs and lower flanks are white.

Rare albino individuals - sometimes called white panthers - occur among jaguars, as with other big cats.

Jaguars are compact and well-muscled animals that vary in size. They can weigh from 56 to 96 kilograms. The largest recorded male weighed 159 kilograms. Females are typically 10–20% smaller than males.

The cat’s length varies from 1.62–1.83 metres - its tail may add another 75 centimetres. And it stands 67–76 centimetres tall at the shoulders.

  • Jaguar pelt

    The jaguar shares a common ancestor with other large cats. Find out when Panthera onca emerged as a new species.

  • Panthera onca, jaguar

    Jaguars are found throughout the Americas. But where might you see them?

  • Panthera onca, jaguar

    The jaguar is well designed to catch its prey and can even pierce turtle shells. Find out more about this powerful, territorial cat.

  • Panthera onca, jaguar

    Jaguar populations are currently declining, and the species may be threatened with extinction soon. Find out what conservation efforts are underway and how interbreeding between isolated jaguar populations is being encouraged.


Panthera onca, jaguar

Panthera onca, jaguar

© MarcusObal, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Panthera onca, jaguar

Jaguar pelt.

Panthera onca, jaguar

Panthera onca, jaguar

Panthera onca, jaguar

Panthera onca, jaguar

© Lea Maimone, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license


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A word from the author

"I am from South America, where this elusive large cat can be found. I had some indirect encounters with this animal, and have always been fascinated with its ability to adapt to its changing environment over many centuries."

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