Panthera onca

CLASS Mammalia | ORDER Carnivora | FAMILY Felidae

RANGE Central Mexico through Central America to South America as far south as the northern portion of Argentina

HABITAT Rainforests, swampy areas, grasslands, woodlands, dry forests, and deserts

DIET Carnivore; prefer large prey such as peccary, deer, tapir, and capybara

70 - 250 lbs

3.8 - 6 ft

18 - 30 in

3 - 3.5 months

1 - 4 cubs

IUCN Status
Near Threatened

Jaguars have spots called rosettes. Some jaguars are "tawny" with yellowish to brown fur and a visible pattern of rosette markings across its body. Others are melanistic or black.

The jaguar is the largest cat found in the Americas. These cats are solitary animals, only coming together to mate.


These heavy-built cats have sharp, retractable claws that are important in seizing and holding a prey animal. It is the only big cat which regularly kills prey (especially capybaras) by piercing the skull with their canines.

When a jaguar catches a large prey it is either buried or hidden in a sheltered area, so the jaguar can return to eat when it is hungry later.


Powered by their strong legs, jaguars are also capable climbers and swimmers.


Since 1900, jaguars have disappeared from over 50% of their range due to persecution by livestock ranchers, degradation of habitat, and human hunting of the jaguar's prey.

In many countries, jaguars are protected, but enforcement is difficult and jaguar skins are still sold on the black market.