The Jaguar (Panthera onca)

Jaguar Cubs - Woodland Park Zoo
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The Jaguar (Panthera onca)


Jaguars are at the top of the food chain in South America. They frequently dining on another apex predator, the caiman (a relative of alligators). They have a bite force rivaling lions and tigers! The Jaguar is the true king of the South American jungle.

Snow Jaguar

Image Source:

DNA evidence has revealed that the lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar, snow leopard, and clouded leopard all share a great-great-great grandpa, but jaguars are most closely related to Leopards. They are considered the 3rd largest big cat and can weigh up to 210lbs.

Leopard spots

Leopard Coat


You can tell the difference between Leopards and Jaguars because of their spots. Leopards have semi-encircled spots with black lining, no spot in the middle against a light orangish background. Jaguars have large dark semi-encircled spots with a dark black spot/s in the middle against a bronzish-orange background.



Image Source:

Jaguar Coat – Image Source:


Jaguars are ambush predators and love the water just as tigers do. Jaguars hunt capybara (the world’s largest rodent) and caiman (a close cousin of alligators). Jaguars usually sneak up on caiman and bite into the brain from the back of the head. Yes, they have jaws powerful enough to pierce an armored reptiles brain!


Some jaguars are black. The trait seems to be selected for by nature as black jaguar numbers appear to be increasing.

Black Panther

Black Panther – Image Source Wiki User Bardrock:

Melanism (the darker coat) is also seen in leopards but not mountain lions (pumas, catamounts, cougars etc) which some people believe they have seen. So, if you see a Black Panther, it is mostly a Jaguar. 🙂

View the Amazing Video Footage of a Jaguar Hunting a caiman below! You will quickly see why this feline is the most powerful predator in South America.


Header Image Credit: Woodland Park Zoo

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