The jaguar is a powerful, deep-chested, stocky cat with a large, rounded head and short, sturdy limbs. Its size and spotted coat make it look much like a heavyset leopard, however there are minor differences between their spot patterns. The jaguar's fur varies from pale gold to a rich rusty red, and is patterned with a series of dark rosettes that enclose one or two smaller spots. The rosettes on a leopard's coat do not have smaller spots inside them. Along the middle of the jaguar's back, a row of black spots sometimes merge into a solid line. All-black (melanistic) jaguars are not uncommon, and in these black animals the spots sometimes show through the darker background of the fur.
The jaguar will feed on almost anything that is available, including lizards, snakes, other small animals, deer, fish, turtles, and even cattle. The jaguar's powerful jaws allow it to kill livestock weighing three or four times its own weight, often with a bite to the back of the skull, rather than the more common neck or throat bite employed by other large cats.
Habitat / Distribution
Jaguars are often found in association with well-watered areas, such as the swampy grasslands of the Brazilian Pantanal. In other areas jaguars frequently use riverine forest alongside streams, rivers, and lakes. They may also live in more arid areas, but only where watercourses penetrate this drier habitat. The jaguar's range has been substantially reduced in the last 100 years. Its present range includes southcentral Mexico, through Central America, and into South America as far south as Northern Argentina.
Reproduction / Social System
One to four young are born after a gestation period of 93-105 days. The young weigh about 24-32 ounces at birth and remain with their mother for about two years. Jaguars are solitary animals. Home range size and land tenure systems vary in response to prey density, habitat, and human disturbance. Female ranges as small as 4 sq. miles and as large as 65 sq. miles have been recorded, while male ranges are usually larger, varying from 11-59 sq. miles.
The stocky build of the jaguar makes it look larger than it really is. The largest jaguars come from the Pantanal region of Brazil, where males weighing 300 pounds have been documented, but elsewhere the jaguar weighs much less. Males commonly weigh about 121.5 pounds, while females average about 79.5 pounds. The jaguar's head and body length measures 45-72 inches, and the tail length is between 17-30 inches.