A jaguar can be easily recognized because it has distinct black spots and rings all over its body. Jaguars live in the Americas from the Southern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. The creatures often live near water and are the third-largest big cat in the world after lions and tigers.
Jaguars are large, powerful animals with very strong jaws that can even bite through turtle shells. They range in weight from of 124 – 211 pounds kg (56–96 kg) to length 4 feet to 6.5 feet (1.2 to 1.95 m). They have the shortest tails of any big cat. They are usually tawny-colored with spots all over and a white belly. They can live up to 20 years in the wild and nearly 30 in captivity.
Like most big cats, jaguars are solitary by nature and hunt often at dusk or at night. They stalk and ambush their prey often leaping into water or down from a tree. Jaguars eat about 80 species of animals including deer, tapir, capybara, foxes, fish, frogs and even large snakes like anacondas.
Other facts about jaguars
In ancient Central and South American cultures, the jaguar is regarded as a symbol of strength. The Aztecs even named an elite class of warriors the Jaguar Knights.
Although jaguars are often tawny-colored, they can vary from reddish-brown to black. Black jaguars are also called black panthers.
A jaguar's bite is twice as strong as a lion and it can crush heavy bones in large prey easily.
The term "jaguar" comes from the Native American word "yaguar", which means "he who kills with one leap."
Jaguar populations are rapidly declining due to habitat loss in South American rainforests and poaching for their fur.
Jaguars were once found in the Western and Southern U.S. including Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. However, the jaguar population was quickly eliminated in the U.S. and very few sightings have been recorded since the 1960s.
Young cubs are born blind and helpless. They stay with their mother for about two years learning to hunt.