Top 10 Facts About Jaguars

Updated on November 22, 2019
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Angela, an animal lover, has a passion for learning and understanding God's creatures. As a born teacher, she enjoys sharing her knowledge.

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1. Jaguars Are the Largest Cat in the Americas

Jaguars are the third-largest cats in the world and are only beaten out by the lion and the tiger. In the Americas, they remain the largest cat and live in South and Central America. They can be found everywhere from Mexico to northern Argentina. They used to roam in the southern states of the United States, but have slowly been pushed southward outside our border and have not regularly lived here since the 1940s. Occasionally, one will be spotted in Arizona.

These large cats grow up to be anywhere between two to two and a half feet (approximately 75 cm) in height at the shoulders and anywhere from 3.9 - 6.4 feet (around 240 cm) in length, not including their tail. They also weigh anywhere from 120 - 210 pounds.

2. They Are Plentiful in the Pantanal in Brazil

Jaguars prefer to live in areas where there is a lot of water, although they can be found in drier areas as well. They thrive in rainforests and swamplands because prey is much more plentiful. Unfortunately, in most areas, their numbers seem to dwindle, except in the Pantanal in Brazil. Fortunately, they are thriving in this area and can sometimes be spotted. People are more apt to see a wild jaguar in late April to early November when the terrain is drier because their prey is more concentrated, causing them to hunt more frequently.

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3. Jaguars Are Classified by Their Rosette Shape Spots

Jaguars are often confused with leopards and cheetahs. Although if you see them in the wild, it would be clear, as only jaguars live in South America. The only other similar-sized cat in the same area is the cougar, but they do not have spots, whereas a jaguar does. Jaguars are also much more broadly built, giving them a more powerful appearance.

The most distinguishable difference between a leopard and a jaguar is the shape of their spots. Jaguars have rosette-shaped spots that have spots inside the rose-shaped marking. Leopards also have similarly shaped spots, except the rosette shape does not have a spot inside the flower-shaped marking.

4. They Are Strong Swimmers and Climbers

Another thing that sets jaguars apart from other large cats is their love of water. They are known to jump in the water and swim very well from one side to another of a pond, lake, or narrow river.

With their strong legs, they are also built to be excellent climbers. They often will scale a tree to get a better vantage point towards the prey. They may even pounce on unsuspecting prey below, jumping right out of the tree.

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5. Jaguars Are Solitary Animals

Unlike lions who live in a pride or male cheetahs who sometimes hunt in pairs called bachelor groups, jaguars are like many of the others in the feline family and are solitary animals. The males will roam a range of up to 80-90 square kilometers and will only greet another jaguar to mate. Once a mother is pregnant and has her cubs, the cubs only live with her for two years, before they find their own range.

6. Jaguars Prey on Any Meat That Crosses Their Path

Their territory is much dependent on how plentiful their prey is. Fortunately, these cats are not picky eaters and will eat anything in their paths, including deer, armadillos, monkey, cattle, and even lizards. They do not need to be very selective as they can catch and eat most any animal.

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7. Their Strong Jaws Can Bite Through a Turtle Shell or Alligator Skull

Not only are they able to catch most any animal due to their ability to swim, climb, and run, they also have mighty jaws that can pierce a skull of an alligator or the shell of a sea turtle. Their powerful jaw allows them not to be very selective in what they choose to eat, allowing them to survive in almost any climate, despite preferring moist warm areas.

8. Have Lost More Than Half of Their Original Habitat

Unfortunately, even though they can survive in many climates, where they currently live is continually being threatened by farmers who will kill them to protect their livestock and ranchers who have large pieces of property. Jaguars now occupy only half of their original domain. Their survival is essential since they are the top predators and help equalize the ecosystem and allow for a healthy environment. By protecting them, we can protect those lower on the food chain, including plant life.

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9. Many Are Killed and Used for Medicinal Purposes

Hunting is also a great threat to these magnificent beasts. Many kill them to protect their livestock, but also for trade purposes and eventually used for medicinal purposes. Their bodies are boiled down for up to a week until their bodies become a glue-like substance, and then they are sold on the black market in jars. Jaguar paste is believed to treat arthritis pain as well as improve sexual performance. People still choose to use these methods, despite alternatives being available.

10. Jaguars Are Classified as Near Threatened

Unfortunately, due to the limiting of their territory and illegal hunting and trade of these magnificent cats, they are considered near threatened on the scale of endangered animals. Threatened means that their number is showing a slow decline, but with intervention, we should be able to revive the species. Jaguar preserves like that of the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary in Belize, created in 1986, have helped replenish the population.

© 2019 Angela Michelle Schultz

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