Six Facts You May Not Know About the Jaguar

Jaguar in the Pantanal

Big, beautiful and deadly, the jaguar is an embodiment of elusive charisma. And here are six of its stellar attributes you must know.

1. A big male jaguar can weigh as much as a lioness!

The jaguar is the world’s third largest big cat, weighing in behind only the tiger and the lion. It is also the largest carnivorous mammal in Central and South America. On a full stomach, a big male jaguar can weigh as much as a lioness! All this superlativeness ends at the torso, however, as it sports the shortest tail of all big cats, and proportionately shorter legs compared to its larger cousins. Interestingly, jaguars of the Brazilian Pantanal are some of the heaviest observed. Forest-inhabiting individuals tend to be smaller and darker.


Jaguar in the Pantanal

© Jayanth Sharma


2. Jaguars have the most powerful bite among cats.

Now, this is something to chew on: the jaguar has a devastatingly powerful bite. When adjusted for body size, its bite force is the highest in the feline world. And, surprisingly, the second most powerful bite of any mammal, ahead of even the famously ‘denturous’ spotted hyena! It employs this enviable jawline, capable of piercing even turtle shells, to sink its canines between the ears, leaving the quarry quite brain-dead. Once you’re done gasping at this, remember to pick your jaw from the floor and resume normal breathing.


Jaguar hunting caiman

© Jayanth Sharma


3. Jaguars are equally adept in water and trees.

The jaguar is a champ at the perennial edition of the jungle olympics, and combines agility and strength like a dream. Short, stocky and perfectly adapted to its environment, it’s akin to an ace wrestler who’s also an aquatics legend. One of the two big cats (along with the tiger) known to enjoy swimming, it’s equally at home in the trees. Weightlifting is right down its alley too, with the ability to swim carrying large kills and all the same haul them up trees to avoid the floods. These acrobatics are supported by a healthy appetite, with up to 25 kg of meat consumed in one sitting.


Jaguar in the Pantanal

© Jayanth Sharma


4. Melanistic jaguars are called black panthers.

In behaviour the jaguar resembles the tiger. But in appearance it strikes you as a heavily compressed leopard, with a bigger head and shorter legs, finished in larger-than-life scale. A rosetted mosaic is the chosen camouflage pattern, but the rosettes are larger than the leopard’s, with concentric spots to fill the gaps and add a subtle flourish of tribal art. Melanistic jaguars do occur, and are called black panthers. Just like melanistic leopards, black jaguars feign the appearance of solid black, but, like photosensitive code and magic mugs, the rosettes are visible upon close inspection of the burnished cloak.


5. Jaguars can roar.

Being part of the exclusive and elite Panthera club entitles you to some vocal privileges. A modification of the larynx that lets you roar like a ruler is chief. Thus, the jaguar (Panthera onca) is one of the only four cats in the world that can bowl you over with baritone.  Like all other roaring cats, however, the jaguar uses this gift sparingly, mostly to keep territorial rivals at bay.


6. Jaguars feed on up to 87 different species!

The largest cat of the New World is a keystone species. It reigns atop the food chain with some 87 known species on its dietary spread. Under the designation of Apex Predator, it keeps populations of lower animals in check and contributes its two cents to ecological balance. Caimans and capybaras are staples in the Pantanal, but its impressive versatility in feeding habits entail diverse refreshments, from frogs and fish to turtles and armadillos. Stalk, ambush and surprise is the modus operandi for hunting, and the killing…we reckon you know already!


Jaguar stalking in the Pantanal

© Jayanth Sharma


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Categories: Articles, Featured, Nature, Photography, Travel
Santosh Saligram

Santosh is the head wordsmith and chief editor at Toehold. Between bouts of waxing eloquent about the wondrous ubiquitousness of Nature's whimsical beauty, he attempts to feed the content team on ripe imagination and lead it towards the sunlit peaks of excellence.

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