(Panthera onca)

Common Names:

El tigre


Tirge leon

Yaguara – “a beast that kills its prey with one bound”

Spanish – Tigre, Tigre real, Jaguarette

Paraguay – Jaguaretè

Brazil – Onca, Onca pintada, Onca cangucu

French Guiana – Tig marque

Mayan – Zac-bolay

Peru – Otorongo

Surinam– Penitigri

Venezuela– Yaguar

Black jaguars – onca negra, yaguara pichuna, yagua-hu


Felidae; member of the cat family


P.o. onca – Amazon

P.o. arizonansis – Mexico

P.o. centralis – Central America

P.o. goldmani – Mexico and Belize

P.o. hernandesii – Mexico

P.o. palustris – Southern Brazil

P.o. peruvianus – Peru and Equador

P.o. veracrucis – Texas

P.o. paraguencis - Paraguay

Related Species:

One of four roaring cats: lion, tiger, leopard and jaguar


Head and body 44-58 in long; tail 21-26 in long; height at shoulder 27-30 in


150 - 225 lbs


Largest cat in the Americas; tawny body and white belly with black rosette markings with 1-4 dark spots inside that can look like a paw print; can be melanistic (black) with the rosettes visible only in bright light; albinos are occasionally seen; eye shine is golden.


Wild – 12 years; Captivity – over 20 years


Found in Central and South America – with a stronghold in the Amazon basin; now extinct in Uruguay, parts of Mexico, Argentina and developed areas of Central and South America; remnant populations may exist in the SW United States.

Population in the US:

Used to reside in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Southern California.

Its is not known why they receded from the US (one theory is that they were hunted into extinction by the 1940’s), however, the jaguar is now making a slow comeback in a few states of their previous range.

The last confirmed sighting in the US, as of 2004, was March 7, 1996 in New Mexico’s Peloncillo Mountains.

Occasionally sighted along the US / Mexico border.


Jaguars require dense cover, water and a strong prey base; the best habitat includes forest, marsh, shrublands, and grasslands; feels at home in the water, on the land, or in the trees.


Estimated 15,000 left in the wild

Experts expect that the population of the Amazon basin will be enough to support the species in the future, however the exact number of animals is unknown .


Habits are not well known.

Solitary, though home ranges may overlap or be shared where prey is abundant.

Most aquatic of all cats.

Enjoys swimming or resting in streams on hot days.

Unlike other cats, it does not kill its prey by breaking the neck or suffocation, but by piercing the temporal bones of the skull.

When living near humans, jaguars are primarily nocturnal.

In more remote and undisturbed areas, they are diurnal or crepuscular (active during twilight of early morning and late evening).

Roar is like a series of hoarse coughs that is used to proclaim territory and announce presence.


No specific breeding season or estrous cycle.

Gestation lasts for 95-104 days.

1-4 cubs born to a litter.


Cubs weaned at 3 months and begin to accompany mother on hunt.

Begin to hunt on own at 6 month.

Disperse after 2 years.

Sexually mature at 3 years.


Prey on rodents, peccaries, deer, birds, fish, armadillos, turtles, crocodiles, monkeys, caiman, anacondas, sloth, tapir, capybara.

Lives primarily on smaller prey.

Stalks through the dappled light of the forest forest, camouflaged by its markings.

Jaws strong enough to kill prey with one bite that pierces the skull.

Use their jaws and teeth to pry open turtle shells and crack eggs.

An opportunistic feeder with over 85 species in its diet.

Human Interests:

In the 1960’s the fur trade shifted to the cats of the Amazon due to the decline in Old World cats after over hunting.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, about 18,000 jaguars were killed each year for their pelts, a commercial trade that grossed $30 million annually.

In 1973, the cat was listed on CITES to make its trade for monetary gain illegal.

Listed as endangered in the US.

Will sometimes eat domestic animals when natural prey is absent after clear-cutting.

Attacks on humans have been recorded, but they do not form the “man-eating” habit of other big cats.

Poaching goes on to this day, however it has declined.

There is an increasing competition for food with humans as more and more of the forest and its resources are lost.

Restrictions on hunting in many countries are poorly enforced or non-existent.

The greatest threats are deforestation and habitat fragmentation from logging and cattle ranching, and the intolerance of ranchers who often shoot on sight.

Jaguar cars donated $1,000,000 to the cat’s preservation recently.

There are currently 98 captive jaguars held in zoos.

Belizehas the only preserve dedicated to the preservation of the jaguar.

There have been positive results with translocating problem cats from inhabited areas to wilderness, though there have been cases where the cat returned to livestock depredating.

Venezuelaand Mexico are looking into “green” jaguar hunts where the hunter pays money to tack down and shoot a jaguar with a tranquilizer dart – then a radio collar is placed on the animal for study – initiated by the Safari Club International.


Hunting is prohibited in Argentina, Columbia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Surinam, the US, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

Hunting is restricted to problem cats in Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru.

Trophy hunting is permitted only in Bolivia.

There is no legal protection in Equador and Guyana.

Native American Relationships:

The Tucano Indians of the Amazon basin believe the jaguar’s roar is the sound of thunder.

Other Amazonian tribes believe he is the god of darkness with the spots on his coat representing the stars and heavens, and an eclipse is caused by the jaguar swallowing the sun.

Olmecs, the earliest Mexican civilization, believed in “were-jaguars” that were part human and part jaguar.

Interesting Facts:

Commonly confused with the leopard – the leopard is found in the Old World while the jaguar is a New World cats – also, the jaguar has larger rosette markings, a larger, more powerful body, and a shorter tail – the jaguar looks like a leopard on steroids.

The jaguar is the third largest cat in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, as well as being the only member of the genus Panthera in the Americas.

Melanism (black coloration) is frequent due to the monogentic dominant nature of the gene.

The jaguar and mountain lion were the only North American felids to survive and persist after the Pleistocene extinction.