A jaguar at the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens
A "black panther" jaguar
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Binomial name
Panthera onca
Linnaeus, 1758
Jaguar range
Panthera onca
A jaguar.

The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a large feline (big cat) which lives in South and Central America.

The jaguar is the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion. It is also the largest and most powerful feline in the Western Hemisphere.

Because of its spots, jaguars look like leopards, though it is usually larger and stronger, and its behavior is more like that of a tiger. It likes to stay near water, and like the tiger, it is famous for being a big cat that enjoys swimming. It usually hunts alone.

The jaguar has a very powerful strong bite, even compared to other big cats. Because of its strong bite, jaguars can bite through armoured reptiles like caimans, crocodiles, turtles and tortoises. Jaguars kill their prey in an unusual way: they bite directly through the skull between the ears and into the brain.


Jaguars have yellow or sometimes yellow-orange fur with brown and black rosettes and spots. They are big and heavy and also have very strong muscles which makes them really powerful.

Sometimes there are jaguars who are completely black, but if you look closely you can still see the spots. They are called "black panther" or just "panther". This is a 'colour morph' of the same species, a kind of polymorphism.


Jaguars live in South and Central America. They mostly live in rainforests, but also in savanna, swamp, grasslands, forest and deserts and open areas.

They cannot climb well, but they swim very well.


Jaguars are not specialized with their food, but eat almost anything they get: big and small mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and livestock. It is an ambush predator. When hunting, they usually try to secretly get very close to the prey, and then the jaguar suddenly jumps at it and throws it down. The jaguar bites the skull of its prey to kill it. It then takes the prey to a safe place and eats it.

After a pregnancy of about 100 days the female gives birth to usually 1 - 4 babies. The young leave their family after 1–2 years, and they become mature at about 3 years. Jaguars can live up to 10–12 years old in freedom, but in captivity (such as in zoos) they can live to 20–22 years old.


Jaguar for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.