|A jaguar at the Milwaukee County Zoological Gardens|
|A "black panther" jaguar|
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.
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.
While numerous subspecies of the jaguar have been recognized, recent research suggests just three. Geographical barriers, such as the Amazon River, limit gene flow within the species.
Illustration of a jaguar killing a tapir, the largest native land animal in its range
Jaguar killed by Theodore Roosevelt
Jaguar for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.