Big Cats of the Western Hemisphere

Jaguar, Big Cat, Carnivore, Feline

The Jaguar, Panthera onca, is the sole member of the Panthera genus native to the Americas. It is also the largest member of the cat family in either of these two continents. Male Jaguars are approximately 100Kg and females about 80 Kg. The only cats bigger than the Jaguar are the Lion and the Tiger.


Although it is predominately a South American species, it’s located in central and North America too. In the northerly parts of its range it competes with the Cougar. The Jaguar ranges from Argentina in the south to Texas in the North.

The Jaguar is sometimes confused with a Leopard. The Leopard comes from Africa, Europe and Asia, so no confusion regarding identification should occur in the wild. Jaguars have dots within their rosettes while Leopards do not.

Black Panthers

The term Panther is confusing. It is occasionally used for any black, or near black Leopard or Jaguar. Black Jaguars are more common in the dense rainforest parts of this creature’s range. Those which come from the more open areas tend to have the spotted pattern generally associated with this animal.

Hunting for Fur

Previously, huge numbers of Jaguars were killed for their beautiful fur. The wearing of genuine fur is less fashionable at the moment, and the fur trade has been reduced. Hunting of Jaguars does still occur, but the biggest long term threat is the loss of their habitat. The Amazon Jungle has been cleared.

Although a Jaguar is a strong animal and could certainly kill a Human, most of them do not. There is evidence of these after individuals, but most times they don’t attack.


On the other hand, Jaguars are a real threat to domestic animals. They will even kill cattle and horses several times their size. Some years ago some sheep were brought from Australia.


The only predator which the adult Jaguar has on land is the Human Being. But, there are a good deal of Humans and Jaguars frequently come into conflict with our savage and destructive species.

Near Threatened

The Jaguar isn’t in immediate danger of extinction although the trend at present is in that direction with generally decreasing numbers and rapid clearing of its habitat.


Although cats have the reputation of not liking water, Jaguars seem quite pleased to get wet. They are powerful swimmers and are good at catching fish.

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