It’s one of the biggest and most famous cats in the world, and in this post, you’ll discover a list of 10 cool jaguar facts.
1. It’s the third-largest cat in the world
When we said that jaguars are some of the biggest cats in the world, we actually meant it. The jaguar is actually the third-largest cat in the entire world, just a bit smaller than tigers and lions (number 1 and 2), and a bit bigger than cougars and leopards.
Jaguars, scientifically known as the “Panthera Onca,” has an average length of about 2.1 meters (6.88 ft) and stand about 1 meter tall (3.28 ft).
Jaguars look very similar to leopards, but they are a bit bigger and more muscular than their Felidae family members with an average weight of between 56 and 96 kilos (123.45 – 211.64 lbs).
2. The Spanish named it after a family member
Jaguars are native to the Americas and they don’t exist in any other part of the world. Their name is believed to have been derived from the Tupian word “yaguara,” which literally translates to “beast of prey.”
Tupian comprises about 70 languages spoken in South America, and “Yaguara” is used to describe any large beast of prey. “Yaguareté” is the actual specific term to describe the jaguar species itself.
The suffix “eté” means “true” or “real,” which basically refers to the fact that the jaguar is the ultimate predator.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, they didn’t have a word for the jaguar though, so they simply referred to it as an animal they already knew, the “tiger.”
So when the Spanish encountered this large cat which wasn’t a lion and was too big to be called a leopard, they simply referred to it as “el Tigre.”
3. The jaguar doesn’t have any subspecies
One of the most remarkable of the 10 cool jaguar facts is that the previously recognized subspecies aren’t valid anymore according to the IUCN Red List assessors for the species and members of the Cat Specialist Group.
Carl Linnaeus gave jaguars the scientific name “Felis Onca” in his work “Systema Naturae” back in 1758. In the following centuries, several “types” of jaguars have been described which resulted in an official list of 8 subspecies in 1939.
The creator of this list though, British zoologist Reginald Innes Pocock, already expressed doubt regarding several on the list.
Even though there’s a clear variation between jaguars living in North America and those living in South America, none of the differences warrant them to be put into different lists of subspecies according to the IUCN Red List.
4. Jaguars used to live in large parts of the United States
Jaguars are animals that live in forests as they live in tropical and subtropical regions, more specifically rain forests, swamps, and wooded areas.
Their range extends from Mexico all through Central America and well into South America. It includes much of the Amazon Rainforest, their favorite habitat.
Jaguars also exist in the United States, but this is limited to occasional sightings in the southwest of the country.
Their range has severely decreased though because of fragmentation. Jaguars used to be common in the entire southern part of the United States, and it’s believed that their natural range has moved about 620 miles (1,000 km) southward into Mexico.
In the early 20th century, jaguars used to roam around freely in North America, and it’s believed their range extended up to the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.
one of the most amazing of the 10 cool jaguar facts is that it’s the only cat native to North America that can roar!
5. There were jaguars in Missouri
Going back between 40,000 and 11,500 years ago, there were actually jaguars living as far north as Missouri. Fossils have been found, including a jaguar bone and hundreds of footprints, in a cave in Perry County, about 100 miles (160 km) south of St. Louis, Missouri.
What’s even more remarkable is that the jaguars that used to live in the United States in prehistoric times, during the last Ice Age about 2.6 million years ago, were much larger than the jaguars we know today.
It’s estimated that some weighed as much as 190 kilos (420 lbs), so these must have been giant jaguars roaming around the United States back then.
6. Jaguars are on top of the food chain
Jaguars are “alpha predators” also referred to as “apex predators.” That simply means that they are on top of the food chain and aren’t being hunted on in the wild by any other species.
Better, yet, they were originally referred to as “the real beast of prey,” and are known to hunt large prey over 22 kilos (49 lbs).
Yes, the jaguar is pretty dangerous to human beings and might consider having a nibble or two if you are unfortunate enough to come across a hungry individual. If not starving, however, jaguars will actually prefer to avoid contact with humans and run as fast as they can in the opposite direction.
7. They need a lot of space
Jaguars aren’t the most social of animals, unlike lions for example who prefer to be in the company of their peers. They simply roam around their territory on the lookout for prey and try to avoid other adults.
In fact, the only time you will see two jaguars together is when they are courting to mate, or in mother-cubs groups.
Female jaguars need a lot of space. Their territory usually ranges between 25 to 40 square kilometers, and it may overlap other females.
But they won’t be sitting around having a cup of tea with each other though, they will do whatever they can to avoid each other’s company.
Male jaguars need even more space and their territory can extend up to twice the size of that of the female. It won’t, however, overlap the territory of other adult males as there’s bound to be trouble then. It can overlap that of several females though.
The jaguar is a loner pur sang!
8. They aren’t picky when it comes to food
The diet of a jaguar consists solely of meat, which makes them true “obligate carnivores.” When it comes to picking their food, they couldn’t care less what’s on the dinner table today!
They are known to be opportunistic predators, which means they will eat whatever comes across their path. In fact, about 87 different species have been identified as their prey!
And you don’t want to be coming across the path of the jaguar!
Apart from biting the prey’s throat, the commons suffocation technique which is used by all other felines to kill prey, jaguars have a unique method to quickly kill their prey.
Instead of biting the throat of their prey, they also sometimes bite the skull which results in the brain being pierced with their huge teeth.
Yes, they will crack the skull as if they’re cracking open a Walnut, something they can easily do with their canine teeth.
9. Jaguars are great swimmers
Something you would not expect from a cat is that they actually enjoy swimming. Well, the jaguar does and is actually pretty good at it too.
One of the most remarkable facts about jaguars is that they are also very capable of catching prey from inside of the water, and dragging it along to a safe spot while swimming.
Jaguars are immensely strong and can not only carry prey while swimming but also drag it up a tree to have a nice and quiet meal.
Watch some amazing National Geographic footage of a jaguar killing a cayman within seconds after jumping out of the water:
10. Jaguar conservation units have been set up
Even though the jaguar is an alpha predator, it’s considered to be a near-endangered species. The loss of habitat and fragmentation has caused the jaguar to be locally extinct in several areas, including El Salvador and Uruguay.
Their vast range also doesn’t make it easy because it consists of 18 countries which all have different regulations.
A lot of planning has been done to ensure the conservation of this mighty animal, so 51 “Jaguar Conservation Units” have been set up in 36 different geographic regions. Each region had at least 50 jaguars living in it, and to preserve the jaguar gene pool, many regions have been interconnected.
All these efforts ensure that the jaguar can thrive in their respective territories as one of the most fearsome predators in the jungle!