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Melanistic Jaguar

Jaguar Range Map (Central & South America)
Jaguar Range Map (Central & South America)


A Jaugar grooming her cub


Melanistic Jaguar
Latin Name Panthera onca
Conservation Status Near Threatened
Location Central & South America
Colour See Below
Length 1.1 - 1.9 m (3.5 - 6.25 ft)
Tail 45 - 75 cms (18 - 30 inches)
Weight 36 - 160 Kgs (79 - 350 lbs)
Life Expectancy

11 - Yrs (Wild)
20 Yrs (in Captivity)

Main Characteristics

The Jaguar is the third largest feline, the tiger and lion being the only ones larger. They have a body length of between 1.1 and 1.9 m (3.5 - 6.25 feet), a tail length of between 45 and 75 cms (18 - 30 inches), a shoulder height of between 55 and 76 cms (21.5 - 30 inches) and they weigh between 36 and 160 Kgs (79 - 350 lbs).

Typically females are 20% smaller than males and they generally vary in size according to their distribution, they tend to increase in size from North to South.

The Jaguar is compact and well muscled. It has short stocky limbs which enables it to be adept at climbing, swimming and crouching. It has a strong head and an extremely powerful jaw.

The base coat of the Jaguar is tawny, or it can be reddish/brown, and it has irregular shaped rosette type markings over its body. These markings become solid spots on the head and neck, and they merge to form rings on its tail. The underside of the Jaguar is lighter coloured.

Melanistic or black Jaguars are far less common than the spotted form. They are known as Panthers (as are black Leopards). They appear to be entirely black, but their markings can be seen if examined closely.

Darker coloured individuals tend to be found in the dense forest areas as this helps them to stay hidden and lighter coloured, larger animals tend to be found in the open plains.


Jaguars are found in the forests, swamps, dry woodland and grasslands of Central and South America. They prefer dense forests with thick cover and water nearby. The highest population densities of Jaguars are found in the Amazon Basin.

Jaguars are solitary, apart from a mother with cubs, and they only meet up to mate. They have territories between 30 and 150 Kms (17 - 87 miles), the territory of the male being larger than that of the female.


The Jaguar is a carnivore and its diet mainly consists of deer, tapirs, peccaries, sloth, monkeys, fish, reptiles and domestic livestock.

Its preferred method of killing its larger prey is to pierce the skull with it canine teeth, smaller prey could be killed with one swipe of its paw.

The Jaguar prefers to stalk its prey rather than chase and it uses an ambush technique, pouncing from cover on its prey. The Jaguar has perfected this technique and its abilities are second to none.

On killing it prey the Jaguar will drag it to a secluded spot to eat it. It has such strength that it is capable of carrying a large kill while swimming and hauling a large kill into a tree.


After a gestation period of 91 - 111 days 1 - 4 cubs , commonly 2, are born in a den. They are born blind and helpless, gaining sight within 14 days. The cubs are weaned at 3 months old but they remain in the birth den for 6 months, after which they leave to accompany their mother while she hunts.

The cubs stay in the company of their mother until they are between 1 and 2 years of age after which they leave to find their own territory.

Females become sexually mature at 2 years of age while males reach sexual maturity between 3 and 4 years of age. Jaguars mate throughout the year and after mating the pair go their separate ways, with the female preferring to do all of the parenting herself.


Jaguars have no real predators, other than humans.


There are nine subspecies of Jaguar:

Panthera onca onca - Amazon Rainforest
Panthera onca arizonensis - Mexico
Panthera onca centralis - Central America
Panthera onca goldmani - Mexico, Belize
Panthera onca hemandesii - Mexico
Panthera onca palustris - Southern Brazil
Panthera onca paraguensis - Paraguay
Panthera onca peruvianus - Peru, Ecuador
Panthera onca veracrucis - Texas

Interesting Facts

Jaguars are the largest cat in the Americas.

The Yanomami Indians named the Jaguar "Eater of Souls" as they believe it consumes the spirits of the dead.

Similar Animals

Mountain Lion
Snow Leopard
Clouded Leopard
Sunda Clouded Leopard


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