Jaguars are mighty cats most easily recognized by the bold rosettes generously spotted across their tawny-colored coats. They have thick, stocky legs and short, round ears. The jaguar has the strongest of all the felines. The name “jaguar” originates from the Tupi and Guarani languages of South America from the word yaguareté, or “true, fierce beast and he who kills in one leap.” The majestic jaguar is a symbol of power for many Latin-American cultures, it represents the power of nature and is seen as the protector of the rainforest.
Jaguars are the third-largest cat in the world and can weigh over 300 pounds. However, their size varies by region, with jaguars in Central America being smaller than those found in the Amazon and the Pantanal. Jaguars are strictly carnivorous and are considered opportunistic hunters, meaning they will prey on almost any animal that crosses their path. Deer, peccaries, tapirs, iguanas, capybaras, armadillos, and monkeys are among the many kinds of animals that fall prey to jaguars. The powerful bite of jaguars makes them excellent hunters; their teeth possess the strength to pierce through crocodile hides and turtle shells. Once jaguars acquire meat for consumption, they use pointy bumps on their tongues, called papillae, to scrape the meat from its bones.
These magnificent cats are distributed from Mexico to Argentina across 18 countries, and Brazil holds around half of the wild jaguars in the world. Their habitats include wet and dry forests, savannahs, and shrublands. Jaguars are strong swimmers and climbers and are dependent on healthy freshwater systems and access to great amounts of territory for survival.