1902 Encyclopedia > Jaguar


JAGUAR (Felis onca). This powerful and ferocious animal is the largest of the species of Felidae found upon the American continent. It ranges from Texas through Central and South America into Patagonia. In the countries which bound its northern limit it is not frequently met with, but in South America it is still quite common, and Azara states that when the Spaniards first settled the district between Monte Video and Santa Fe as many as two thousand were killed yearly.

Jaguar image


The jaguar is usually found singly, or sometimes in pairs, and preys upon such quadrupeds as the horse, tapir, capybara, dogs, or cattle, and its strength is so great that it has been known to swim with a horse it had killed across a wide river, and then to carry its prey into the woods. It rarely slays at a time more than is requisite to satisfy its hunger, and leaves the unconsumed portions for the benefit of any stray prowler who may find them. Its manner of killing its victim is, after springing upon it, to strike it to the earth by a blow of its powerful paw. The jaguar often feeds upon turtles, sometimes following the reptiles into the water to effect a capture; having secured one and turned it over on its back, it inserts a paw between the shells and drags out the body of the turtle by means of its sharp claws. Occasionally after having tasted human flesh, the jaguar becomes a confirmed man-eater.

The cry of this great cat, which is heard at night, and most frequently during the pairing season, is deep and hoarse in tone, and consists of the sound pu, pu, often repeated. The female brings forth from two to four cubs towards the close of the year; they are able to follow their mother in about fifteen days after birth.

The color of the jaguar varies greatly among individuals, ranging from white to black, the rosette markings in the extremes being but faintly visible. The general or typical coloration is a rich tan upon the head, neck, body, outside of legs, and tail near the root. The upper part of the head and sides of the face are thickly marked with small black spots, ad the rest of body is covered with rosettes, formed of black spots, with a black spot in the center, and ranged lengthwise along the body in five to seven rows on each side. These black rings are heaviest along the back. The lips, throat, breast, and belly, in the inside of the legs, and the lower sides of tail are pure white, marked with irregular spots of black, those on the breast being long bars, and on the belly and inside of legs large blotches. The tail has large black spots near the root, some with light centers, and from about midway of its length to the tip it is ringed with black. The ears are black behind, with a large buff spot near the tip. The nose and upper lip are light rufous brown.

The size varies, the total length of a very large specimen measuring 6 feet 9 inches; the average length, however, is about 4 feet from the nose to root of tail. In form the jaguar is thick-set; it does not stand high upon its legs; and in comparison with the leopard it is heavily built. But its movements are very rapid, and it is fully as agile as its more graceful relative.

The skull resembles that of the lion and tiger, but is much broader in proportion to its length. The forehead is concave, and the nasal region broad. The frontal processes of the maxillary are rounded, in contradistinction to the truncated form of the tiger and the pointed one of the lion, and do not extend far back as the fronto-nasal articulation. On the inner edge of the orbit is a well-developed tubercule.

The canines are long and stout, the molar series well developed. The second sillon on the outer side of the crown of the canines is rudimentary, sometimes absent.

The above article was written by
Daniel Giraud Elliott, Fellow the Royal Soc. of Edinburgh; Curator of Zoology, Field Columbian Museum; led expedition into the interior of East Africa, 1896; and into the Olympic Mountains, 1898; author of the Synopsis and Classification of the Trochilidae; and other works on zoology.

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