Published on February 10, 2013 by Amy
The jaguar, weighing up to 300 pounds, exhibits a look of shear power, grace, and fear. It is commonly confused with the leopard. The jaguar can be distinguished by having larger rosette markings and a larger, more powerful looking body; the jaguar also has a shorter tail. The strength of the jaguar is amazing with its jaws so strong that it often kills its prey by piercing the skull in one, fatal bite. The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas.
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The color of the jaguar is a tawny-yellow with spots on the head, neck and legs and rosettes on other parts of its body. The rosettes will have one to four dark spots inside. An Indian myth says that the jaguar got its spotted coat by dabbing mud on its body with its paws. If you look closely at the coat of a jaguar, markings can seem like a paw print!
The solitary jaguar is found in the tropical rainforests and swampy grasslands in through Central America stretching into South America. The jaguar is known as a forest dweller, with its highest population found in the lowland rain forests of the Amazon Basin. They are also found in high altitudes. The jaguar generally chooses an area where there is a source of water and enjoys swimming or resting in a stream on hot days, like the tiger does.
Unlike many other big cats, the jaguar does not kill their prey by attacking at the neck yet bites through the temporal bones of the skull. South American Indians call the jaguar ‘yaguara’, meaning ‘a beast that kills its prey with one bound’. The jaguar lives mostly on smaller prey, but will prey on what ever is available such as livestock, deer, smaller prey such as fish, rodents, and also reptiles and monkeys, or any other animals that seems fitting to the jaguar; the jaguar stalks its prey.
The jaguar has no breeding season. After mating and a gestation period of 95 to 105 days, one to four cubs are born in a den which they will stay in for up to six months. They are weaned by three months and then begin to accompany their mother on hunts. By the time the cubs are two years of age, they will have set off on their own to try and make their own territories.
During the sixties and seventies around 18,000 jaguars were killed every year for their beautiful coat. Today there is still poaching, but not nearly as bad as before. The destruction of the jaguar’s habitat from logging and cattle ranching as well has having to compete with humans for food has brought a large decrease to their population. More trees are cut every day, and more jaguars are killed as the demand for their skin increases.
Jaguars are included in the group of the four roaring cats. The roar has been likened to a series of hoarse coughs, which function as a means of proclaiming territorial boundaries and announcing their presence. The Tucano Indians of the Amazon believe the roar of the jaguar is the sound of thunder; other primitive tribes believe it to be the god of darkness; some believe the spots on the jaguar’s coat represent the stars and heavens, with eclipses caused by it swallowing the sun. The Olmecs, the earliest known Mexican civilization, believed in a man-jaguar transformation “were-jaguars” with characteristics of both man and jaguar. Were-jaguars are thought to be the forerunners of Aztec and Mayan rain gods.
Although occasional attacks on humans have been reported, jaguars are rarely aggressive towards humans and , unlike leopards, have not developed man eating tendencies.
Although the jaguar does have a deep and hoarse cry during mating, it is the only big cat which does not roar.
Jaguars have the reputation of being human-eaters, however, numerous stories of men being followed for miles through the forest by solitary jaguars may suggest that they are merely escorting them off their territory and not stalking them as prey. There are also stories from the Amazonian Indians that tell of jaguars emerging from the forest to play with village children.