Jaguars are one of the most mysterious big cats in the world. This cat has a spotted coat that looks a lot like a leopard. A jaguar is the largest cat in the western hemisphere. These places include North, Central and South America. Jaguars are good swimmers, climbers and crawlers due to its short, muscular legs. A jaguar has a large head and very strong jaws. Because of their jaws, they are able to crack turtle shells and bite through the skull of prey animals.
For thousands of years, the people of Central and South America have both feared and admired jaguars. Some of these people have even believed that these cats had magical powers and several different ancient civilizations used to worship these cats. The Mayan word for jaguar is Yaguar, meaning "he who kills with one leap". The jaguars scientific name is Panthera Onca. Panthera means hunter, and Onca means hook or barb, therefore they are hunters with sharp claws or nails. Jaguars are very strong, but lack the ability to maintain or keep up their speed. Instead of pursuing or chasing their prey, the jaguar stalks through the forest and pounces when they are in close range. By doing this, the jaguar can kill their prey with a bite to the head as the razor sharp front claws keep a hold of the prey. While not using their claws, the jaguar will retract or pull them back into their paws. This helps the nails stay sharp.
The jaguars spotted coat helps him to hunt. As it stalks through the forest, its spots blend in with the shadows so that the jaguar can sneak up on his prey and get close enough to pounce. The jaguar hunts mostly at dawn and dusk like most other predators. A jaguar may wait up in a tree for prey to walk by down below and then drop down on top of his prey.
Jaguar or Leopard?
Jaguar and leopard are a lot alike in physical appearance. However, telling them apart is not that difficult. The jaguar's spots have two or three small dots in the middle. Leopards do not. On the other hand, there is a solid black version of each. They are almost impossible to tell apart except for the fact that they live on two separate continents. Jaguars are found in Central and South America while the leopard is found in Africa and Asia. Many years ago, jaguars could be found from Arizona and Texas to Argentina. Due to habitat loss and multiple other threats, jaguars cannot be found in such a widespread area any longer.
Unlike tigers, which can only live in forests, jaguars will do well in many different types of habitats. Their bodies allow them to adapt in tropical rainforests, swamps, grasslands, and deserts. It is even possible for them to survive in areas that used to be used by humans for logging, ranching and farming. One of the things that the different jaguar habitats have in common is the fact that they all have access to a river or stream because the jaguars are excellent swimmers and like to eat fish and turtles.
All cats are almost always solitary creatures. They would rather live alone than with other cats. They will set up areas that they mark so that other cats will know they are not welcome. A jaguar will mark their territory by scratching on the trees and by leaving scent markers, which means they will spray urine on bushes for the other cats to smell. They will also roar loudly and meanly to warn other jaguars away. In an area where prey is plentiful, the area for a jaguar may be very small but in an area where there is a small amount of prey, their area may be a lot larger.
Saving the Jaguars Life
As one of the top predators in the world, you would not expect it to be threatened by anything. Unfortunately, like most other big cats, jaguars have one very deadly enemy: humans. Most people don't think that THEY are making all these animals endangered. All the hunting people do for fun is hurting the big cat population.