Today is my 100th post on this blog! Isn’t that exciting? And if you’ve read them all so far, good for you! I appreciate it, trust me. Anyway, I’d like to celebrate this momentous occasion by blogging about one of my all-time favourite animals. I know I say this about a good portion of animals I write about, but rest assured this time it’s almost true. It’s a Carnivore, which all my favourites tend to be. And it’s a cat, which is even better. Anyone who doesn’t think jaguars are some of the most beautiful animals on the planet has no heart. It’s a tight race between jaguars and cheetahs as to who my favourite cat is. I still can’t decide.

Jaguars are the largest cats in North America, and are the third largest feline in the world (after the tiger and lion). Their original range stretched from the southern United States to the south of Argentina, but this has been greatly reduced in the modern day. They are mainly found today in South America, especially in the Amazon basin. This area provides a perfect habitat for jaguars – thick rainforest with a slew of prey animals to munch on. Jaguars are not made for running – they can for short distances, of course, but usually rely on stalk-ambush methods to hunt prey. But they are very mobile in their jungle habitats. They climb readily, and often swim (proving that not all cats hate water – just most of them).

See? They really do swim! Image By Gerry Zambonini – Jaguar in the Water, CC BY-SA 2.0

To the untrained eye, jaguars look a lot like leopards, but there are key features that experts like me (yeah right) can use to spot the difference. First off, the markings on jaguars are usually bigger than those on leopards. Second, jaguars are just bigger – although this isn’t always the case, as some female jaguars are quite small. But the most obvious thing, in my opinion, is simply the build of the animal. Jaguars are much, much stockier than leopards, and have a rounder head. This translates into a very important trait for the jaguar. They are strong. Super strong. They can drag a cow up a tree, if need be.

A comparison between a jaguar and leopard. 'Spot' the difference? The jaguar is on the left.
A comparison between a jaguar and leopard. ‘Spot’ the difference? The jaguar is on the left.

Jaguars also have a ridiculously strong bite. The strongest of any cat, in fact, and the second strongest of any mammals (hyenas being stronger). Whereas most big cats (tigers, lions, leopards and the like) kill large prey via suffocation after biting the neck, jaguars have another method they can use. Their jaw is so strong that with a single bite jaguars can pierce a large animal’s skull, straight to the brain. They often also use this strong bite to shatter the shells of turtles. So don’t mess with jaguars. Fortunately, though, jaguars don’t generally attack humans. So just don’t walk up to a jaguar and prod it with a stick. Though you really shouldn’t do that to most animals; they don’t tend to like it.

Like most cats, jaguars are solitary for most of their lives. They have well defined territories, and will actively protect them. Adults come together only to mate, which can occur at any time of the year. Females can produce up to four cubs, though two is the most common. The cubs stay in a den until six months of age, when they start to accompany their mother on hunts. Jaguar mothers put a ton of energy and effort into raising their young, and the burden is a long one. Young jaguars don’t become independent and disperse until they are two years old. Poor mama jaguar.

A black jaguar, the result of a somewhat common melanistic coat colouration (6% of the population). I think the spotted ones look nicer, but black is pretty cool. Image By Bardrock – Own work, CC BY 3.0

I love jaguars. Did I mention that already? And with this landmark post, I’ve completed another set: I have now blogged about all the animals that are on the walls of my room. That is, the animals I’ve sketched. They are: the Greater Kudu, the Gyrfalcon, the Fennec Fox, and now of course, the jaguar. They have provided me with great inspiration for posts on this blog, and also help decorate my room. It’s a busy job, but I’m sure they like it.

Cover image By Ashley Lee – Own work, CC BY 4.0