Characteristics

The jaguar is the largest cat in the American continents. A jaguar’s weight ranges between 77 to 285 pounds (35 to 130 kilograms). Generally, the males are heavier than the females. The jaguar’s body is stocky, compact and muscular. The length of the body varies from 5.5 to 7.9 feet (1.7 to 2.4 meters) with the tail being 20 to 26 inches (52 to 66 cm) of the jaguar’s length. Jaguars that live in forested areas tend to be smaller than jaguars that live in open areas such as the Pantanal (the world’s largest wetland) in Brazil or the Llanos (tropical grassland plain) in Venezuela.

A jaguar’s fur varies from yellow to black and is characterized by black spots that form rosettes of different sizes. The rosettes are like fingerprints of the animal that identify each animal. Each individual jaguar has a unique rosettes pattern on its fur. Because of this, it is possible to use camera traps to take photographs of jaguars in the wild and to estimate the size of the jaguar population in an area. Most jaguars are yellow with black spots, but black jaguars also exist. Black jaguars also have black spots that form rosettes.

Other cat species that also have spots can be confused with the jaguar. For example, the leopard occurs in Africa and Asia, and the ocelot which occurs in the American continents both have fur that resembles the jaguar’s fur. However, each species has distinct characteristics. View the photos to find differences.