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Meet the mighty Jaguar of the Pantanal

Meet the mighty Jaguar of the Pantanal
Ricardo Casarin
| @casarin.ricardo
May 23, 2020

The jaguar, scientifically called Panthera onca, is the largest cat on the American continent and the third largest in the world, after only tigers and lions. A Brazilian flagship species, the jaguar is important for the conservation actions of several Brazilian phytophysiognomies (Atlantic Forest, Amazon Forest, Cerrado and Pantanal).

Features of the jaguar

It is a predatory animal, carnivorous and with a robust body, endowed with agility and great muscular strength. The power of its bite is considered the most powerful of all existing felines.

Like lions, tigers and leopards, the jaguar emits a series of roars, which can be heard for miles. The specie has golden yellow fur with black spots on its head, neck and paws. On the shoulders, back and flanks, it has spots forming rosettes that, inside, have one or more spots.

Jaguars have solitary habits and are also territorialists. This means that they demarcate their territory with urine, excrement and claw marks on trees.

The feline family, with the scientific name Felidae, includes mammals that walk on their fingertips and are carnivores. It is also divided into two subfamilies: the Pantherinae (which includes tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards and leopards) and the Felinae (which includes guepards, pumas, lynxes, ocelots and domestic cats).

Photo: Ricardo Casarin. All rights reserved.

Jaguar or leopard?

Although they belong to the same family and genus, and have similar physical characteristics, jaguars and leopards are from different subfamilies and have differences in hair design, size and behavior. In addition, the two animals inhabit different regions of the planet.

Jaguars are found in Latin America, while leopards live in Africa and Asia. Jaguars weigh approximately 110 kg, being larger than leopards, with 80 kg. They also have large teeth and jaw muscles. In relation to the coat, leopards have smaller and less complex rosettes, grouped closer together.

Ecology and habitat

As jaguars are predatory animals, located at the top of the food chain, and need large preserved areas to survive, they are considered biological indicators of environmental quality. The occurrence of these felines in a region indicates that it offers conditions for their survival.

There are records of jaguars occurring from the southwest of the United States to northern Argentina. The species can still be found in Latin America, including Brazil, in Amazonian forests and the Atlantic Forest and in open environments such as the Pantanal and the Cerrado.

The natural prey of the jaguar consists of wild animals such as cats, capybaras, peccaries, deer and armadillos. However, when the number of natural prey decreases due to anthropic activities, for example, jaguars feed on other animals such as frogs. They usually attack the head and neck of the animal, which can die by brain injuries or suffocation, considering the strength and effectiveness of its bite.

Photo: Ricardo Casarin. All rights reserved.


As they are solitary, jaguars only interact with other individuals of the species during the mating season. Females reach sexual maturity around two years of age, and may have their first offspring at the age of three. Males reach maturity at about three years, and are attracted by the smell and vocalization of females during the reproductive period.

The gestation time of the jaguar varies from 93 to 105 days and they can be born from one to four puppies per litter. On average, newborn puppies weigh from 700g to 900g, open their eyes from the second week, suckle up to the sixth month of life and follow their mother until one and a half years of age.


– Weight: a jaguar can weigh between 55 kg and 135 kg, according to the animal’s habitat. In Brazil, jaguars in the Pantanal are larger and heavier than those in the Amazon, for example;

– Height: the jaguar has a height that varies from 68 cm to 76 cm;

– Length: male jaguars are larger than females. They have a length of 1.4 to 1.8 meters, while that of females varies from 1.2 to 1.7 meters;

– Life expectancy: one jaguar lives from 12 to 15 years

Photo: João Marcos Rosa. All rights reserved.

The jaguar is the largest cat on the American continent and the third largest in the world, after only tigers and lions.

Pantanal is the best place for those who want to see up-close the mighty jaguar. So we have listed some programs in order to plan your adventure together with SouthQuest Safaris and our team of experts:

Jaguars of the Pantanal: focused on the observation of Jaguars in the region of Porto Jofre.

Best of the Pantanal: recommended for those who look for a complete experience through the Pantanal.

Brazilian Amazon & Pantanal: an incredible experience across two of the main Brazilian biomes.

About the author
Ricardo Casarin
| @casarin.ricardo

Co-founder, Naturalist Guide & Tour Leader
Ricardo Casarin has been leading tours in Brazil since 1998 and is one of Brazil’s most respected naturalist guides. Specializing in Natural History, Birdwatching, and Nature Photography tours, his expertise covers biomes such as the Pantanal, the Amazon, the Atlantic Rainforest, the Caatinga, and the Cerrado (the Brazilian Savanna). Ricardo also coordinates and leads tours through Chilean and Argentine Patagonia. He is co-author of the book “Tourism Guide in Natural Areas.”

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