Jaguar Facts For Kids | Jaguar Diet, Behavior, & Habitat

Though all cats have long been admired for their fearful nature and remarkable ability, but only jaguar (Panthera onca) seems to have conquered the culture and religion of a continent. Scientists have unearthed some of the oldest sculptures of jaguar predating five thousand years old in Peru. It is believed that sculptures that belong to the earliest known civilization inhabited South America. Jaguar is often associated with lightning, thunder, and rain all throughout South America. People believe jaguar is the master of animals and thus they often associate it with hunting rituals. You’re going to enjoy some of the most fascinating jaguar facts for kids such as jaguar habitat, diet, behavior, and reproduction.

Jaguar resembles leopard but is the largest felid in the Americas. As compared to leopard, jaguar, however, appears to be rather powerful predator. Jaguar is less agile than the leopard but it is characterized by stocky-looking cat along with large head, deep-chested body, and sturdy limbs. Their canines teeth are strong than those of other cats.

Jaguar Facts For Kids

The unmistakable physical appearance of jaguar makes it recognizable among other large cats. The large clusters of spots on its coat, known as rosettes, and irregularly shaped blotches mark a background color ranging from tawny to pale yellow. The rosette marks stretches across the white belly and a throat. Every individual has its own variation of these markings and they are less numerous as compared to those of the leopard. Often does it happen that people find it hard to tell the pelts of these two cats apart.

These cats weigh around 56 – 96 kg (124 – 211 lb), with the length measuring at 1.2 – 1.95 meters (3.9 – 6.4 feet) including tail. Males are 10 – 20% larger than the females.

The jaguar’s tail is covered with black marks and rings on the last half. They have short-rounded ears that are black at the back with a slightly buff central spot.

The black jaguar, another subspecies, was once deemed to be a separate species as parted from a spotted jaguar. There are few Indian tribes who still consider black jaguar as a bigger species as compared to spotted jaguars and thus they regard them as a separate cat.

Rengger, one of the Swiss naturalists, believe that it’s almost impossible to derive an average size of a jaguar since the average weight of these animals may vary by 100 percent, depending entirely on where it lives.

Read this too: How strong is a Jaguar?

The mean weight of jaguars inhabiting Central America measures around 56 kilograms for adult males while 41 kilograms for adult females.

The largest jaguars live in the floodplains of Venezuelan Ilanos and Pantanal region (in Brazil) where the mean weight measuring around 102 kilograms for adult males and 72 kilograms for adult females.

Jaguars are excellent swimmers and they’re often seen crossing rivers in the daytime. They are considered as dominant predators. They typically hunt on ground but can also climb if the need arises. Not all cats exhibit the same behavior as those inhabiting Brazil and Peru, tend to become active both day and night while individuals living in Venezuela, Mexico, and Belize are almost largely nocturnal. The degree of prey activity and availability primarily determines the fact whether jaguar will hunt in daylight or at night. The region where the turtles and crocodiles form an essential part of their diet, jaguars are diurnal.

Unlike other cats like tigers, lions or leopards, jaguar takes on its prey with the bite through the animal’s skull between horns and ears.

jaguar facts for kids | jaguar
Courtesy of news.mongabay.com

Where Do Jaguars Live

Jaguar’s Distribution

Currently, jaguars inhabiting all throughout Central America, Venezuela, eastern Columbia, the Guianas, Suriname, Bolivia, Peru to the south, Brazil, the Paraguayan Chaco, and northern Argentina. Jaguars have been disappeared from many of its habitat range in the last fifty years or so; unlike before, not a single species now exist in Argentina and Uruguay. On the positive side, however, the historical range of jaguars extends from Oregon to Pennsylvania throughout North America. Some of the species are still surviving in the southwestern states, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.


Jaguars typically reside in the tropical and subtropical habitats around 1,200 meters above the sea level. Nonetheless, some species also live in as much height as 3,800 meters (such as in Costa Rica), or at 2,700 meters (in Bolivia), and 2,100 meters in northern Peru. Although they predominantly occupy tropical regions but they also build habitats in swampy grasslands, lowland evergreen forest, scrub lands, and montane forests, dry deciduous forests, and mangrove swamps. They are found in places where watercourses and streams are abundant.

What Do Jaguars Eat | Jaguar Facts for Kids

Like other cats, jaguars are the opportunistic hunters as they consume anything they confront ranging from turtle eggs and domestic cattle to two-pound armadillos. They are ambush hunters as they stalk their prey while walking gradually along trails and listening for prey. Jaguars often wander around the beeches while looking forward to eating turtle eggs or waiting for turtles to come to the shore. They don’t let their prey to spot them easily since jaguars are patient hunters.

They also jump into the water to eat capybaras and seize them before they actually dive deep. Jaguars living in Ilanos and flooded grasslands primarily feed on spectacled caimans, capybaras, collared peccaries, cattle, and deer. Likewise, cats inhabiting Brazilian Pantanal often take on deer which makes 93% of their diet. Other prey items include opossums, lizards, white-lipped piccaries, agoutis, coatis, tapirs, anacondas, monkeys, sloths, fish, frogs, birds, mice, pacas, horses, and armadillos. Jaguars living in Cauca and San Jorge rivers of northern Columbia mostly rely on river turtles, caimans, reptiles, and iguanas; in these rivers about 49% of cat’s diet is composed of capybaras. Those found in the lowland tropical forest of Manu National Park (Peru) consumes agoutis, large turtles, and collard peccaries. In the tropical forest of Costa Rica and La Selva, iguanas and sloths seem to be a more favorite diet of the cat. Jaguars also eat medium-sized and small mammals such as rabbits, marsupials, brocket deer, and armadillos. In the Chamela Cuixmala Biosphere Reserve in Mexico, they consume white-tailed deer which constitutes 54% of the whole diet. The average weight of the prey species is 15.6 kg.

Reproduction | Jaguar Facts For Kids

The females reach the maturity at the age of two while males become mature four years after their birth. The female litters 2 to 4 cubs after a gestation period of 93 to 105 days. In captivity, the average life span of jaguars is 12 to 15 years.

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