The jaguar (Panthera onca) is a big cat (the third-largest feline after the tiger and the lion – and the largest in the Americas), a feline in the Panthera genus, and is the only extant Panthera species native to the Americas. The jaguar’s present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico across much of Central America and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Apart from a known and possibly breeding population in Arizona (southeast of Tucson) and the bootheel of New Mexico, the cat has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century.
The word “jaguar” comes to English from one of the Tupi–Guarani languages, presumably the Amazonian trade language Tupinambá, via Portuguese jaguar. The Tupian word, yaguara “beast”, is sometimes translated as “dog”. The specific word for jaguar is yaguareté, with the suffix -eté meaning “real” or “true”. Tthe jaguar has featured prominently in the mythology of numerous indigenous American cultures, including those of the Maya and Aztec.
It is a compact and well-muscled animal. Size and weight vary considerably: weights are normally in the range of 56–96 kg (124–211 lb). Larger males have been recorded to weigh as much as 158 kg (348 lb) (roughly matching a tigress or lioness; however note this animal was weighed with a full stomach). Females are typically 10–20 percent smaller than males. The length, from the nose to the base of the tail, of the cats varies from 1.12 to 1.85 m (3.7 to 6.1 ft). Their tails are the shortest of any big cat, at 45 to 75 cm (18 to 30 in) in length. Their legs are also short, considerably shorter when compared to a small tiger or lion in a similar weight range, but are thick and powerful. The jaguar stands 63 to 76 cm (25 to 30 in) tall at the shoulders. Compared to the similarly colored Old World leopard, the jaguar is bigger, heavier and relatively stocky in build.
A short and stocky limb structure makes the jaguar adept at climbing, crawling, and swimming. The head is robust and the jaw extremely powerful, it has the third highest bite force of all felids, after the lion and tiger. This strength adaptation allows the jaguar to pierce turtle shells. A comparative study of bite force adjusted for body size ranked it as the top felid, alongside the clouded leopard and ahead of the lion and tiger. It has been reported that “an individual jaguar can drag an 800 lb (360 kg) bull 25 ft (7.6 m) in its jaws and pulverize the heaviest bones”. The jaguar hunts wild animals weighing up to 300 kg (660 lb) in dense jungle, and its short and sturdy physique is thus an adaptation to its prey and environment. Photo: wikiwand