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A jaguar's strength is astonishing. In proportion to their size, it can carry and pull very big animals. The largest jaguar on record weighed only 350 pounds, but jaguars have been seen dragging full-grown horses for more than a mile. One jaguar dragged a horse several hundred yards then swam across a river with it! Jaguars are more heavily built than leopards, usually weighing twice as much. Their stockier build makes them less graceful than leopards, but their strength makes them just as fearsome to their prey.


How they hunt.

The jaguar climbs and swims well but usually stalks its prey on the ground. They prefer to spring upon their prey from good cover in a dense forest or swampy area, although they will hunt in the open if necessary. Natives of the Amazon believe that jaguars catch fish by flicking their tails on the surface of the water to first attract the fish--although some scientists think that luring fish in this way is accidental. When a fish comes in close enough, the jaguar will swipe it out of the water and onto the bank with its paw.


What they Eat.

All big cats are carnivores (meat-eaters) at the top of the food chain, and have their pick of prey. They are known to eat peccary, deer, tapir, monkey, sloth, agouti, capybara...and a good deal more, including birds and fish. Living alone, each jaguar holds a territory of between two and two hundred square miles, and their specific diet depends on the prey available in their territory. What they can't eat in one sitting, jaguars will hide for future use.


How they multiply.

Two to four jaguar cubs are born at a time,
their eyes sealed shut until they are about thirteen days old. Jaguars born in deep forests are more likely to have darkly colored coats--sometimes so dark that their spots only show if they are turned to the light in a certain way. In open country, dark coats are rare: instead, most jaguars have the familiar yellowish-brown fur with black spots. Whether colored nearly white, deep black, or anything in between, jaguars stay with their mothers about two years, and are on their own another year before they are ready to mate.


Where they live.

The range of jaguars is not as large as it once
was, but they can still be found in remote areas from northern Mexico almost to the tip of South America. They make homes in tropical forests, swamps, and open country, including deserts and savannas. They are the only big cat to still occur in the Americas, and are not found anywhere else on earth.



Yellow light. What gives hope to the jaguar's future is its ability to adapt quickly to changing conditions. Because it can survive on everything from large herd animals to insects, it stands a better chance of surviving some habitat loss than another animal species would. Habitat loss is the jaguar's biggest threat-that and the illegal poaching of the jaguar for its beautiful spotted coat. If they can remain secretive, hiding in the jungles and swamps of South America--and if the jungles and swamps are left alone--the jaguar should be able to survive.

Coming soon!

A jaguar is stalking toward us at this very moment.
Once we are sure it has already eaten, we'll let you 'pet' it. In the meantime, click on the Virtual Zoo where other fierce animals are waiting for you to dare to pet them. Will you dare?
If you do click here

Want to learn more about jaguars?
Click on Zoobooks, and check out Big Cats. This issue is part of a terrific subscription. Zoobooks has dozens and dozens of animals you can read about. 

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