Jaguar at Louisville Zoo


Scientific name: Panthera onca
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae


  • Habitats range from tropical and subtropical forests, grasslands and deserts.
  • This species is strongly associated with the presence of water.
  • Jaguars once roamed portions of Arizona, New Mexico, southeast Texas, southern Louisiana and southern California.
  • Today they primarily inhabit tropical and subtropical environments from Argentina to northern Mexico, particularly in the Amazon Basin.
  • A few individuals have been recorded in the U.S. Southwest since the 1990s.

Head and Body: 44 – 73 in. (4 – 6 ft.)
Tail length: 27 – 36 in.
Weight: 125 – 275 lbs. Females typically weigh less than males

  • Jaguars have a compact body, with a large broad head and powerful jaws.
  • Most jaguars are yellow/tan, but can be orange /brown with distinctive black spots called “rosettes” because they are shaped like roses
  • Within these “rosettes” are 3 to 5 small distinctive black spots, typically found in the middle of the body.
  • Spots on the head and neck are solid black.


  • Year-round reproduction.
  • Births concentrated seasonally with many occurring during the rainy season (when prey is abundant).
  • Litter size: Up to four cubs; two cubs are average.
  • Cubs stay with mother until they are about 1.5 – 2 years old.
  • Life expectancy for animals in nature has been recorded at 10 – 13 years.
  • Median life expectancy in Zoos is 16.8 years.


  • A very diverse diet of more than 80 different types of prey comprises the Jaguar’s diet.
  • Diet may include deer, peccary, crocodiles, snakes, monkeys, deer, sloths, tapirs, turtles, eggs, frogs, fish and anything else they can catch.


  • Jaguars, like most species of cats, are solitary animals who occupy large territories.
  • Jaguars are nocturnal hunters and do most of their stalking on the ground. They are also excellent climbers and swimmers, leaping from trees or swimming in rivers to ambush their prey.


  • The jaguar is the third-largest living feline species, after the tiger and lion.
  • Unlike most cats, jaguars are not averse to water. They are very good swimmers.
  • Jaguars belong to the family Felidae, which includes 36 species of cats worldwide.
  • The Jaguar is the only living representative of the genus Panthera found in the Americas.
  • Jaguars are classified under the genus Panthera, which includes the four species of “big cats”: the jaguar, tiger, lion and leopard.
  • Jaguars are considered the equivalent of leopards in the New World and are the largest species of cats in the Western Hemisphere.
  • The name jaguar is derived from native word yaguar which means “he who kills with one leap.”


Near Threatened, NT (IUCN)