The Big Cat of the Americas, the Jaguar
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The Big Cat of the Americas, the Jaguar

The jaguar is a feline that comes from the Panthera family and is related to the tiger, leopard, and lion. The jaguar is the only feline from the Panthera family that is native to the Americas. The jaguar’s habitat ranges from the area around the United States/Mexico border, to the end tip of South America. In the past, the jaguar was a mythical symbol of strength and power to the natives of Central and South America, and is connected of the Aztec God Tezacatilpoca. Today, the jaguar is a popular icon in modern media; it is the name and mascot of a British luxury car company and the mascot of the NFL Jacksonville Jaguars. The jaguar was the mascot of the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

The jaguar is a powerful and beautiful feline that closely resembles its cousin, the leopard. Jaguars range from 4 to 6.5 feet long, weigh from 120 to 330 pounds, and measure 25 to 30 inches tall at the shoulders. Female jaguars are slightly smaller and lighter than male jaguars are. Jaguars living in South America are usually larger than ones living in Central America or Arizona are, and jaguars tend to be smaller when living in jungles or forested areas than when they live near waterways and open plains. Jaguars have the same type of spotting that a leopard has; however, a jaguar’s spots are larger and less numerous. Jaguars can also have a solid black coat: this is caused by a genetic disorder, which affects about 6% of the whole jaguar population.

In appearance, the jaguar most closely resembles the leopard; however, in temperament and behaviour it most closely resembles the tiger. Jaguars are generally solitary and are only seen in groups during breeding season or a mother with her young. Much like mother tigers, mother jaguars raise their young alone. Jaguars will occasionally fight over territory; however, serious injuries or fatalities are rare. Jaguars are also similar to tigers in that they are strong swimmers and do not mind being wet. However, unlike tigers and the rest of the Panthera family, jaguars rarely attack humans. Jaguars have only been known to attack people in self-defence, because they were starving, or because they were diseased or very old.

Jaguars are apex predators in their eco-system. Jaguars hunt almost everything, ranging from caimans, deer, capybaras, dogs, tapirs, peccaries, large turtles, and even anacondas. Jaguars also hunt ground birds and monkeys, and will attack farm animals like cows, goats, sheep, and even horses. Jaguars are not without predators, anacondas and humans hunt them. Fights between anacondas and jaguars can be very fierce as both are formidable hunters; however, in the end, the winner is usually the one who strikes first. Humans are without a doubt the largest and most brutal killer of jaguars. Humans kill jaguars for their pelts, out of fear, in defence of their livestock and for sport. Humans also inadvertently kill jaguars by destroying their habitat, forcing them into populated areas where they are killed.

Jaguars are listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and unfortunately their numbers still continue to dwindle. Unless, the jaguar is protected immediately, all hunting of it ceases, and its habitat is preserved, it will soon join the list of extinct animals.

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