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Big Cats - Jaguar

( Originally Published 1936 )

Next in size to the Lion and Tiger of the Old World, comes the largest and most ferocious of the American cats, the Jaguar. While bearing a general superficial resemblance to the leopard, it yet has many characteristics that distinguish it at once from the members of that species. In Leopards the spots are simply dark rings set quite close together on the lighter ground-colour of the fur, but in the Jaguar, particularly on the sides of the body, the spots are larger and angular in shape, with a smaller spot in the centre of each. Generally of greater size, some individuals being almost as large as a Tiger, the Jaguar is broad-chested, bow-legged, and of a more stocky, solid build than the leopard. It is, in reality, the stiffest and least active of all the cats. The fore legs are enormously strong, the hind ones comparatively weak and short; the tail is not nearly so long as the leopard's and is carried in a different manner, somewhat elevated over the back like that of a dog. See Plate 12, Fig. 57. The voice of the Jaguar is not unlike that of a small Lion—a short, sharp roar, differing considerably from the call of the Leopard.

It is not generally known that the Jaguar is found as far north as Texas. It has a wide range, however, being common in many parts of South America, in the region of the Amazon, in Patagonia, and also high up in the Andes, where it attains great size and has fur of a lighter colour.

For so large a cat, it climbs trees with facility; nor does it hesitate to swim wide and deep rivers in search of food. The Jaguar preys upon the capibara, a very large and sluggish rodent found in South America along the banks of streams, on tapirs, peccaries, monkeys, birds, fish and turtles—a diet sufficiently varied to suit the most fastidious carnivorous palate.

Judging from the individuals that have come under my personal observation, the Jaguar is extremely savage and morose in captivity, never becoming at all tame, and the creature exhibited in travelling animal-shows under this name usually proves to be a Leopard of extraordinary size. The magnificent specimen now in the Bronx Zoological Park is a remarkably fierce and unmanageable beast, although he has been as well treated as the other great Cats in the collection, many of which have become very gentle and affectionate toward their keepers. Another and smaller feline of this species in the Philadelphia Zoological Garden exhibits the same savage traits, sitting quietly at one side of her cage until some unwary person approaches too closely, when she will suddenly strike out in the vain hope of reaching him.

Of the enormous strength of the Jaguar many stories are told, some of which may well be doubted—such as the killing and dragging to a considerable distance of a pair of horses that had been harnessed together. It is, however, a powerfully-built animal and a very dangerous antagonist. One was killed in Texas, a few years ago, after a terrific fight for its life, in which several members of the hunting party were injured, the horse ridden by one of them killed, and some of the dogs despatched, before it was finally shot to death.

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