The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Beaver
Story Of The Lion
Story Of The Elk
Story Of The Tiger.
Story Of The Mountain- Lion
Story Of The Camel
Story Of The Jaguar
Story Of The Buffalo.
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Story Of The Jaguar
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Once, when in South America, I witnessed an entire village thrown into a state of terror by a jaguar. The animal had been without food for many days, and starvation had made it desperate. It descended upon the village at night, and while prowling around in search of human prey it entered a church, the door of which stood upon.
Early in the morning a priest entered the building when the gaunt and famished creature sprang upon him, killing him instantly. A second priest who followed soon after met the same fate, but a third, warned by the deep growls and the horrible sound made by the animal in crunching the bones of his victims, macle his escape and gave the alarm.
In a few moments a large force of natives assembled and surrounded the church, but no one dared to enter, for it was impossible to locate the position of the beast. Finally a venturesome hunter and myself climbed to the top of the building and removed a portion of the roof. We saw the fierce animal crouched over the prostrate body of a priest, which was so frightfully mangled that there was no question the victim was dead. The eves of the jaguar were shining like balls of green fire. The native hunter and I fired together. My bullet struck the murderous beast in the right eye and the other shot hit him just behind a fore leg. Then the natives rushed in and vented their rage on his dead carcass.
This was an unusual case, for the jaguar will not attack human beings except when he has been provoked or suffering the pangs of extreme hunger. It often happens that the islands which they usually inhabit become flooded, and they are forced to go to the mainland to appease their hunger. At such times there is no more dangerous or desperate brute in the whole animal creation.
The size of the jaguar makes it a formidable enemy, for it is the largest representative of the cat family inhabiting the New World, being somewhat superior in size to the leopard, and having a relatively larger head. It resembles the leopard in the ornamentation of the fur, taking the form of large rosette-like dark spots, enclosing lighter centers; and likewise in the circular form of the pupil of the eye. The spots are, however, considerably larger than in the leopard, the ring of each being usually formed of a number of small spots,. while the light center of each rosette contains one or more spots. Moreover, the rosettes are arranged in from seven to eight rows on each side of the body. The ground color of the fur is a rich tan.
The total average length of a full-grown male jaguar is about 6 feet 2 inches, the long bushy tail extending to 2 feet 1 inch, or about a third the length over all. A large example had a total length of 6 feet 9 inches, of which the tail occupied 2 feet 2 inches; while a still larger specimen is said to have measured upwards of five feet from the tip of the nose to the root of the tail.
The range of the jaguar embraces the whole of the country lying between the north of Mexico and Texas and the northern parts of Patagonia, its southern limit coinciding approximately with the 40th parallel of south latitude.
The jaguar is one of the most expert climbers among the larger cats, and I have it that in certain districts of South America, where the forests are subject to inundation, and the trees stand so thickly that the passage from one to another is perfectly easy, the jaguar will sometimes take to a life in the trees, preying upon the troops of monkeys that inhabit the forests. There seems to be no record of its having attacked human beings without provocation, except when nearly starving.
The mode of killing its prey is invariable. Leaping to the back of the victim, the jaguar, by a rapid movement of the fore-paws, twists its head round and breaks its neck.
Its cry, which cannot be correctly described as a roar, is loud, deep, and hoarse, and has been compared to a series of repetitions of the syllables, pu, pu, pu.
A peculiar animosity to the jaguar is displayed in the pampas by its near relative the puma. Where the two species inhabit the same district they are at enmity, the puma being the persistent persecutor of the jaguar, following and harassing it as a tyrant-bird harasses an eagle or hawk, moving about it with such rapidity as to confuse it, and, when an opportunity occurs, springing upon its back, and inflicting terrible wounds with teeth and claws. Jaguars with scarred backs are frequently killed, and others, not long escaped from their tormentors, have been easily oercome by the hunters. This is the more remarkable since the puma is an animal of far inferior size and power to its adversary, although what it lacks in power it makes up in agility.
The Gauchos of South America are in the habit of capturing the jaguar with the lasso; and I once witnessed a curious instance of how one of these fierce animals was absolutely paralyzed with fear, induced by a party of hunters who intended. to capture it in this manner. These hunters had started the jaguar in an outlying district of the pampas, and it had taken refuge in a dense clump of dry weeds. Though they could see it, it was impossible to throw the lasso over its head, and after vainly trying to dislodge it, they at length set fire to the reeds. Still it refused to stir, but lay with head erect, fiercely glaring at them through the flames. Finally it disappeared from sight in the black smoke; and when the fire had burnt itself out, it was found dead and charred in the same spot. Livingstone relates how one of the harnessed antelopes of South Africa will lie close among burning reeds until its horns and hair are singed; both these instances being examples of the paralyzing effects of fear, analogous to that which causes a wolf when caught in a pit to lie perfectly still, even under the infliction of severe blows, as if simulating death.
The jaguar is commonly called tiger by European residents of South America.
Next to monkeys, peccaries are a favorite article of diet with the jaguar, but he finds scarcely less difficulty in picking up a peccary than in knocking down a monkey. For the little, active, sharp-tusked peccary is more swinishly dull than is usual even with its swinish relatives, and, being too thick-headed to understand danger, is a very terrible antagonist to man or beast. It seems to care nothing for size, weapons, or strength, but launches itself as fearlessly on a jaguar or an armed man as on a rabbit or a child. So, unless the jaguar can quietly snap up a straggler, he has a small chance with even a small herd of these warlike little pigs.
But it meets a foeman where we should least expect it in the toothless ant-eater, or ant-lion, the Tamanduhuasu. When the fierce feline springs upon it, the long muzzled excavator throws itself on its back to meet its antagonist with the arms furnished by nature, and as the jaguar descends the ant-eater closes upon its assailant with its four terrible sets of claws, which tear to the very vitals, and if the jaguar's teeth sink deep into the unprotected throat of the Tamandu, it purchases victory only with its life; both perish together: and the Tapuyas Indians in Brazil say that they often find the skeletons of the two interlaced, so as to. show how they perished.