JAGUAR (Felis onca), the largest species of the Felidae found on the American continent, where it ranges from Texas through Central and South America to Patagonia. In the countries which bound its northern limit it is not frequently met with, but in South America it is quite common, and Don Felix de Azara states that when the Spaniards first settled in the district between Montevideo and Santa Fé, as many as two thousand were killed yearly. The jaguar is usually found singly (sometimes in pairs), and preys upon such quadrupeds as the horse, tapir, capybara, dogs or cattle. It often feeds on fresh-water turtles; sometimes following the reptiles into the water to effect a capture, it inserts a paw between the shells and drags out the body of the turtle by means of its sharp claws. Occasionally after having tasted human flesh, the jaguar becomes a confirmed man-eater. The cry of this great cat, which is heard at night, and most frequently during the pairing season, is deep and hoarse in tone, and consists of the sound pu, pu, often repeated. The female brings forth from two to four cubs towards the close of the year, which are able to follow their mother in about fifteen days after birth. The ground colour of the jaguar varies greatly, ranging from white to black, the rosette markings in the extremes being but faintly visible. The general or typical coloration is, however, a rich tan upon the head, neck, body, outside of legs, and tail near the root. The upper part of the head and sides of the face are thickly marked with small black spots, and the rest of body is covered with rosettes, formed of rings of black spots, with a black spot in the centre, and ranged lengthwise along the body in five to seven rows on each side. These black rings are heaviest along the back. The lips, throat, breast and belly, the inside of the legs and the lower sides of tail are pure white, marked with irregular spots of black, those on the breast being long bars and on the belly and inside of legs large blotches. The tail has large black spots near the root, some with light centres, and from about midway of its length to the tip it is ringed with black. The ears are black behind, with a large buff spot near the tip. The nose and upper lip are light rufous brown. The size varies, the total length of a very large specimen measuring 6 ft. 9 in.; the average length, however, is about 4 ft. from the nose to root of tail. In form the jaguar is thick-set; it does not stand high upon its legs; and in comparison with the leopard is heavily built; but its movements are very rapid, and it is fully as agile as its more graceful relative. The skull resembles that of the lion and tiger, but is much broader in proportion to its length, and may be identified by the presence of a tubercle on the inner edge of the orbit. The species has been divided into a number of local forms, regarded by some American naturalists as distinct species, but preferably ranked as sub-species or races.
|The Jaguar (Felis onca).|