In this lesson, we’ll learn about the life cycle of a jaguar, a big cat that lives in Central and South America. Find out about this powerful animal, how it grows up from a cub, and how it learns to be an amazing hunter.

Meet the Jaguar

There are cats that people have in their homes as pets, and then there are big cats like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars. The jaguar is the biggest cat in North and South America. Unfortunately, the jaguar is endangered, which means that it could become extinct or die out. There used to be more in the United States and Mexico, but now they’re mostly in the swamps, rain forests, woods, and deserts of Central and South America.

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Jaguars can be five to eight feet long (including the tail), weighing 100 to 350 pounds. Female jaguars are most often smaller than males. Both usually have orange or tan skin with black spots. There are also dark jaguars who look black or brown and have dark spots.

Black jaguar
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The meaning of the name jaguar tells you quite a bit about this animal. We get the word jaguar from yaguar, which is a Native American word meaning one who kills with a single leap. Jaguars like water, climb well, and move quickly. They’re up in the daytime but hunt at night for animals like deer, birds, rabbits, and cows.

This lesson focuses on the life cycle of a jaguar, or the different phases it goes through during its life. Jaguars live to be 12 to 15 years old in the wild.

Jaguar
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The Jaguar’s Range

While some animals like to live in groups, grown jaguars live alone in an area called a range. Jaguars use urine (pee) and scratch trees to mark off their land. The territories belonging to female jaguars can be between ten to nearly 40 miles. Moms will give this land to female babies. Male jaguars live on larger ranges that include territories belonging to more than one female. Males are very protective of their territories. You might find it interesting to know that in 2016, there was only one known male jaguar in the United States.

Jaguar
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Jaguar Cubs

Jaguars will mate all year and have babies. Female jaguars are pregnant for about 100 days. The mother usually goes to a cave or where there are thick bushes to have the babies (also called cubs or kittens). Usually a female will have one to four cubs at a time, but two is the most common.

Baby jaguars are very small when they’re born and need their mother to survive. They’re less than two pounds, and they keep their eyes closed for almost two weeks. Once they can open their eyes, they’ll play, but they stay close to their mom, who is very protective of them. When they’re six months old, they stop drinking their mother’s milk and begin hunting with her. This is how they learn to find food for themselves. They stay with their mother for about two years. The females are able to have cubs of their own when they’re about two years old, while this happens for males when they’re three to four years old.

Lesson Summary

Jaguars are big, powerful, but endangered, cats, mostly living in Central and South America. During their life cycle, they move from being helpless cubs to fierce hunters, staying with their mother for the first few years. Jaguars live on their own; females live on smaller ranges, while males travel a larger area.