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Jaguar versus Leopard

jaguar versus leopard
Jaguar v/s Leopard  
by Praveen Siddannavar – Head Bangalore Center KPIT; engineer by profession & natural history photographer by choice; he is also one of the founder members of Indian Wildlife Conservation trust (IWCT)
Many of us make mistake and get confused between a Jaguar and a Leopard, I have been fortunate to capture and spend time with both these cats in the wild. I am putting together my notes & some info from internet search that will help us distinguish between these two amazing cats – Jaguar & a Leopard. I will take this comparison beyond the looks, diving more deeply into the design, make up and behavior of these magnificent predators.
jaguar versus leopard
The jaguar is found in the Americas. Historically they occurred as far north as California; however the United States population is largely extinct. It extends south through Central America and into Argentina. I captured Jaguar in the Pantanal in Brazil, by far the highest density of these cats. Leopards are found from China to India to the Middle East and down into Africa.
The leopards are much smaller and weigh lighter as compared to jaguar that is much stronger, heavier and bulky. Typical weights – Female Leopard: 20 – 60 kg, Female Jaguar: 85 – 90 kg; Male Leopard: 40 – 80kg, Male Jaguar: 110 -120 kg.
The jaguar is the 3rd largest cat in the world. On the top is our National Animal the Tiger followed by Lion, Jaguar and finally Leopard. The rosettes are the key differentiator – Jaguars tend to have larger rosettes with spots in the middle; while the leopard has plain rosettes with no central spot in the middle. This is clearly visible in my image.
Strength is another key factor, and the jaguar steals the show here. Pound for pound this cat is phenomenally strong, in fact the strongest amongst all cats that include tigers and lions. The jaguar has the ability to deliver up to 2000 pounds of force, this makes jaguars the most powerful of the cats.
The shape and size of the head is very different between the two cats. Due to the different styles of killing the jaguar has a much broader forehead and wider jaw.
Jaguars have a large barrel like abdomen. It almost always looks as if they are pregnant or well fed. Leopards, on the other hand, often have a very slight build. Jaguars have a shorter, stockier, build then the leopard.
Leopards are the best tree climbers in the cat family, while jaguars do climb trees but there aren’t as agile as the leopards. Leopard is very arboreal and has a long tail and this helps them to balance while climbing up or down a tree, the jaguars on the hand have a shorter tail. Tree climbing is less important in jaguar life and nor do these cats hide their kill on trees due to lack of other predators.
The jaguars are apex predators of the Americas that means they are on the top of food chain in the forest ecosystem, while Leopards spend most of the time on trees and even carry their kill high up on trees due to threat from other predators like Tigers, Lions, Wild Dogs and Hyenas.
Leopards do not like water, in fact I have seen them only come to a water body to quench their thirst. They will do everything in their power to avoid having to go through in water. While the jaguar, like the tiger, seems to be content with spending long periods of time in the water. Jaguars in the Pantanal do not have a choice; they live in the world’s largest wetlands.
Leopards are very territorial and will actively patrol, demarcate and fight for land. Jaguars are less territorial and utilize more of a relaxed home range. There is large overlap between jaguar’s home ranges and these are not nearly as actively managed and patrolled.  
The hunting or killing style also differs between the two cats. Leopards kill using a suffocating bite. This bite will usually be around the throat, or may in fact be around the mouth. The jaguar prefers to use one of two methods: 1) killing by canines piercing through prey’s skull (only large cat to use this technique) and 2) By severing the spinal column/backbone with a powerful bite and breaking the neck.
Both species of cat prefer to hunt by stalking and ambush rather than lengthy chases. Leopards hunt on almost anything however in India their favorite prey is the Chital also known as spotted deer. While Jaguars too hunt on anything however their most favorite diet in Pantanal, Brazil is the Caimans (Crocodiles).
by Praveen Siddannavar – Head Bangalore Center KPIT; engineer by profession & natural history photographer by choice; he is also one of the founder members of Indian Wildlife Conservation trust (IWCT)
Praveen Siddannavar


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