||The Mammals of Texas -
Carnivora : Family Felidae : Panthera
Description. Largest of the spotted
American cats; form robust; tail relatively short and
tapering; ears small, short, and rounded, without tufts;
pelage short and rather bristly; upperparts spotted at
all ages; ground color buffy to tan, spots blackish,
often with light-colored centers; underparts and inner
surfaces of legs white, heavily spotted with black; tail
with irregular black markings. Dental formula as in the mountain lion, but canines relatively smaller. External
measurements of an adult male: total length, 1,933 mm;
tail, 533 mm; female, 1,574-432 mm; height at shoulder of
a large male, 712 mm. Weight, up to 90 kg; one male from
Texas weighed 63.6 kg; another, 42 kg.
Distribution in Texas. The
jaguar inhabits the dense chaparral and timbered sections
of the New World tropics and seldom ventures into the
high, cooler inland areas. Apparently, it was once fairly
common over southern Texas and nearly the whole of the
eastern part of the state to Louisiana and north to the
Red River. The last verified records of the jaguar in
Texas are from near the turn of the century and this
beautiful cat is now extirpated from the state. The
jaguar is listed as "endangered" by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service.
Habits. Jaguars are the third
largest cat of the world, ranking behind the tiger and
African lion. In spite of their large size and powerful
build, however, jaguars (el tigre of the Mexicans) are
shy and retiring. They seldom, if ever, attack man unless
cornered or at bay. They are thought to roam over a large
territory, much as does the mountain lion, and nowhere
are they abundant.
Their food habits are not well-known.
In Mexico, they are known to prey on peccaries; many of
the Mexicans believe that each large herd of peccaries is
trailed by a jaguar so that he can feed on the
stragglers. They probably prey also on deer and large
ground-dwelling birds. Jaguars are reputed to be so
destructive of cattle and horses that the larger Mexican
ranches retain a "tiger hunter" to kill them or
at least to drive them away. Jaguars are also fond of sea
turtle eggs and they roam the beaches on spring nights to
dig up and eat the eggs that are buried in the sand.
The den is a rocky cave or the security
of a dense, thorny thicket. The mating season is in
December and January, and the two to four young are born
in April or May after a gestation period varying from 93
to 110 days. The kittens are covered with woolly fur, are
heavily spotted at birth, and have their eyes closed.
When about 6 weeks old they are as large as house cats
and begin to follow their parents about. The parents mate
at least for the season of parenthood, and both cooperate
in rearing the young, although most of the burden falls
on the mother. The family unit is maintained until the
kittens are nearly a year old, at which time they begin
to fend for themselves.
Photo credit: Lowell Nash.