35 Interesting Facts About Jaguars

Last updated on January 18th, 2023

42. A Mexican conservation group found that jaguar attacks on dogs account for almost half of reported jaguar conflicts. This is sad not only for the dogs, but when humans hunt the jaguars to protect their pets and livestock.

43. Conservation groups are working to minimizing these conflicts. They suggest building more secure night shelters for dogs to keep them from roaming. This will help keep jaguars from hunting the dogs and prevent conflicts. It also helps prevent diseases from spreading between dogs and the cats.

44. International conservation groups have created 51 of what are known as Jaguar Conservation Units (JCUs) to study and protect the remaining jaguars. These are defined as large territories that have at least 50 breeding jaguars. They range from places like Mexico all the way down to Argentina. These areas are set up as areas of special concern for the conservation of local jaguar populations.

Jaguar in Chester Zoo, for facts about jaguars
Photo Chester Zoo

45. Jaguars do best when they live in forest areas and low-lying wetlands that has the food they prefer. They like living in wetter areas, often near water or floodplains. Cutting down forests and other human activities are a significant threat to the well-being of jaguar populations. This is because their hunting grounds are diminished. They can then no longer find food and are often forced to attack livestock. Also they are cut off from other jaguars and have a hard time finding mates. This reduces their numbers even further.

46. In 2002, the jaguar had lost around 46% of its range from what it had from a hundred years prior to that. This shows the alarming decline of the jaguar habitat and the jaguar population.

47. Researchers studying the health and diet of jaguars use dogs to sniff out jaguar feces for study and analysis.

48. The various people of Mexico and Central America considered the jaguar a sacred animal. The jaguar is a prominent feature of their mythologies.

49. All major Mesoamerican civilizations prominently featured a jaguar god. They gave many of the deities jaguar-like features to illustrate their power and connection to the revered animal.

Jaguars in the ancient times

50. In the ancient Mesoamerican traditions, the jaguar could cross between different spiritual realms. This was related to their ability to hunt in both trees and on the ground. The ability of the jaguar to hunt both during the day and night was seen as mystical. This was a sign of their special connection to the gods. This connection was sought about by these peoples.

51. Mayan kings sought to associate themselves with power and mystique of the jaguar. This included wearing things like jaguar pelts and other parts of the animal to establish their connection to the animal. They even added the word “jaguar” to their royal names to make themselves seem more powerful. The surname “Balam”, derives from the Mayan word for jaguar and is still common in places like Guatemala.

52. Mayans created a stringed instrument that produced a sound like a jaguar’s growling. This is the only known stringed instrument produced in the Americas before the arrival of Europeans. Researchers were able to recreate this instrument and make a recording of its sound. This suggests that capturing the jaguar’s sound was an important part of connecting to the essence of its power.

53. Olmec statues often featured a “were-jaguar”. This was something like a werewolf. But instead of a man and a wolf, the statue was a combination of the features of a man and a jaguar. Scientists are unsure of what the meaning of these statues were. But they do show the influence of the jaguar on the thinking of the Olmecs.

54. The Mayans revered the power of the jaguar. It became an important part of the divine right to rule, giving a king his power. During the king’s coronation, he would walk under a long hallway decorated with carved statues of jaguars in a procession.

55. A Mayan king named Yopaat wanted to demonstrate his greatness and divine right to rule. He vowed to import dozens of jaguars to sacrifice to the gods to show his power and honor his ancestors. Researchers believe he failed and needed to import the animals from long distances. The nearby jungle had long since been depleted of animals. The city eventually crumbled anyway.

56. The Maya believed jaguars were sentient beings and were especially close to the gods and the spiritual world. They believed that they could communicate with them and know the will of the gods.

57. Jaguars were a frequently sacrificed animal in Mexico and Central America. Some of the sacrificed animals were domesticated and some were captured from the wild jungles.

58. Ancient Mayans believed the jaguar animal spirit was a part of the underworld and had special abilities. This was related to the primarily nocturnal activities of the jaguar. The Mayans associated the night with the underworld. One deity identified with the jaguar was actually known as “Lord of the Underworld”.

59. The jaguar was the symbol of the warrior class because of its skill at hunting. Aztec emperors went into battle wearing jaguar skins. They wanted to absorb the hunting prowess of these mighty hunters during their battles. They even decided cases on a judgment seat covered in jaguar skin.

60. The jaguar has had a long presence in the religious rituals of the peoples of Mexico and Central America. Priests and other people dressed in jaguar skins during religious rituals. They believed this helped them absorb the spiritual power of the jaguar. This was believed to help them conquer the spirit world. Even today, some traditional dances in Mexico involve jaguar skins. These are called the ‘La Danza de los Tecuanes’ or the Dances of the Jaguars. This is still a living tradition performed on the Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.

61. The people of the Mesoamerican jungle believed that the jaguar could help them talk to the dead. And that the dead could talk to the living using the jaguar as a medium. Thus the jaguar straddled the line between the worlds of the living and the dead. Just as the jaguar straddled the line between day and night.

62. Mayans may have kept jaguars as pets. There is evidence that many jaguars had been domesticated for some time. Scientists have determined that by doing a radioisotope analysis on the remains of jaguars found in temples. They concluded that many of the animals were consumers of wild foods but many were not.

Jaguars and humans

63. Jaguars tend to avoid humans if possible. However, human encroachment into jaguar territory makes contact more likely.

64. Jaguars are known to stay away from roads and other human environmental features. Males are somewhat more adventurous than females. Males can sometimes stray into human areas. Females tend to stay away from places where even a few humans live and work.

65. Jaguars like their regular food. They rarely attack humans unless cornered or wounded. They are the least likely large feline to prey on humans.