All about leopards and jaguars | Sunday Observer

All about leopards and jaguars

7 February, 2021
Leopard and Jaguar
Leopard and Jaguar

Leopards and jaguars are big cats like lions and tigers and are very majestic and beautiful to look at. They live in the wild and are fierce predators or hunters. Though they look similar at first glance they are different animals with different features and behaviours.

Hunting styles

 A leopard will bite the throat of its victim and squeeze the breath out of it  (suffocate) it till it dies.
 A  jaguar will kill in two ways. Uses two methods to kill its prey. It  will either pierce the skull of the prey with its canines or crush the spine by breaking the neck.  A jaguar’s bite has a force of 2000 pounds per bite. 


Habitat and status


Leopards or ‘Old World Cats; as they are sometimes referred to are found in some parts of Asia including Sri Lanka, India, China, Korea and Malaysia. The Soviet Union and the MIiddle East too are home to leopards.They are also found in the ‘dark continent ‘ or Africa .

The jaguars, also known as the ‘New World Cats’ lives in Central and South America and at one time inhabited areas as far north as California in the USA. The Grand canyon in Arizona In the USA is also a known home of Jaguras.

Today, these big cats are said to be largely extinct in the USA but they thrive in many wet habitats and flooded forests including the Brazilian Pantanal wet lands. Strangely, though they both belong to the same ‘big cat family’, they will never meet each other in the wild as they live in different continents.


They may see each other in captivity or in zoos though. Yala and Wilpattu in Sri Lanka are internationally famous as homes of the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya ). North Eastern Inida, the Shivalik hills and the Gangetic plains are some of the areas in which the Indian leopard Panthera pardus fusa lives. Sadly, numbers of both species are lessening due to various reasons including human action. Both leopards and jaguars are recognised as species in danger by conservationists.





Jaguars are mostly nocturnal predators. (animals who are active at night) They have excellent eyesight at night. Leopards are also nocturnal and are active at night looking for food.. They mostly spend their days resting hidden in trees or hiding in trees or caves.

Leopards spend time or live in trees

Leopards are arboreal meaning they spend time or live in trees.

Their long tails help them to balance on trees. Their coats help them hide among the branches. They are the only big cats who carry their prey up to trees.

This helps them to protect their prey from other predators.Jaguars do not spend much time among trees and are not as agile as leopards among trees. However, if they do really need to jaguars can climb trees. Leopards are strong swimmers and so are jaguars. Jaguars are more aquatic than leopards.

Both predators like to live alone and are known as solitary animals. They will only join their kind for mating. Leopards will be with others to look after their young.

Jaguars are more aquatic

The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)

The Sri Lankan leopard has a brownish, yellow coat with dark rossetes. Sri Lankan male leopards are about 30 percent larger than the females. An amazing fact is that their tails are more than half of its body length. They are found all over the country but the Yala and Wilpattu National Parks are two of the best places to find leopards in Sri Lanka. Both Yala and Willpattu are world famous for leopards. Two of the best times to see leopards are the early morning and late evening.

Jaguar’s tail is shorter than the leopard’s tail


A leopard will hunt deer,gazelle,monkeys and baboons among other animals. It will also hunt domestic cattle and will even attack people if it feels threatened.

Jaguars hunt almost anything they come across. Capybaras, deer, tortoises, iguanas, armadillos, fish, birds and monkeys are among the jaguar’s prey. Jaguars eat more than 85 varieties of prey.


Size and coat

The leopard is the smallest of the big cats. They grow to a length of 92 to 190 centimetres. Their tail adds another 64 to 99 cm to their length. Males and females vary in weight. A male leopard can weigh from 80 pounds to 165 pounds. A female leopard can weigh from 42 pounds to 132 pounds. It has a slim and sleek body and long legs and a tail. It has a strong jaw and strong shoulder muscles.

The jaguar is larger than a leopard with a stockier body and a barrel-shaped abdomen. The head is blockier than a leopard’s head with a broader forehead and a wider mouth. From head to flank a jaguar’s length will range from two four to six feet while the tail will add another two feet to it.

The jaguar’s bite is rated as the A mail leofourth most powerful bite in the world and it is the strongest of the big cats being stronger than even the lion and the tiger. Its tail is shorter than the leopard’s tail. A male jaguar weighs around 126 pounds to 250 pounds and a a female will weigh around 100-200 pounds.

Both jaguars and leopards have golden fur covered with black, flower-shaped markings,. As these markings look somewhat like roses they are called rosettes. While the jaguar has large rosettes with dark spots in the middle while the leopard has smaller rosettes which are more than the jaguars. They are placed close together and has no spot in the middle. Some jaguars and leopards can be completely black in colour.

They are called melanistic jaguars and leopards. They both are sometimes called ‘black panthers’.