Panthera onca

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Felidae

Total length 7 to 9 feet; 90 to 260 lbs.

Through central America to Venezuela, the Guianas and Brazil including eastern Columbia, eastern Peru, eastern and southern Bolivia. Very rarely found in southwestern United States.

Primarily found in tropical forests and savannahs especially in the area of rivers and streams or other water sources.

Wild - Carnivore; feeding mainly on wild pigs, capybaras and fish that are the most available prey
Zoo - Feline diet (primarily ground horsemeat)


  • Binocular vision - because the eyes are located in the front of the face, the image of an object falls on both retina. This enables the animal to accurately judge distances.
  • Sharp retractable claws - sharp claws are important in seizing and holding a prey animal. Being retractable enables the claws to remain sharp.
  • Padded toes - the feet are well haired except for the naked, rubbery pads, which allow for a soft and noiseless tread.
  • Stalk and stealth - stalks prey until it is within close range, then rushes the target.
  • Nocturnal - animal hunting mainly at dusk and dawn, wandering throughout the night and sleeping during the day.
  • Habits - solitary animals coming together only during mating.
  • Tree climber - strong neck and shoulder muscles for dragging prey to covered area and climbing trees. Climbs better than lions but not quite as well as leopards.
  • Swimmer - among the best swimmers of the cat family that helps extend their diet to include tapirs and fish.
  • Camouflage - their camouflage is very similar to that of the leopard with the rosettes (circle of spots)including a center spot.

2-4 cubs born; they nurse 3-4 months and live with the mother about 2 years. Female maintains care of young alone for appoximately 2 years.

CITES App. I; near threatened due to habitat loss and past over hunting for fur.

Wild Cats of the World, C. A. W. Guggisberg
Mammals of the World, Walker