The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Jaguar

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Edition of 1920. See also Jaguar on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

JAGUAR, jăg'ū-är or jăg'wär, a great American spotted cat (Felis onca), once numerous as far north and east as Arkansas, but since the early part of the 19th century rare even in Mexico. It resembles the leopard, but is more robust (exceeding the cougar in weight), has a rounder head, relatively shorter legs and a shorter, thicker tail. The tawny yellow hide is spotted with black, the spots larger than those of the leopard, and inclined to form broken rings with a spot in the centre. Jaguars abound in the tropical forests, especially along the great rivers, where they find most prey. They subsist largely on capybaras, agoutis, etc., but frequently pounce upon deer when they come down to drink. They seem to be more arboreal than most large cats, and a favorite method of obtaining their food is to lie along a tree-limb in some favorable spot and leap down upon the victim. But jaguars also abound in the treeless morasses of the Gran Chaco, and even on the dry uplands of Paraguay and Argentina, where their food and habits are entirely different from those that dwell in the forests. In view of the great extent of country and variety of circumstances in which this animal lives, formal statements as to its habits are rarely more than locally true; and much error and superstition encumbers popular accounts. In general the jaguar has the manners and disposition of other great cats, changing with environment, season and circumstances. It submits grudgingly to captivity, and gives the same reluctant submission to the training of the circus as is exhibited by other great cats. In some regions it is greatly feared by the people, while in other places it is regarded as little to be feared. Its greatest peculiarity, perhaps, is the tendency to terrific roars and cries, more loud and continuous than those of cougars or leopards. Consult the works of South American travelers and naturalists, especially Humboldt, Azara and Walterton. Their accounts are well summarized by Porter in ‘Wild Beasts’ (New York 1894). Consult also Bates, H. W., ‘The Naturalist on the Amazon’ (7th ed., London 1895); Hudson, W. H., ‘The Naturalist in La Plata’ (4th ed., ib. 1903); Wallace, A. R., ‘Travels on the Amazon’ (ib. 1889).