or jaguar?

There are many spotted wild cats. Two of them are 'big' cats: the leopard and the jaguar. Sometimes people have a hard time telling them apart. 

One simple way is to look at the spot pattern... and we mean really look. Although we say leopards and jaguars have spots, some of the markings aren't really spots at all! The markings form rings which may or may not be solid all the way around. These are called 'rosettes'.

Let's compare the rosettes of jaguars and leopards...

Jaguars have very large rosettes on their sides and backs. Some of the rosettes have spots inside. (See  photos at right).

The rosettes of leopards are much smaller and do not have any spots inside (See photos in yellow box).    

Now scroll down past the yellow box to compare the whole bodies of leopards and jaguars.

Notice that the rosettes of leopards form a similar pattern all over their bodies.
The rosettes on a leopard's shoulders are much the same as the rosettes on it's belly, back and legs.

Jaguars do not have an all-over pattern. You will notice three types of markings on a jaguar. On the neck and shoulders there are small, scattered spots. On the belly and back you will see big rosettes. On the legs there are quite large, solid black spots.

Would you like to know some other  differences between jaguars and leopards? Read on...

One of the most important is size. The top weight on a fully grown male leopard is about 120lbs. Jaguars can weigh up to 300lbs! That's more than twice as much as a leopard!

Another important difference is geographic location. Jaguars and leopard live in very different parts of the world.

Jaguars only live in Central and South America. Leopards live in Africa and Asia.  These are different continents!

If you study their bodies very closely you will notice more differences. The body of the jaguar is stockier, his head is larger and rounder than a leopard and the tail is not quite as slim and long as a leopard's.

One possible reason for a shorter tail is that the jaguar, which is at the top of the food chain and fears noone but mankind, spends most of its time hunting on the forest floor. It does not need quite such a long tail for leaping up into trees and balancing on branches.

The leopard, on the other hand, will climb trees to escape danger. Perhaps a lion or a tiger is threatening them. Lions and tigers kill leopards to stop them using the food they need for themselves.

Having a long, powerful tail helps African leopards climb trees for another reason. They pull their kills high into the branches so they won't be disturbed by scavengers.

Scavengers are animals, like hyenas, foxes and even lions, which try to steal away a kill and finish off what is left.

If a leopard has cached his kill in a tree it is much more difficult for scavengers to take it away. 'Cached' means to store something in a hidden place.

Key Facts: Leopards and jaguars have different spot patterns and live in different areas of the world. Their weights and body shape are different and they have different behaviors.



Jag75%.jpg (11920 bytes)

Jag150%.jpg (13259 bytes)

Jaguar fur, above, showing
large rosettes.
Some of the rosettes have spots inside

Leopard fur.  The rings, or 'rosettes',
  are much smaller than those on a
  There aren't any spots inside them.

Leospots.jpg (7142 bytes)

Lepspt2.jpg (13785 bytes)

Which cat is this?
Perl50%.jpg (18387 bytes)

Can you see any really big rings with spots
inside?  Does this cat have small rosettes all
over its body?  Look at the neck, belly and legs.

Which cat is this?

Wholejag.jpg (47594 bytes)

         Does this cat have large rosettes on
its sides? Do some of them have little
spots inside the rosettes?
Are there different types of markings
on the neck, belly and legs?

See answers below!




A. is a leopard.
B. is a jaguar.

Did you get them right?

More on leopards
More on jaguars