Jaguar vs. Leopard

Jaguar vs. Leopard

Jaguar and leopard are types of wild cats that belong to the genus Panthera (big cats). Both jaguar and leopard are solitary, nocturnal creatures (active during the night) that hunt using the element of surprise (ambush predators). Leopard and jaguar have similar coloration of the fur, but there are few things that can facilitate identification of each one of them:

Geographic Distribution

Jaguar is native to Central and South America, while leopard lives in Africa and Asia. Jaguar can be found mostly in the swamps and areas near the rivers, while leopard inhabits dry savannas.

Size and Shape of the Body

Jaguar is slightly larger than leopard. It has broader forehead, wider jaws, stockier body and barrel-shaped abdomen. Leopard is slimmer and has sleek torso and longer limbs.


Jaguar and leopard have golden-colored fur covered with black, flower-shaped markings, better known as rosettes. Jaguar has large rosettes with dark spots in the middle. Leopard has smaller, but more numerous, tightly packed rosettes without central dots. Both jaguars and leopards can be completely black colored (melanistic forms).

Hunting Techniques and Strength of the Bite

Leopard bites throat of its victim and suffocates it to death. Jaguar uses two methods to kill its prey. It either pierces the skull of the prey with its canines or crushes the spine by breaking the neck. Aside from unusual killing techniques, jaguar delivers the force of 2000 pounds per bite. It has the most powerful bite of all mammals.


Both jaguar and leopard eat plenty of different animals. Leopard consumes around 100 different animals, while jaguar hunts and eats around 85 animal species, including snakes, turtles and caimans (which is unusual for the large cat).

Agility and Tail Length

Both jaguar and leopard are good climbers, but leopard is much more agile in the treetops. Leopard often climbs on the trees to stash its prey and to avoid predators. Jaguar spends less time on the trees because it does not have natural enemies in the wild. That's why jaguar has shorter tail than leopard, which uses its long tail for balancing in the treetops.


Jaguar lives in the wetlands and it frequently swims. Unlike jaguar, leopard inhabits dry areas and hates water.

Independent Life

Young jaguar becomes ready for the independent life at the age of 14 to 15 months. Young leopard stays with its mother a bit longer, usually until the age of 18 to 24 months.


Leopard occupies smaller territory than jaguar, but it defends it more aggressively. Jaguar occupies larger territory, but it has more relaxed attitude toward the intruders.

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