Jaguars are the only big cat in the Americas and the third biggest in the world after tigers and lions. They look a lot like leopards, which live in Africa and Asia, but jaguars’ spots are more complex and often have a dot in the center.
These powerful cats were worshipped as gods in many ancient South American cultures, and representations of the jaguar show up in the art and archaeology of pre-Columbian cultures across the jaguar’s range.
Unlike many other cats, jaguars do not avoid water. In fact, they are quite good swimmers. They hunt fish, turtles, and even caimans, using their incredibly powerful jaws to pierce the animals’ skulls. Jaguars also eat deer, peccaries, capybaras, tapirs, and a number of other land animals, which they prefer to ambush at night.