The Jaguar (Panthera onca) is the largest wild cat in the Americas and is the only member of the Panthera big cat family in the Western Hemisphere. It is a large powerful cat with the strongest bite force of all the wild cats. Melanistic (black) Jaguars are common, and they are often called black panthers. Historically Jaguars occurred in the southern states of America and in Mexico, but nowadays due to habitat loss and persecution, they occur mostly in Central and South America, where populations continue to decline.
Jaguar (Panthera onca)
Standing Jaguar (Panthera onca) by USFWS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Panthera Lineage

Tiger (Panthera tigris)

Lion (Panthera leo)

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

Leopard (Panthera pardus)

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia)

Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

Sunda Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi)

Key Facts about Jaguars

~ Largest wild cat in the Americas ~

~ Most powerful bite force ~

~ Melanistic form common ~

('black panther')

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Jaguar (Panthera onca) Classification

Jaguars belong to the big cat genus Panthera and the full taxonomy or scientific classification of the Jaguar species (Panthera onca) is as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia   (animals)

Phylum: Chordata   (vertebrates)

Class: Mammalia   (mammals)

Order: Carnivora   (carnivores)

Suborder: Feliformia   (cat-like)

Family: Felidae   (cats)

Subfamily: Pantherinae   (big cats)

Genus: Panthera   (big cats)

Species: Panthera onca (Jaguar)

Subspecies: none

The scientific name for Jaguar is Panthera onca which is also known as the jaguar binomial name, jaguar species name, jaguar latin name, jaguar biological name and jaguar zoological name. Some call it the jaguar botanical name however that term is applicable to the plant kingdom (botany) and not the animal kingdom (zoology).

Jaguar (Panther onca) in tree

Wild Cats of North America Print
Wild Cats of North America by Roger Hall
View Wild Cats of North America Print

Jaguar (Panthera onca) Subspecies

Jaguar Lower Classifications

Historically up to nine subspecies (or lower classifications) of Jaguar have been recognized:

  • Panthera onca onca
  • Panthera onca arizonensis
  • Panthera onca centralis
  • Panthera onca goldmani
  • Panthera onca hernandesii
  • Panthera onca palustris
  • Panthera onca paraguensis
  • Panthera onca peruviana
  • Panthera onca veraecrucis

However the current Felidae taxonomy revision proposes that the Jaguar is a monotypic species (no subspecies). Recent genetic studies found insufficient evidence to support any Jaguar subspecies, however there are four regional groups that show variations from north to south of the Jaguar's range:

  • Mexico and Guatemala
  • Southern Central America
  • North of the Amazon
  • South of the Amazon

Jaguar Conservation

The global conservation status for Jaguars is Near Threatened (NT) and populations are declining.

The following organizations are all fighting to conserve our iconic Jaguars in the face of rapid deforestation and predator-farmer conflict:

Panthera - Jaguar Corridor Initiative

World Wildlife Fund WWF - Jaguar

Wildlife Conservation Society WCS - US Jaguar Recovery Plan

Jaguar Conservation Fund - Brazil

Please support these organizations with their important work. No matter how small or large your contribution, every bit helps!

Female jaguar (Panthera onca) and cub

Male jaguar (Panthera onca) stalking

Jaguar Facts and Information

The following websites have well researched and authoritative information on Jaguars:


Jaguar Art Prints by Barbara Keith (available with or without frames)

Images copyright Barbara Keith

Jaguar Art - Elusive by Barbara Keith
Jaguar Print - Elusive by Barbara Keith
Jaguar Art - Forest Jewels by Barbara Keith
Jaguar Print - Forest Jewels by Barbara Keith
Jaguar Art - Moxie by Barbara Keith
Jaguar Print - Moxie by Barbara Keith