Explained – The Difference between Leopards and Jaguars

leopard vs jaguar comparsion

People often mistake identifying leopards and jaguars because they look similar, are of roughly the same height, and have spots on their bodies. The rosettes’ pattern is unique to each individual. These distinctive dark spots are called rosettes because they resemble the shape of a rose. This pattern is thought to be an adaptation to dense vegetation with patchy shadows, where it helps in camouflage and ambush prey. But if we look closer we will discover that there are many key differences between them, including their habitat, diet, hunting style, morphology, and vocalization. Don’t worry, here’s the easiest guide to spot the differences between leopards, and jaguars.


Leopards (Panthera Pardus)

Leopards are the smallest member of the genus Panthera within the family Felidae. It is found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Western and Central Asia, Southern Russia, and the Indian subcontinent to Southeast and East Asia. Rosettes are circular in East African leopard populations, squarish in Southern African, and larger in Asian leopards. Leopards can be found in almost every National Parks of India. With across 13000 individuals in the wild. Some National Parks like Pench and Nagarhole National Park are known for their leopard population. Bera in Rajasthan close to Udaipur is also a hub for the leopard population closer to human settlement. Leopard population is declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List


Subspecies of Leopards

There are eight subspecies of Leopards

  1. African leopard (Panthera pardus pardus) : Native to most of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Indian leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) : Native to the Indian subcontinent, Myanmar and southern Tibet
  3. Javan leopard (Panthera pardus melas) : Native to Java in Indonesia
  4. Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) : Native to the Arabian Peninsula
  5. Persian leopard (Panthera pardus tulliana) : Native to eastern Turkey, the Caucasus, southern Russia, the Iranian Plateau and the Hindu Kush
  6. Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) : Native to the Russian Far East and northern China
  7. Indochinese leopard (Panthera pardus delacouri) : Native to mainland Southeast Asia and southern China
  8. Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) : Native to Sri Lanka


leopards in india


Jaguars (Panthera Onca)

The jaguar is the third-largest cat species in the world and the only living member of the genus Panthera native to the American continent. They are the keystone species and top of the food chain. In the modern world, they can be found in extreme southern Arizona and New Mexico in the United States across Mexico and much of Central America, the Amazon rainforest, and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina. Jaguar population is declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation is listed as Near-threatened species on the IUCN Red List


Subspecies of Jaguars

There are two extinct subspecies of the jaguar :

  • Pleistocene jaguar (Panthera onca Augusta) : It was endemic to North America during the Pleistocene epoch (1.8 mya–11,000 years ago)
  • (Panthera onca mesembrina) : It was endemic to southern South America during the Pleistocene epoch (1.8 mya–11,000 years ago).


jaguar vs leaopard


Difference: Leopards vs Jaguars


Appearance ● Leopards are soft and thick, with the belly being noticeably softer than the back ● The jaguar’s coat ranges from pale yellow to tan or reddish-yellow, with a whitish underside and covered in black spots.
● Leopard colors range from pale yellowish to dark golden, with dark spots grouped in rosettes. ● Jaguars have one or several dots black dots in the middle of some of their rosettes
● Leopard has a whitish belly and a ringed tail that is shorter than its body. ● Jaguars also have larger, rounded heads and short legs.
● In forests and mountains, leopards are much darker and golden as compared to ones in arid regions.
Size and Weight ● Leopard’s Length: 90-196 cm (head & body) with 66-102 cm long tail ● Jaguar’s Length: 90-196 cm (head & body) with 45 to 75 cm long tail
● Leopard’s Height at shoulders: Male: 60-70 cm and Female: 57-64 cm ● Jaguar’s Height at shoulders: Male: 68 to 75 cm cm
● Leopard’s Weight: Male: 37-90 Kg and Female: 28-60 Kg ● Jaguar’s Weight: Males can weigh up to 120 Kg
Habitat ● The leopard can inhabit a variety of habitats with extreme variations in conditions and habitat types ● Jaguar’s often live near lakes, rivers, and wetlands
● It can be found in tropical rainforests, temperate deciduous and alpine areas, and high mountain slopes, as well as woodland, savannahs, bushland, dry scrub, grasslands, and deserts. Pine forests and Mediterranean scrub swampy areas, semi-desert, and deserts are also suitable habitats in northwest Africa, Iran, and the Caucasus. ● Jaguars are found in scrubland, thick tropical forests, swamps, coastal mangroves, lowland river valleys, grasslands, and mixed-conifer forests. They gravitate toward areas near rivers and streams.
Hunting style and Diet ● Leopards prefer medium-sized prey. ● Jaguars are opportunistic hunters who will eat almost anything that comes their way.
● Leopards are ambush hunter and prefers to hunt at night in most areas ● Jaguars kill their prey with a bite to the back of the skull
● Leopards kill their prey by biting the neck or throat like other big cats ● Jaguars eat a variety of prey, including capybaras, deer, tortoises, iguanas, armadillos, fish, birds, and monkeys. T
● Leopards eat small prey immediately but drag larger carcasses over several hundred meters and caches it safely in trees, bushes, or even caves to save it from larger predators like Tigers, lions, and wild dogs or scavengers like hyenas. Leopards usually hunt on the ground. ● Prey on South America’s largest animal, the tapir
● African leopards have been observed to ambush prey by jumping down on it from trees. ● Tackle massive predators like the caiman.
● Leopards prey on smaller predators such as black-backed jackal, African civet caracal, African wildcat, and sometimes even bear cubs. ● Jaguars hunt both during the day and at night,
● Can hunt across an area of 10km
● Large teeth and jaws to take down prey three to four times their own weight
● Jaguars may also eat plants and fruits such as avocado
Behaviour observed ● The leopard is a solitary and territorial animal. ● Jaguars are also solitary and territorial animals
● Adult male and female leopards meet during mating season. ● Jaguars are confident swimmers, known to cross large rivers.
● Leopards prefer to avoid encounters with other large predators like tigers,lions, hyenas, wolves, dhole and all species of bears. ● Jaguars play and hunt in water even more than Tigers
● Large predators often steal its kills, kill its cubs and even kill adult leopards. ● The jaguar is mostly active at night and during twilight
● Leopards are pushed closer to the fringes while the other large predators inhabit the deep parts of a forest. ● Jaguars are not preyed upon in the wild
● Leopards even sometimes avoid large predators by hunting at different times. ● The jaguar attacks from cover and usually from a prey’s blind spot with a quick pounce
● Leopards retreat up a tree when faced with danger.
Life Cycle ● The average typical lifespan of a leopard is 12–17 years. ● The average lifespan of 12 -16 years.
● They mate all year round ● Mate round the year
● The gestation period is 90 to 105 days ● The Gestation period is of 100 days
● Female leopards give birth in a cave, crevice among boulders, hollow trees, or thicket. ● Female Jaguars give birth in a den
● Leopard cubs are born with closed eyes, which open four to nine days after birth. ● Cubs are weaned after three months
● Leopard litter size of leopards is two to four cubs. ● Cubs after 6 months accompany their mother on the hunt
● Leopard cubs have woolly fur and appear to be dark-colored due to the densely arranged spots. ● Female Jaguars stay with their cubs for up to two years
● Female leopards stay with their cubs for approximately two years



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