Meet the Americas’ black (big) cat: six facts about black jaguars

Throughout history, black cats have been depicted as bad luck omens and associated with witchcraft. This has wrongly earned them a spooky reputation. But don’t be afraid! With the chill of Halloween in the air, it’s the purr-fect time of year to learn more about our newest, not-so-spooky symbolic adoption species: the black jaguar.

© Shutterstock

The America’s singular black cat

Black jaguars are sometimes misidentified as black panthers, which are not actually a species but a term popularly used for melanistic leopards and jaguars which have dark pigmentation. Both black big cats are part of the genus Panthera but leopards are found in Africa and Asia while jaguars are found in the Americas.

This black cat isn’t all black

A rare variant within the jaguar species, it’s estimated only 11 per cent of jaguars have this dark colouration. But while the black jaguar may appear to be all black, it has spots like other jaguars called “rosettes.” If you look closely at our black jaguar adoption, it boasts these unique rosettes, too.

A picture from the head of a black jaguar, showing its rosette markings.
(c) iStock

They’re big big cats

Jaguars are the third largest cat in the world — after the tiger and lion — and the biggest in the Americas. They can grow up to 170cm long, not including their impressive tails, but their size can vary a lot between regions depending on the size of the local prey.

Solitary and skilled hunters

Black jaguars live alone, marking their large territories with their scat and by leaving distinctive claw markings on trees. They can kill just about any type of prey they encounter but prefer large animals such as capybaras, alligators, deer and armadillos.

(c) Shutterstock

A cat that likes water

Unlike many other cats, jaguars do not avoid water; in fact, they’re quite good swimmers.

Black jaguar populations are declining

Jaguar populations are listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Deforestation and poaching are just a couple of the threats contributing to their decline. The black jaguar’s range once spanned from the southern United States down to the tip of South America. But having been virtually eliminated from half of their historic range.

Symbolically adopt a black jaguar

Black jaguar adoption kit, including stuffie, adoption certificate, poster and reusable tote bag.
While the black jaguar may appear to be all black, it actually has spots called ‘rosettes.’ Our black jaguar adoption also boasts these unique markings, too.

WWF-Canada’s symbolic adoptions program offers animal lovers the chance to bring home their favourite species or give a meaningful gift that supports conservation efforts. Each adoption kit comes with a personalized adoption certificate and an educational poster so recipients can learn more about the species and how their symbolic adoption is making a difference.

Popular species sell out. Visit to explore more than 45 species available for symbolic adoption.