The Jaguar (Panthera Onca) is the third-largest of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and the only living member native to the western hemisphere.
Growing up to 160 kg (350 lb), Jaguars are distinguished by rosette-emblazoned fur, comparatively short tails and an exceptionally powerful bite that enables them to successfully prey on armored reptiles such as caimans and turtles.
(Images via: Fanpop and WWF/Go Wild)
Jaguars are stated to be Near Threatened by the IUCN and while their current range is roughly half of what it once was, these often solitary big cats can still be found from southern Arizona in the United States down to Paraguay and northern Argentina.
It goes without saying that you should be careful around lions and other wild animals, but that doesn’t mean that they are un-feeling, cold-blooded killers. Frikkie Von Solms, a 69-year-old lion caretaker in Southern Africa, knows this perfectly well: he has spent a long time raising Zion, a gentle, tender and loving African lion.
Zion was born in captivity to a lioness named Simba but had to be separated due to fears that his father would kill him.
Growing up with Von Solms, Zion has turned into a softie – when Von Solms goes for a walk with him, he takes his shoes off because their noise bothers the big cat.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience to grow up with him and learn and live with him through all of the stages of being a lion,” Von Solms told the Daily Mail.
“People talk about lions like they are just lions but they have personalities, they have humour and laugh.
Zion is a gentle giant. He has never attacked humans and I trust him completely.”
Native to the Central Asian mountains, the snow leopard is a rare sight, with only about 6,000 left in the wild. They are hunted for their beautiful, warm fur and for their organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Photograph by Michael Nichols.
These rare, beautiful gray leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia. They are insulated by thick hair, and their wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snowshoes.
Snow leopards have powerful legs and are tremendous leapers, able to jump as far as 50 feet (15 meters). They use their long tails for balance and as blankets to cover sensitive body parts against the severe mountain chill.
Snow leopards prey upon the blue sheep (bharal) of Tibet and the Himalaya, as well as the mountain ibex found over most of the rest of their range.
Though these powerful predators can kill animals three times their weight, they also eat smaller fare, such as marmots, hares, and game birds.
One Indian snow leopard, protected and observed in a national park, is reported to have consumed five blue sheep, nine Tibetan woolly hares, twenty-five marmots, five domestic goats, one domestic sheep, and fifteen birds in a single year.
As these numbers indicate, snow leopards sometimes have a taste for domestic animals, which has led to killings of the big cats by herders.
These endangered cats appear to be in dramatic decline because of such killings, and due to poaching driven by illegal trades in pelts and in body parts used for traditional Chinese medicine.
Vanishing habitat and the decline of the cats’ large mammal prey are also contributing factors.
The sabre-toothed cat or tiger is one of the most well-known prehistoric animals along with giants such as the woolly mammoth.
Sabre-toothed tigers roamed the mid-western United States and parts of both North and South America and were named for the enormous canines which skeletons show, protruded quite far out of their mouths.
It became extinct during the latter stages of the ice age. Despite the name, the sabre-toothed tiger was not actually related to the modern tigers that are found throughout the jungles of Asia.
It is thought that the sabre-toothed tiger would have roamed across the grassland plains and open woodlands throughout both North and South America where individuals would of varied slightly depending on the area which they inhabited.
The sabre-toothed tiger was named for the canines that could grow to more than 7 inches in length and were capable of fatally wounding their prey with one bite.
Sadly, the colour of the sabre-tooth tiger is unknown but it is thought that is would of been of a similar colouration to the modern day lion found in Africa (and which it is not closely related to).
The sabre-toothed tiger also had a powerful, muscular body which meant that it could quickly catch and pounce on it’s prey before using it’s knife-like teeth to cause to the fatal blow.
The sabre-toothed tiger was a carnivorous animal and would of been the most dominant predator within its environment.
Large herbivorous animals such as deer and bison would of been the most common prey of the sabre-toothed tiger along with occasional giant such as a small woolly mammoth should their ranges cross, although their exact diet is unknown.
The sabre-toothed cat would of been the most ferocious and therefore the apex predator within it’s environment so had no natural predators on the American plains.
Humans are thought to be the most likely cause for the demise of this enormous cat and more than 2,000 sabre-toothed tiger skeletons have been found emerged in the famous tar pits close to Los Angeles.
Leopards are graceful and powerful big cats closely related to lions, tigers, and jaguars. They live in sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India, and China.
However, many of their populations are endangered, especially outside of Africa.
The leopard is so strong and comfortable in trees that it often hauls its kills into the branches. By dragging the bodies of large animals aloft it hopes to keep them safe from scavengers such as hyenas.
Leopards can also hunt from trees, where their spotted coats allow them to blend with the leaves until they spring with a deadly pounce. These nocturnal predators also stalk antelope, deer, and pigs by stealthy movements in the tall grass.
When human settlements are present, leopards often attack dogs and, occasionally, people.
Leopards are strong swimmers and very much at home in the water, where they sometimes eat fish or crabs.
Female leopards can give birth at any time of the year. They usually have two grayish cubs with barely visible spots.
The mother hides her cubs and moves them from one safe location to the next until they are old enough to begin playing and learning to hunt. Cubs live with their mothers for about two years—otherwise, leopards are solitary animals.
Most leopards are light colored with distinctive dark spots that are called rosettes, because they resemble the shape of a rose.
Black leopards, which appear to be almost solid in color because their spots are hard to distinguish, are commonly called black panthers.