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Jaguar (Panthera onca) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Reproductive Behavior

Females in estrus travel widely

  • Females vocalize to advertise receptivity
    • Produce loud roars to attract potential mates
    • Several males may follow female
  • Males rarely fight over a female

Mating pair forms a temporary association

  • When courting, the male and female travel and feed together
    • Associates separate after mating


  • Rapid and frequent, observation in managed care settings
    • Female often growls
    • Male commonly licks the nape of his partner's neck


Year-round reproduction

  • Births concentrated seasonally
    • Many occur during the rainy season (when prey is abundant)
    • Births more common in the summer months in more temperate climates


  • Duration
    • c. 12 days
    • Cycles c. 47 days, ± 5 days (females in managed care)

Ovulation induced by mating

Gestation & Birth


  •  Duration
    • c. 100 days


  • Litter size
    • Twins are most common
    • Up to 4 cubs
  • Infant characteristics
    • Weight c. 800 g (1.8 lb)

Life Stages

Infant (< 1 year old)

  • Care
    • All care provided by the mother
    • Hid in dense cover; in dens, caves, under an uprooted tree, or under bank of a river
      • May remain in the den for up to 2 months
  • Development
    • Eyes open after c. 8 days
    • Walk after c. 18 days
    • Cubs take meat at about 10 to 11 weeks but continue to suckle until 5 to 6 months
    • Cubs begin to follow mother at c. 6 weeks


  • Independence
    • Leave mother c. 1.5 years of age
    • May maintain social bonds until 2 or more years


  • Sexual maturity
    • In females, occurs in females c. 2 to 3 years
    • Males mature at 3-4 years
    • Age and developmental stage judged dental development
      • Adult teeth erupt in the same sequence as other felids

Typical Life Expectancy

Wild populations

  • Mean life span of about 13–14 years (Olsen et al. 2019)
    • Males tend to live slightly longer than females; about 3 years longer, on average

Managed care

  • Median life expectancy
    • 18 years (AZA 2023)


Killed by humans

Insufficient resources

  • Compete with humans for food and space
    • Some researchers suggest competition with humans is the primary cause of mortality in the wild

Infection and illness

  • Wounds inflicted by prey species
    • Capybara and javalina may injure cats during capture

The Breeding Pair

Jaguar leaping

Two Jaguars

Jaguars reach sexual maturity by age 4. Pictured above are Guapo, a male, and Nindiri, a female, at ages 5 and 3 respectively. Though jaguars are typically solitary animals, the male and female form temporary associations when ready to mate. They travel and feed together until after completing several rounds of copulation. Following mating, the male leaves the female to care for any resulting offspring. Cubs may stay with their mother until they reach 18 months of age.

Image credits: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Hoogesteijn & Mondolfi (1993)
Quigley & Crawshaw (2001)
Seymour (1989)
Slaughter et al. (1974)
Sunquist & Sunquist (2002)
Weigl (2005)

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