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Jaguar vs Tiger: 7 Key Differences Compared (Size, Strength, Appearance)

What’s the difference between a jaguar and a tiger? In this post, we’ll take a look at 7 key differences between these two big cats, and answer some interesting questions about them too. You’ll then be better informed the next time you see jaguars and tigers.

Jaguars and tigers are both large predatory cats. Both are excellent hunters and have distinct fur and markings. Jaguars live in the Americas while tigers are found in Asia, including Eastern Russia. In a jaguar vs tiger fight, it is likely that the tiger would prevail. Although they never meet in the wild.

jaguar vs tiger

Jaguar vs Tiger: Quick Overview

Here are the facts about both jaguars and tigers.

Jaguar Facts

  • Latin Name: Panthera onca
  • Location: Central and South America
  • Habitat: Dense forests, wetlands, grasslands
  • Size:
    • Length: Up to 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
    • Tail Length: Up to 30 inches (76 cm)
    • Shoulder Height: up to 29.5 inches (75 cm)
    • Weight: usually up to 212 pounds (96 kg), some males have been recorded at 348 pounds (158 kg)
  • Speed: Estimated 50 mph (80 km/h)
  • Key Physical Features: Yellow or tan fur covered by spots and rosettes
jaguar facts

Tiger Facts

  • Latin Name: Panthera tigris
  • Location: 13 countries (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam)
  • Habitat: Wide variety of birch forests, rain forests, grasslands, savannahs, mangrove swamps
  • Size:
    • Length: Up to 10 feet long (including tail)
    • Tail Length: Up to 43 inches (110 cm)
    • Shoulder Height: Up to 42 inches (107 cm)
    • Weight: Up to 569 pounds (258 kg), heaviest recorded of 660 pounds (299 kg)
  • Speed: up to 40 mph (65 km/h)
  • Key Physical Features: Mainly orange fur, with some white areas, black stripes

There are 9 tiger subspecies.

tiger facts
Sumatran tiger at rest

Jaguar vs Tiger: 7 Differences Compared

Here are the key differences between jaguars and tigers.

1. Location and Habitat

One of the biggest key differences between jaguars and tigers is where they live.

  • Jaguars are found throughout North and South America. Specifically, they can be found throughout Central and South America. They were found in the southern parts of the US but were wiped out due to hunting. Jaguars prefer dense forests, but they can also be found in grasslands and wetlands.
  • Tigers are found throughout Eastern Russia and Asia. You can see the list of countries in the overview above.

2. Size

Depending on the subspecies, tigers are generally bigger than jaguars.

The two biggest subspecies of tigers, the Siberian (or Amur) and Bengal tigers, can get around with some males getting to 10 feet long, 42 inches tall, and up to 569 pounds.

Some say that the heaviest Siberian tiger was recorded at 660 pounds, though there are reports of even heavier tigers.

Jaguars do not get nearly as big. While some males have been recorded at 348 pounds, they usually get up to 212 pounds. Jaguars also don’t get as long as tigers (up to 6 ft 1 in), nor as tall (at 29.5 inches).

3. Physical Features: Fur and Markings

Both jaguars and tigers have black markings on their bodies, but that’s where the similarities end.

  • Spots and Rosettes: For the most part, jaguars have yellow or tan fur, with black spots and rosettes throughout.
  • Stripes: Tigers, on the other hand, have orange fur, some white areas, and black stripes on their fur.

4. Physical Features: Genetic Variety

Both jaguars and tigers have interesting genetic mutations that can happen.

Jaguars can be born with a genetic mutation that causes their fur to be black. They are more commonly referred to as black panthers. This mutation can also take place in the jaguar’s relative, the leopard, and occurs in about 11 percent of jaguar and leopard populations.

Certain Bengal tigers go the other direction. Should both parents carry the gene, a Bengal tiger cub may have the mutation of white fur and blue eyes. This is an even rarer mutation than that of jaguars, as it happens once every 10,000 births or about 0.01 percent of the time.

5. Speed

Speed is where jaguars trump tigers.

While tigers may only get to about 40 mph, jaguars can get up to 50 mph. This may be due to a jaguar’s lighter body.

6. Population Numbers

There are also more jaguars left in the wild than there are tigers.

There are around 15,000 jaguars, while there are less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild.

Unfortunately, both jaguars and tigers are plagued by illegal hunting and loss of habitat that causes them to be considered either endangered, or worse.

siberian tiger
Siberian tiger

7. Lifespan

This one is another win for the jaguars.

Their life expectancy in the wild is 12 to 15 years. Tigers have a shorter lifespan of 8 to 10 years.

3 Jaguar vs Tiger Questions

Both jaguars and tigers are part of the genus Panthera. Other species in this group are leopards, lions, and snow leopards.

They’re grouped together generally due to common cranial features and their ability to roar, (with the exception of the snow leopard, which was added later than the rest due to genetic analysis).

Are there wild tigers in Africa?

No, there are no wild tigers in Africa.

Who would win in a fight: a jaguar or a tiger?

While jaguars are considered to have a very powerful bite (some say the most powerful bite pound-for-pound of any big cat) and are faster than tigers, tigers are larger and stronger overall than jaguars.

In fact, there have been cases where tigers have killed leopards, which are very similar in size to a jaguar.

So it might depend on the day, but the advantage seems to be with tigers.

Of course, because they live on different continents, a jaguar and tiger will likely never meet in the wild.

Keep Reading: Cheetahs vs Leopards: 14 Key Differences

Your Turn

What did you learn that you hadn’t known before? What other differences can you think of? Let us know in the comments below!

Bill Cox

Saturday 20th of August 2022

are jaguars better swimmers and more likely to hunt aquatic prey than tigers?