In the big cat family, there are a ton of different species that all look different.
Among those are the panther and the jaguar.
Although they look different, it may be surprising to know that they’re actually the same species.
Both the panther and jaguar fall under the genus Panthera.
This genus includes other cats like lions, tigers, leopards, and snow leopards.
The key difference is that panthers have a gene that gives them black fur instead of tan fur.
That said, they’re basically the same animal.
However, a few key differences between them have likely arisen because of this genetic difference in coloration.
Here are the differences between a panther and a jaguar.
Panther vs. Jaguar (What’s The Difference?)
1. Interchangeable Names
One of the differences between a panther and a jaguar is that the term “panther” is often interchangeable with other big cats.
For example, there are big cats in Florida that many call panthers.
They specifically call it the Florida panther.
However, the Florida panther is actually a cougar or mountain lion and not the black or white panthers that most people think of when they hear the name.
People also sometimes use the term panther to describe leopards or jaguars.
Technically, these two are correct since both leopards and jaguars fall under the genus Panthera.
The Florida panther does not.
It falls under the genus Puma.
While the term panther is often used interchangeably, this isn’t the case with the term jaguar.
When an individual calls a big cat a jaguar, then they’re referring to the big cat with tan fur and spots.
They don’t call a tiger a jaguar, for example, nor would they call a lion a jaguar.
Panthers and jaguars are different because, scientifically speaking, you can use the term panther to describe any big cat that falls under its genus.
You cannot call every big cat a jaguar, however.
2. Fur Color
One of the biggest differences between a panther and a jaguar is the color of their fur.
You can usually tell one from the other because of its coloring.
Jaguars have tan, gold, and even reddish fur.
Panthers, or what are commonly called panthers, are either black or white.
Even though they’re technically jaguars, they’re given a different name because there is a stark difference in their coloring.
If you look closely, then you can see that they’re the same animal.
Both have the same sort of spots on their fur.
They’re called rosettes, and most jaguars feature a spot at the center of their chests.
Black panthers and white panthers also share this pattern.
It isn’t always easy to see on them because the spots are darker and blend in with the rest of their fur.
Black panthers and jaguars are different because of their coloring.
3. Genetic Phenotype
To understand why panthers and jaguars are different, physically, you need to understand their genetic makeup.
Genes are coded for different things in every living organism.
They determine how tall you become, the color of your skin, the color of your hair, whether you’re prone to particular diseases, and your general lifespan.
Genes also apply to the animal kingdom.
The reason that black panthers, or rather black jaguars, are a different color from standard jaguars has to do with their genes.
Black panthers have a dominant gene that codes for black fur.
When they mate with another black panther, then the result is more black panther cubs.
If they mate with a tan jaguar, then they could have either black cubs or tan cubs.
The distinction is that a tan jaguar cannot have black cubs on its own.
They may carry a recessive gene that carries the black phenotype, but it will only ever show up in a cub if they mate with a black panther.
It’s also possible for black panthers to inherit the gene that codes for black fur recessively.
In this instance, if they were to have a black cub, then they’d need to mate with another black panther that either has a dominant or recessive gene for black fur.
Genetically, black panthers and jaguars are the same.
The difference, in genetic terms, is that a black panther has a gene that codes for a black fur phenotype and a jaguar doesn’t.
Another key difference between black jaguars and tan jaguars is their habitat.
Black panthers are primarily in the Amazon basin and stick to thick forests.
That’s because they prefer to keep to the shadows.
One theory of how their coloration came to be is that enough of the species found success in hunting in dark areas.
As a result, their color turned black to better help them hunt at night.
Tan jaguars, on the other hand, are in forests, savannahs, and grasslands.
Their golden color allows them to blend into other habitats more easily.
Because of that, they’re a bit more spread out than black panthers.
You can even find them in swampy areas fighting and eating caimans.
Although they both live within the same region, they’re all very territorial of their spaces.
You won’t find a jaguar and panther living in each other’s spaces outside of the mating season.
Even their cubs only stick with their mothers for two years before finding a territory that they can claim as their own.
Thanks to deforestation, climate change, and poaching, both the black panther and jaguar have seen steep declines in their populations.
The black panther is the more at-risk of the two.
That’s because only 11% of jaguars are black panthers.
The current estimated population of jaguars is 64,000 in the entire world.
They’re considered an endangered species and are on the IUCN red list.
Since black panthers only make up 11% of the overall jaguar population, you can see that their numbers are even smaller.
Their population decline comes as a result of deforestation and poaching.
The Amazon serves as a source of wood for many logging companies.
Its trees, however, are also the primary hunting areas for jaguars.
Deforestation also kills off smaller animals that jaguars rely on for food.
As their territories become smaller, jaguars also have to compete against one another for food and access to mates.
Poaching is another serious problem.
Many poachers hunt jaguars for their skins and their bones.
Since tiger bones are illegal to sell, there are those in Asia who have switched to using jaguar bones instead.
While the jaguar has a small population, it’s the black panther that is at most risk of extinction.
The general temperaments between black panthers and jaguars also differ.
Black panthers tend to be more aggressive than jaguars.
It may be one of the reasons black panthers have a smaller population.
It’s more difficult for them to attract mates since they’re so territorial and adversarial.
Both can be extremely dangerous, however.
Although they live within the same area, the diet of jaguars and black jaguars is also different.
Jaguars are excellent swimmers.
This broadens their diet to include turtles, fish, and even caimans.
The black panther, on the other hand, tends to remain in the forest.
It’s a nocturnal animal which means it sleeps in trees during the day, then hunts at night.
Its black fur makes it a great predator during the night.
Because it sticks around the forest to hunt, it tends to eat animals that live in the jungle.
Monkeys, different types of pigs or boar, and other small- to-medium animals tend to make up its prey.
Since they don’t swim as well as the tan jaguars, panthers don’t bother much with hunting in the water.
A final difference between black panthers and jaguars is their size.
Although they’re the same animal, there are slight differences between the two.
Jaguars tend to grow between five and six feet tall.
Panthers tend to grow between seven and eight feet tall.
They also have different weight ranges.
Jaguars weigh anywhere from 120 pounds to 210 pounds.
Black panthers weigh anywhere from 100 pounds to 250 pounds.
One reason black panthers might weigh a little more is that they need more muscle to easily climb and navigate through trees.
When seeing a jaguar and panther side-by-side, however, these differences are barely detectable.
What Are The Similarities Between Jaguars And Black Panthers?
Although there are some differences between the two, there are far more similarities between jaguars and black panthers.
That’s because they’re the same creature.
One only has a different fur color because of a genetic mutation.
Here are some similarities between jaguars and black panthers.
1. Early Life
All jaguars and black panthers have the same kind of childhood.
They’re born in litters with other cubs.
They only have their mom around as their dads tend to leave shortly after mating with the mother.
The mom has to regularly leave them alone to go hunt food for them all.
Because of this, both black panthers and jaguars are vulnerable when they’re babies.
There isn’t anyone around to protect them in case another larger animal decides to eat them.
They’re also born blind.
They’re at even higher risk of death because they might fall into a ravine, off of a cliff, or stumble right into a snake or predator.
Eventually, both jaguars and panthers gain their sight.
They develop enough muscle and coordination to join their mothers on hunts.
They learn from their mothers how to hunt.
Once they reach the age of two, the young cubs split off.
They separate and each tries to find its own area to claim.
The area usually has access to water and contains a sizable hunting population.
Thanks to deforestation, it’s harder for cubs to establish their own territories.
They often have to compete with one another for the same food sources.
This has caused some to die of starvation.
2. Solitary Lifestyle
Both jaguars and black panthers also live solitary and independent lives.
After they reach the age of two, the cubs live separately from one another.
They’re not pack animals like lions.
They’re similar to tigers and cougars in that they hunt alone and live alone.
The only time they come across other jaguars or panthers is during the mating season.
The male will travel in search of a female to mate with.
However, because these creatures are territorial, it can sometimes be difficult for them to find one another, let alone allow them into their territory.
After the mating season, both the male and female return to their respective territories and continue their solitary way of living until the next season.
3. Same Killing Style
While jaguars and panthers tend to hunt different animals, they have the same kind of killing style.
Both are ambush predators.
They like to stalk their prey and wait until they’re vulnerable before attacking them.
This usually means they like to wait until their prey either has their back to them or has their head down.
They’ll then rush the prey and either leap on them or go right for the attack.
Jaguars and panthers use the strong muscles in their jaws to deliver a powerful bite that either kills the prey outright or significantly weakens it.
This then allows them to finish the attack with little effort or risk of harm.
Both jaguars and panthers also use the same types of cover to stalk their prey.
They climb trees or hide beneath the underbrush while they’re stalking.
Jaguars and panthers are similar because they both use ambush techniques to kill their prey.
4. Territory Marking
A final way that jaguars and panthers are the same is how they mark their territory.
Jaguars and panthers mark their territory by dragging their claws on trees.
Besides the visual marking, their paws also have glands on them which secrete the individual’s scent.
When a passing jaguar or panther smells the scent, then they know that they’re in another’s territory.
Jaguars and panthers also use their own waste to mark their territory.
They’ll either urinate or defecate on their borders to mark their territory.
Like their glands, their waste also emits a smell that warns others to stay away.
Are Jaguars And Panthers The Same Thing?
Yes, jaguars and black panthers are the same thing.
White panthers are also the same as jaguars.
They fall under the same species name.
The only real difference between them is the color of their fur.
This difference has led to other differences because it enables black panthers to hunt a little differently from their tan counterparts.
Since they hunt differently, their hunting grounds and prey are different.
Since their hunting grounds and prey are different, then their habitat and behavior also tend to be different.
That said, jaguars and panthers are the same animal.
Is a Puma A Panther?
One might also wonder if a puma is the same thing as a panther.
Technically, a puma does fall under the wider genus Panthera.
However, that does not mean that a puma like a mountain lion is the same as a panther like a black jaguar.
They are a different species although they’re all big cats.
Pumas tend to be smaller than panthers.
They also lack the panther’s spots.
Their territories are also different with pumas tending to live further north than panthers.
While pumas are big cats and fit under the genus Panthera, they are not the same as black jaguars.
Are Jaguars And Leopards The Same?
When examining big cats under the Panthera genus, you may notice that the jaguar and leopard look similar.
However, they are not the same animal.
If you were to look closer at the two animals, you would see that the spots are different.
Jaguars tend to have clumps of smaller spots close together.
Leopards have spots that are thicker and wider.
They also don’t have the same kind of clumps of spots as jaguars.
Jaguars are also larger and stockier than leopards.
This may be because jaguars spend a lot of time climbing trees and swimming.
Leopards only climb trees, so they don’t have as much muscle mass.
That said, leopards do have their own black variant that looks similar to a black jaguar.
Jaguars and black panthers are the same animal.
A black panther is a jaguar that has a genetic phenotype that codes for black fur instead of tan fur.
Because of this difference, the black panther has developed behaviors that allow it to use its dark fur to its advantage.
That has led to many differences between it and its tan counterparts.