The jaguar is one the four "big cats" in the Panthera genus, along with the tiger, lion and leopard. The jaguar is the third largest feline (after the tiger and lion) and is probably the largest and most powerful feline in the Western Hemisphere. It can be found from Mexico, across Central American to Paraguay and Argentina. The jaguar is a spotted cat and can be mistaken for a leopard, but it is larger and studier. It has developed a powerful bite, even when compared to other big cats. Jaguars have a very unusual killing method; it bites directly through the skull of its prey between to the ears to deliver a fatal blow to the brain. It is also the only one of the big cats to hunt in water. The fur, claws and teeth of the jaguar were often used to adorn and decorate the costumes and finery of the highest-ranking individuals.
It's a solitary predator with no natural enemies besides man. Its numbers are declining and the jaguar is a nearly threatened species.
In pre-Columbian Central and South American, the jaguar has long been a symbol of power and strength. The Mayans saw jaguars as their companions in the spiritual world and a number of Mayan rulers had names that incorporated the word for jaguar. Later, the jaguar was believed to facilitate communication between the living and the dead and to protect the royal household.The Aztecs also thought of their rulers and warriors as jaguars. They formed an elite group of warriors known as the Jaguar Knights. Jaguars were also the totem animal of the deity known as Tezcatlipoca.
These cultures found it very significant that Jaguars came in two color phases, yellow and black and believed that the yellow phase of the Jaguar pulled the sun across the day sky and that the black phase of the Jaguar pulled the moon across the night sky. It was also considered important that the jaguar was equally at home hunting either on land or in the water, at night or in open daylight. The jaguar was often the symbol of shamans, individuals who could bridge the conscious and unconscious worlds, who had a special access to the afterlife and to the spirit world. Many thought the jaguar was a shape-shifter, or were-jaguar, able to transform itself at will. Many Mayan and Olmec Gods had prominent jaguar-like features and characteristics and the jaguar was considered a god of the underworld.
Today, the jaguar is closely associated with a luxury car brand and several sports teams. The jaguar is also the national symbol of Brazil. It is the national animal of Guyana and featured on its coat of arms.
Jaguar tattoos represent strength, agility and the cat's predatory nature. For those with Central American background, jaguar tattoos symbolize the mystery and culture of the Aztecs, Mayans and other native cultures. Jaguar tattoos can also be found on loyal sports fans and players.