Yes, a leopard can mate with a jaguar. The hybrid cat thus created has four different names: jagulep, jagleop, lepjag and leguar. All pretty unimaginative names but descriptive nonetheless.
As usual, I have to call upon my friend Sarah Hartwell and her website messybeast.com for the best information about leopard/jaguar hybrids. She is the doyen of exotic or peculiar big cat hybrids depending, upon your point of view.
She says that such hybrids have been reported. On May 16, 1905, the New York Tribune reported “the only known crosses between a jaguar and a leopard ever born in captivity”. They were two cubs whose names were Prince and Nellie III. The father of the cubs was a jaguar called Prince. These were his only offspring. The newspaper said “Another attractive feature has been the two hybrid jaguar-leopard cubs which were born recently, and of which the lamented jealous jaguar, Prince, was the father. He died the day before the cubs were born. Their eyes are now open”.
In April 25, 1908, in The Field, A.D. Bartlett stated, “I have more than once met with instances of the male jaguar breeding with a female leopard; these hybrids also were reared recently in Wombwell’s well-known travelling collection. I have seen some animals of this kind bred between a male black jaguar and a female Indian leopard; the young partook strongly of the male, being almost black”.
In 1966 and 1968, Hemmer (I presume that he is or was a zoologist or scientist) described hybrids from a cross between a female leopard and a male jaguar as about the same size as the jaguar. He states that the legs and neck were quite short and thick. The background colour was either dark fawn, grey-brown, iron-grey or olive coloured. He said that the mating of a jaguar-leopard hybrid to a male jaguar produced two litters each with two offspring. The Congolese Spotted Lion hoax as Sarah Hartwell describes it, was the result of a meeting between a male lion and a Jaguar-leopard hybrid (see below).
In 1969, C Pohle reported a jaguar-leopard hybrid litter of two males and one female. They were larger than their leopard mother. The male cub died. When they were one and a half years of age they were between the leopard and jaguar in terms of their height at the shoulder.
At one time, and it still may be the case, there were lepjags at the Waldo Animal retirement home near Gainesville, Florida. It is believed that there are some in captivity in the USA today. Siegfried and Roy owned two lepjags. Sarah suggest that they were more manageable than purebred jaguars as they were trained to be on stage with these performers. They were listed as lepjags in the 1994 show programme. In their 1998 souvenir programme they were listed as jaguars.
Congolese Spotted lion
A “Congolese Spotted Lion” was exhibited in London in 1908. It fooled the public into believing that they were seeing a unique species of lion. The cat was not a lion but a hybrid cat; product of a mating between a female leopard-jaguar cross which was then crossed with a lion. The breeding took place at Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, USA. The cat appears to have been referred to in the book Wildcats of the World by Guggisberg. The author states that around the turn-of-the-century three cubs were born at a Chicago Zoo. They were the result of a mating between a male jaguar and a female leopard. They were sold to a “travelling menagerie”. The male was killed by a lion. The females grew to the size of a jaguar. They were mated to a lion which resulted in several litters. One of these offspring, which were jaguar-leopard-lions was brought to London zoo. According to the author, the cat “looked like a young, slim lioness but was marked with brown spots of a jaguar or leopard-like pattern. The cat was called a “lijagulep”.