Jaguarete – mystery cat?

The jaguarete is better spelled with an accent acute over the last ‘e’ like this: jaguareté. This means it should be pronounced: jaguareteh as in saying ‘eh you’ or ‘Eh? What’s this?’. I don’t believe that it should be capitalised because it is not a proper noun. Although early naturalists referred to the jaguarete as a mysterious creature which they also called the cougar noir or black tiger, it was and is nothing more than a standard jaguar although it might refer to a melanistic (black) jaguar but my research indicates that this is not necessarily the case.

Picture of a melanistic jaguar
Picture of a melanistic jaguar. A black panther showing the ghost rosettes. Photo: The Big Cat Sanctuary from a video by them.
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‘Jaguarete’ is an alternative name for the jaguar and it has its origins in the Guarani language meaning “the true beast” on my research. Guarani is spoken by over 3 million people and is one of the main divisions of the Tupi-Guarani language family. It is also a national language of Paraguay. It is spoken in South America.

And, of course, the famous jaguar’s home is in South America primarily and also in Central America. It is the third-largest cat. It’s a cat with the strongest bite of all the cats.

At one time naturalists, zoologists and scientists described the jaguarete as a cat with a dusky coat and sometimes with black spots but usually with a plain coat. The undersides of the animal were pale and the upper lip and paws were white. The ears were sharply pointed. It was a powerful cat, cruel and fierce.

RELATED: Picture of a beautiful black jaguar a.k.a. black panther (melanistic jaguar)

Interestingly it was said to frequent the seashore feeding on turtles eggs and also eating large reptiles and fish. The cat would kill alligators. In order to catch an alligator, they would lie down on their belly at the edge of the river and strike the water to make a noise. The alligator would respond by raising its head above the water at which point the jaguarete would grab the alligator by their eyes and drag the animal onto the shore and kill it with a bite to the head.

Picture of jaguar killing caiman
Picture of jaguar killing a caiman. Pic in public domain.

This almost myth-like description of the jaguarete actually replicates quite accurately the behaviour of the jaguar today. The jaguar does spend a lot of time in and near water and they do feed on turtles, breaking the carapace (the shell) which protects them, with their massive bite and canine teeth. And they do feed off alligators and caiman.

And therefore, it seems that the naturalists of that bygone era were describing black panthers a.k.a. black jaguars. The black jaguar is not uncommon as they very often are melanistic which is due to a genetic mutation. The coats are not jet black but a charcoal black with ghost doughnut-like spots.

However, the scientists of that era seem to have got it wrong in terms of white paws and white underparts as melanistic jaguars tend to be dark charcoal grey all over.

Below are some articles on the black panther.

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