World’s only short-tailed jaguar

NEWS AND VIEWS: You might have thought that I was discussing a genetically mutated jaguar in Belize and Guatemala which has a short tail very similar to that of the bobcat but I’m not. This beautiful jaguar had, at one time, a normal tail. He lost it somewhere along the way but the experts don’t know how or why.

Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala
Short-tailed jaguar in Belize and Guatemala. Photo: Marcella Kelly

He’s been named, guess what, “Short-Tail”. He does have a genuine “first”, which is that he is the first jaguar to cross the boundary between Belize and Guatemala. They know this because he was photographed by camera traps in both countries. It is important news in one regard in that it proves the point that international cooperation on conservation is important. Jaguars are classified as Near Threatened by the Red List. It seems to me that nearly all the wild cat species are threatened in some way or another by human activity, some species more than others.

Back in 2009 he had his full tail and by 2011 it was missing. He was photographed in Guatemala in 2013 and then in Belize in 2014. He is the first “transboundary jaguar in the region”.

The late co-founder of the big cat conservation non-profit, Panthera, Alan Rabinowitz, said in 2014 that jaguars have been more resilient in terms of conservation than other big cats. If that’s true it may be because they live in areas where they are respected more or they are further away from China where they like to use big cat body parts in various ways including in traditional Chinese medicine. You’ve got to keep these cats away from the poachers because trading big cat body parts is big business. By the way, Belize has five wild cat species: the jaguar, puma, ocelot, jaguarundi and margay, which is very nice. It has a lot of good habitat for the wild cats. You can read about these wild cats by clicking on this link.

British Army

In a linked story, I note that on the British government’s website they announce that the British Army is protecting big cats in Belize. They’ve got a unit out there which has photographed jaguars, ocelots and mountain lions (pumas) in the heart of the Belize jungle. The British Army Training Support Unit Belize and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation have teamed up with the above-mentioned charity, Panthera, in the task of protecting endangered wildlife under a three-year programme. They’re doing it so that they don’t disturb the local habitats during military training operations.

Jaguar and puma in Belize photographed by British army
Jaguar and puma in Belize photographed by British army

They’ve captured some great images in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserves. This is a 430 km² area. It is described as being four times the size of Paris. They found that the presence of the army in the jungle deterred poachers and illegal logging of the forest. That’s a good thought. It’s something which would not have crossed my mind unless I had read about it.

British forces have a good relationship with the Belize Government Departments, landowners and NGOs. They work together well and as mentioned their presence helps to protect wildlife.

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Pictures of jaguar killing caiman

These pictures of a jaguar killing a caiman are impressive and they show us too how impressive the jaguar is at killing almost any prey. They have the strongest bite of all the cats and it’s why many jaguar skulls in museum collections have canine teeth that are badly worn and/or chipped. Louise Emmons in Great Cats writes that the powerful jaws and strong canine teeth of the jaguar are used to penetrate the armour-like tough outer protective layer of caiman and turtles.

Picture of jaguar killing caiman
Picture of jaguar killing caiman

In the Iguacu National Park of Brazil reptiles were found in 6.6 percent of scat samples. On the floodplain of the San Jorge and Cauca rivers in northern Columbia, reptiles (mainly caiman), river turtles and iguanas makes up 36% of the jaguar’s diet.

Picture of jaguar killing caiman
Picture of jaguar killing caiman. The caiman is almost suffocated.

Jaguars can break open the carapace of large tortoises with their teeth. In the pictures a jaguar has killed a caiman with a suffocating neck bite. This is the sort of killing bite employed by lions when killing large prey.

Picture of jaguar killing caiman
Picture of jaguar killing caiman. It’s over.

Hide Prey

Jaguars usually drag killed prey into dense cover before eating. The formidable strength of the jaguar allows it to drag large prey up to a mile over rough ground. The jaguar is the third largest cat after the tiger and lion but it beats both the larger animals with its bite force. Its canine teeth are also stronger. This is a very strong, stocky cat with a deep-chest and large head. Its limbs are short and sturdy; all of which explains why this fabulous cat has ‘dominated the religion and culture of a continent’1.

1. Wild Cats Of The World page 306.

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Jaguarundi Description

The jaguarundi looks like a bit like a weasel or an otter at first glance. However, although this animal doesn’t look like a cat it definitely behaves like one. It has a long, low slung body. The hair strands are heavily ticked as in the Abyssinian purebred cat breed. Ticked hair is the hair of a tabby coat. The hair strands have banded pigment, black to yellow (see image below).

In many ways, the jaguarundi differs from other wildcats from South America. This is the only cat species in South America that has 38 chromosomes; the same as “old world cats”. The others have 36.


There was or is taxonomic confusion over how to classify this cat because of the 38 chromosomes and rather strange appearance. The legs are quite short. The body is slender and it has a relatively long, thick tail. It appears that this cat does not mark territory by urinating on vertical objects as is classically the case for cats. This is due to the short legs and long tail, perhaps.

The head is small. The ears are small, rounded and widely separated. There are no ocelli or white spots on the back of the ears, which is common amongst the wildcats.

Perhaps the most distinguishing feature is the almost complete lack of a pattern on the coat. There are faint markings on the face and belly.

There are “two main color phases”. These are an iron gray morph and a red-brown (tawny to olive brown or bright chestnut brown) morph (see below). Kittens of both colors can be born in the same litter. This cat weighs from about 3.5 to 7 kgs.

Red jaguarundi wild cat
Red-brown jaguarundi. Photo by Fred Hood of


Wild Cats of the World by the Sunquists page 114. ISBN-13:978-0-226-77999-7

From Jaguarundi description to Jaguarudi.

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