Puma Vs Jaguar: The Main Differences

Wondering what the difference is between a puma and a jaguar?

Well, there are many differences despite them both being cats! One has spots, the other doesn’t, and they have very different diets for the most part.

Puma vs Jaguar: The Main Differences

If you want to find out all the differences between the puma and the famous jaguar, stick around. 

Pumas are animals that go by many names. These include the mountain lion, cougar, catamount, and many more.

It actually holds the world record for the most English names a single species has!

There are six living puma subspecies, and one extinct. 

Jaguars, on the other hand, only typically go by the name “jaguar” which comes from the Guaraní and Tupi languages of South America.

We think that the name stems from the word “yaguareté”, which means “true, fierce beast”, as this animal is a symbol of power and strength.

The name also comes from the word “yaguar”, which means “he who kills with one leap” – a fitting name for these incredible animals!

If you want to find out about all the differences between the puma and mighty jaguar, keep reading!

We will be going through everything you need to know.

Puma Vs Jaguar: The Main Differences



  • Also known As: mountain lion, cougar, panther, catamount, red tiger, deer tiger, painter
  • Average Lifespan In The Wild: 10-13 years
  • Scientific Name: puma concolor
  • Genus: Puma
  • Family: Felidae
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Height: 2-3 feet at the shoulder
  • Weight: 64-220 lbs
  • Length: 3.25-5.25 feet (head and body); 23.5-33.5 inches (tail)
  • Conservation Status: varies depending on subspecies, typically least concern (population decreasing)
  • Number Of Subspecies: seven living subspecies, one extinct


  • Also Known As: jaguar
  • Average Lifespan In The Wild: 12-15 years
  • Scientific Name: panthera onca
  • Genus: Panthera
  • Family: Felidae
  • Order: Carnivora
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Height: 2-3 feet at the shoulder
  • Weight: 220-350 lbs
  • Length: 5-7 feet (head and body); 2-3 feet (tail)
  • Conservation Status: varies depending on subspecies, typically near threatened

Appearance And Characteristics


The puma is a large, tan cat with a white or gray belly and chest.

Their color can vary slightly depending on where in the Americas they are.

However, they will always be a shade of tan or a tawny brown unless they have a mutation.

Some mutations can cause animals, including pumas, to be black, white, or mixed variation. 

Besides their recognizable tawny coloring, a puma will also have a few black markings.

These markings will be around the animal’s snout, the tips of their ears, and the tip of their tail.

Adults have eyes that can appear to be a green-brown or yellow color.

This coloring will eventually appear when a puma is about a year and a half old.

Puma cubs have a very different appearance from their parents.

They are covered in black spots to help them blend into their surroundings, but have the same tan or tawny colored fur as their parents.

Compared to adult pumas, the young have more black on them.

This black is visible on their faces, including their snout and above their eyes.

Cubs also have blue eyes that change color as they get older. 

Typically, the larger animals are closer to the poles and will be in counties like Alaska and Argentina or Chile.

Closer to the equator, in countries like Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil, pumas are usually smaller.  

These animals typically only reach lengths of around 5 feet, and their tails are between 23 and 33 inches long.

So, from nose to the tip of the tail, a puma can measure up to 7.7 feet long.

Puma vs Jaguar: The Main Differences

Up to the shoulder, pumas can measure up to a maximum of three feet, and they can weigh up to 220 lbs.

It should be said that the majority of pumas will be slightly smaller, as these numbers are on the upper limit.

Female pumas are also smaller than the males. The females are more likely to weigh up to 120 lbs, and are generally about ⅓ smaller than the males.


Jaguars are the largest cats in the Western Hemisphere, and the third-largest cat species in the world, after the lion.

They can reach lengths of 5-7 feet from their nose to the base of their tail, and the tail can be a further 2-3 feet.

In total, they can reach lengths of 9-10 feet, a very impressive size! 

These animals typically weigh between 220-350 lbs and can be three feet at the shoulder.

They are bulkier than other cats like pumas, and have rounded faces. 

The jaguar has one of the most notable coats in nature. It has a beautiful yellow-tan coat with black rosettes.

The shade of the base color may vary depending on where the animal is located, as jaguars in thick rainforests typically have a more golden color.

Rosettes of jaguars are like jagged black circles with dots of black inside them. 

These animals are stockier compared to most other large cats, and are noticeably more bulky than the lean puma.

Like most cats, the jaguar has black markings on the back of their ears, and black markings around the muzzle and eyes. 

Jaguar cubs look similar to their parents and have the same yellow-brown fur with rosettes.

However, cubs are born with blue eyes. As the cub gets older, their eyes color will change to the golden or red-yellow that adults have.  

Sounds And Calls


Pumas can make a range of sounds, but they can’t roar like lions or tigers. 

A puma will growl and hiss, like a house cat, and they can also purr.

Males and females are known for their “scream” that can often be heard in the wilderness.

This scream is loud and shrill, and resembles a woman’s scream very closely. In fact, the two are often mistaken for each other. 

This scream is the most well-known sound of a puma.

This sound is something that you should always look out for if you are out.

For female pumas, this scream is thought to indicate that they are ready to mate and is done to signal that to males in the area.

If you hear something that sounds like a screaming woman in the wild, you should move in the opposite direction.  

Puma cubs can hiss and make chirping sounds. This chirping is thought to be a way of them locating their mother, and the mother will chirp back.


Jaguars cannot purr like pumas and house cats. However, they are known to be very vocal animals, and will grunt, mew, and roar.

The most notable sound these animals make is referred to as “sawing”. This is because it sounds exactly like wood being sawed in half (moving in one direction). 

When jaguars greet each other, they will also make a nasally snuffling noise.

This sound is thought to also be made to reassure other jaguars.

If a jaguar is happy, they may start “chuffing”, which is similar to purring, but it has a very low intensity, and only happens in loud, short bursts. 



The puma is part of the Felidae family, meaning that it is a cat. 


The jaguar is also part of the Felidae family, so it is also a cat.

Habitats And Range


Pumas cover an extreme range – all the way from Alaska to Argentina and even southern Chile.

Because of this, they can thrive in a variety of ecosystems as long as there is prey and shelter at their disposal. 

It would not be unusual to see pumas anywhere from mountainous regions to deserts, forests, and wetlands. 

No matter where they are, pumas typically prefer to stay away from humans and too much development.

There have been instances, however, where pumas are seen close to cities, or in city suburbs.


Jaguars are found only in Central and South America, with a few exceptions in the southernmost states of the United States.

They primarily live in rainforests like the Amazon, or wetlands like the Pantanal.

These animals also do well in arid scrubland, grasslands, tropical forests and rainforests, mangroves, swamps, mixed conifer forests, and lowland river valleys.

Puma vs Jaguar: The Main Differences

As such, they are good at adapting to new surroundings, which is why they have managed to survive in Arizona!

Historically, there used to be jaguars in a number of US states, including New Mexico, Louisiana, and even eastern Texas.

Now, however, they are only found in southern Arizona, where they live only in small numbers.

Jaguars are known for their excellent swimming abilities, which has helped them survive in wetlands and rainforests, occasionally feeding on alligators. 

Social Behavior


Pumas are solitary animals. This means that they live alone and have their own territories.

The only time that these animals don’t live alone is during the mating season and when the female is caring for her cubs.

When solitary, these animals need between 50 and 125 square miles to roam, with males preferring more space.


Like pumas, jaguars are solitary animals for the majority of their lives.

The only time they are not alone is during the mating season and when females are raising their cubs.

These animals typically only need between 10-50 square miles of territory in order to be happy.

However, territory sizes vary depending on where the animal is located. 



Pumas are obligate carnivores, like all other cats. This means that they can only get the nutrients they need from meat rather than vegetation.

This does not mean that they cannot eat other food types, but simply that they would not get the benefit of doing so except for the pleasure of it or the flavor. 

Pumas will typically hunt for things like deer or sheep, but will also eat smaller animals like mice and rabbits when available.


Like pumas and all other cats, jaguars are obligate carnivores. 



Unlike many other animals, there is no set breeding or mating season for pumas.

Mating can happen at any time of year. However, the majority of puma births take place in the late winter or early spring, but this is certainly not always the case. Females will breed every two years.

These animals have a gestation period of 90 to 96 days. When the mother is ready, she will typically give birth to anywhere between 1-5 cubs.

These cubs will then stay with her until they are ready to live on their own.

This is usually until they are around 15 months, or little over a year old.

However, some cubs will stay with their mother until they are over two years old before venturing off on their own


Similar to the puma, jaguars do not have a set mating time. They are able to mate at any time of the year, and they have a gestation period of only 100 days.

The females will give birth to a litter of anywhere from 2-4 cubs, which will stay with her until they are at least a year old.

At this point, the cubs will no longer be fed by her, but they will remain with her for another year. 

Like pumas, they only reproduce every two years when the males and females reach sexual maturity.

These animals reach sexual maturity when they are 3-4 years old. 

Who Would Win In A Fight?

The outcome could vary depending on where the two animals meet. In South America, jaguars are typically much larger and will likely win in a fight against a puma.

However, in places like Northern Mexico, the two animals are roughly the same size, so it might end up being a tie!

With that being said, the jaguar does have a considerably stronger bite force compared to a puma, so there’s a good chance that the jaguar would come out on top.

Final Thoughts 

The primary difference between pumas and jaguars is their appearance.

Pumas are tawny colored with no notable markings, while jaguars are yellow-tan with black rosettes.

The jaguar is typically much larger than the puma, though their sizes are smaller in Arizona populations. 

Overall, while both of these animals are cats, they are distinct and very recognizable.

While some of their habitats overlap, you cannot mistake one for the other.

Joe Edwards

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