The main differences between jaguars and mountain lions are their appearance and strength. Jaguars are heavier and stronger than mountain lions, weighing up to 300 lbs vs. mountain lions at 200 lbs. Jaguars are known for their spots, while mountain lions generally take on a single color.
Jaguars and mountain lions are the largest felines in the Americas. These powerful predators are related, but they are very different from each other.
They are distinct enough that anyone should be able to tell the difference between them. But to do that, you need to know what sets them apart.
In this article, we’ll look closely at the differences and similarities between jaguars and mountain lions.
We’ll also discuss which one is stronger and more dangerous.
Jaguar vs. Mountain Lion: An Overview
Jaguars are stronger than mountain lions, with an bite force about five times as great. While they are related, they are not as close as other cats. Jaguars are closer to lions and tigers, while mountain lions are closer to common cats and bobcats.
Since jaguars and mountain lions are related, they do have some common traits. Here’s a quick comparison of the two felines:
|Avg. Length (with tail)
|6 feet 10 inches
|7 feet 10 inches
|Southern USA to northern Argentina.
|Western North America, Florida, and South America
|Prefers dense forests, riverine habitats, and swamps with a lot of vegetation. Can also be found in open grasslands and wetlands.
|From rocky mountain plateaus and deserts to tropical forests and swamps. Prefers high elevations and steep environments.
|11-15 years in the wild
|8–13 years in the wild
When it comes to size jaguars and mountain lions vary a lot. Depending on the region jaguars can be much larger than mountain lions or the other way around.
Jaguar vs. Mountain Lion: Taxonomy and Classification
Jaguars and mountain lions are both felines or cat-like animals. They are part of the same family, but they aren’t too closely related.
Here’s an overview of their taxonomy and classification:
The jaguar belongs to the Pantherinae subfamily and Panthera genus. This means they are closer to tigers, lions, and leopards than other felines.
Mountain lions are part of the Felinae subfamily. They are closer genetically to the common cat and other smaller felines, like lynxes and bobcats.
Differences Between Jaguars and Mountain Lions
The main differences between jaguars and mountain lions are physical. Jaguars aren’t as long or tall on average as mountain lions, but they are more muscular, and stronger pound for pound. Jaguars also have a much stronger bite.
There are many differences between jaguars and mountain lions, both in physical appearance and behavior.
Here are the main physical differences between jaguars and mountain lions:
- Legs: Jaguars have much shorter tails and back legs relative to body length.
- Colors: Jaguars have coats ranging from a pale yellow to a reddish-yellow color and a lighter underside. Mountain lions have tawny coats ranging from grayish to reddish colors with a lighter underside.
- Markings: Jaguars have spots and markings all over their bodies. Mountain lions mostly have plain coats.
- Build: Jaguars are compact and muscular. Mountain lions look slender.
- Sounds: Jaguars roar while mountain lions purr.
The behavior of jaguars and mountain lions differ in many ways:
- Apex predators: Jaguars are the apex predators in their environments. Mountain lions aren’t generally hunted by other predators but they sometimes lose conflicts.
- Swimming: Jaguars are better swimmers and frequently play and hunt in water. Mountain lions are comfortable in the water but not to the same degree.
- Adaptability: Mountain lions are more adaptable and more comfortable living closer to humans.
- Hunting and Killing: Their killing method is different. Mountain lions either break their prey’s neck or suffocate it. Jaguars use their superior bite to pierce the prey’s skull with their teeth.
- Leap: Mountain lions can leap high in the air thanks to their long back legs, up to 20 feet. Jaguars can jump up to about 10 feet.
Similarities Between Jaguars and Mountain Lions
There are many similarities between jaguars and mountain lions. Both of them are strong predators and carnivores. Their ranges also overlap in many places. Jaguars and mountain lions are felines so some similarities between them are to be expected.
Jaguars and mountain lions are both felines, part of the Felidae family.
Members of the same family generally share many characteristics, as is the case here:
- They are carnivores.
- They use ambush hunting to catch their prey.
- Their ranges overlap.
- They are mostly solitary.
- Females raise the cubs alone.
- They are capable swimmers and climbers.
- They can see well in low-light conditions.
How to Tell the Difference Between Jaguars and Mountain Lions
Jaguars and mountain lions have many physical differences that allow us to tell them apart easily. The jaguar’s yellow coat with many bold black markings stands out compared to the mountain lion’s simple tawny coat. Jaguars also look stockier and more muscular while mountain lions are long and slender.
Physically, jaguars and mountain lions are fairly different from each other. Nobody should have problems telling them apart.
While they share the overall feline body shape, they are otherwise distinct.
Jaguars have a striking, exotic look. They have yellow coats with a lot of bold black markings, in the shape of rosettes with a spot in the middle. This strongly contrasts the mountain lions’ simple, tawny coats.
The build of the two predators is also different. Jaguars seem shorter, even though they can get as long as mountain lions. This is because they are stockier and have a lot more muscle mass, making them look wider than slender mountain lions.
Do Jaguars and Mountain Lions Ever Meet?
Yes, jaguars and mountain lions meet in the wild. Their ranges overlap in many regions. They meet in the wild all across Central and most of South America.
Mountain lions and jaguars share a lot of their range with one another. Out of the two, the mountain lions cover a much larger area, that encompasses all of the jaguar’s range.
The two felines were found in the same habitats as far north as the southwestern US in the past.
Nowadays the jaguar’s range is greatly diminished with scarce sightings in the southern US and northern Mexico.
Jaguars and mountain lions can meet throughout Mexico, Central America, and northeastern South America.
Jaguars vs Mountain Lions: Who Would Win in a Fight?
In a fight between a jaguar and a mountain lion, the jaguar will win. It has an impressive build, with stockier, muscular bodies, and the most powerful bite of any feline. The mountain lion can win in some parts of its range where it is larger than the jaguar.
Jaguars are overall the stronger cat. They are muscular animals, and while the two cats are close in length, the bigger jaguars are much heavier than mountain lions.
Jaguars can weigh more than 300 pounds while the largest confirmed mountain lion only weighed 232 pounds.
Jaguars also have a much more powerful bite than mountain lions. They have the strongest bite of any feline. Stronger than larger cats like lions and tigers.
In some areas of their common range, mountain lions can be bigger than jaguars. North of the Amazon, jaguars are generally smaller. So in areas like Mexico, jaguars are as small as female mountain lions.
Jaguars vs Mountain Lions: Adaptability
While jaguars generally have the power advantage over mountain lions, the latter is a more well-rounded hunter. Mountain lions eat a more diverse diet and adapt better to their environments.
In places where their ranges overlap, the jaguar generally hunts for larger prey. As a result mountain lions catch smaller prey and the two predators aren’t in direct competition. The mountain lion’s versatility gives it an advantage when living closer to humans.
Jaguars and mountain lions are similar animals. These strong predators have plenty of similarities but also many differences. Jaguars have a distinctly exotic look, with yellow coats and many markings, while mountain lions have simple tawny coats. Jaguars are more muscular than mountain lions. In a direct confrontation, the jaguar would be the winner most of the time, but mountain lions are the more versatile predators.