Black panthers aren’t panthers at all. They’re actually leopards or jaguars with black coats. Jaguars live in tropical lowland forests in South America, Mexico, and the southwestern US. Leopards live in grasslands, forests, mountains, and deserts in Africa and Asia. Black panthers are typically found in the denser forests in these regions. Both types of big cats are hunters that prey on mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, and live up to 12 years in the wild and at least 20 years in captivity.
Scientific & Common Names
The scientific name of black panthers that are leopards is Panthera pardus, while the scientific name of black panthers that are jaguars is Panthera onca. The common name for leopards and jaguars with black fur is Black Panther.
Black panthers have black base coats with black rosettes that are difficult to see. They have small, rounded ears, strong jaws, and powerful legs. Black panthers that are jaguars have jaws that are more squared than those of their leopard counterparts. They’re also larger, with adult jaguars weighing between 100 to 250 pounds and measuring between seven to nine feet from head to tail. Adult leopards typically weigh between 66 and 176 pounds and are between seven to ten feet long from head to tail.
Black panthers mate any time during the year, although breeding occurs more often during wet seasons. The gestation period is around 96 days for female jaguars and leopards. Female jaguars produce litters of one to four cubs, while female leopards produce litters of two to three cubs. Jaguar cubs become independent when they’re around two years old, while leopard cubs reach independence by 20 months of age.
Black panthers are adept swimmers, especially those that are jaguars. They also excel at climbing and leaping. While leopards spend a lot of time in trees, jaguars tend to stay on the ground. Black panthers only spend time with other jaguars or leopards to mate or care for their own offspring. They communicate with others by vocalizing.
Both species of black panther are still found in the dense forests throughout much of their historical range, although deforestation is steadily contributing to declining populations for jaguars and leopards in general. Exact numbers of black panther populations for both species have not been determined.
Jaguars and leopards are both listed as Near Threatened. The main threats for both species are habitat loss and conflict with humans. Jaguars and leopards are both protected by national legislation in their geographical range.