Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 2, 2001 - Issue 37



The Jaguar and the Deer


Mayan Legend

A deer went to look for a place to build himself a house. There was also a jaguar who was out looking for a place to set up a house. He came to the same place the deer had chosen, and thought he would build there also.

The next day the deer came and thoroughly cleared the ground with his antlers. The tiger came later and said:

"It seems somebody is helping me." Then he stuck some big poles in the ground and set up the framework.

The next day the deer came back and when he saw this, he said: "It seems somebody is helping me."

Then he covered the house with branches and made two rooms, one for him and the other one for whomever was helping him.

The next day the jaguar saw that the house was finished. He went in one room and fell asleep. The deer came later and went to sleep in the other room.

One day the two came home at the same time. When they saw each other, the jaguar asked the deer: "Was it you who was helping me?

The deer answered: "Yes, it was me."

Then the jaguar said: "Let's live together."

"Yes, let's live together in the same house," said the deer. They went to sleep and the following morning the jaguar said:

"I'm going hunting, so sweep the floor, prepare wood and water, because I'll be hungry when I come back."

The jaguar went to the woods to hunt and got a very large deer. He brought it home and said to his companion: "Let's eat what I have caught."

But the deer didn't want to eat; he was very much afraid. He couldn't sleep all night long on account of fear. Early the next morning he went to the woods and met a very large jaguar. Later he met a large bull and said to him:

"I met a jaguar who was bad-mouthing you."

The bull went looking for the jaguar and found him resting. The bull came up to him slowly, leaped on top of him and gored him. Then the deer went off dragging the dead jaguar. When he got home, he said to his companion:

"Let's eat what I have caught."

The jaguar approached him, but he didn't want to eat; he was very frightened. That night he couldn't sleep thinking about the deer killing jaguars; and the deer couldn't sleep thinking about the jaguar killing deer. Both were very frightened.

At midnight as the deer moved his head, his antlers struck the wooden walls of the house. The jaguar and the deer were frightened by the noise, and both of them ran out of the house without stopping. And so the deer and the jaguar each went his separate way.

Trust is a gift....don't throw it away.

Listen to the sound of a jaguar:


Print and Color Your Own Jaguar Picture:

Jaguar (Panthera onca)

editor's note: We GOOFED!!! The photo, below right, is NOT that of a Jaguar. It is an Ocelot. Our thanks to Ms. Mary Powell-McConnell of the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum of Tucson, AZ for bringing this to our attention.
Physical Characteristics
The jaguar, weighing up to 300 pounds, exhibits a look of shear power, grace, and fear. It is commonly confused with the leopard. The jaguar can be distinguished by having larger rosette markings and a larger, more powerful looking body; the jaguar also has a shorter tail. The strength of the jaguar is amazing with its jaws so strong that it often kills its prey by piercing the skull in one, fatal bite. The jaguar is the largest cat in the Americas.

The color of the jaguar is a tawny-yellow with spots on the head, neck and legs and rosettes on other parts of its body. The rosettes will have one to four dark spots inside. An Indian myth says that the jaguar got its spotted coat by dabbing mud on its body with its paws. If you look closely at the coat of a jaguar, markings can seem like a paw print!

The Life and Habitat of a Jaguar
The solitary jaguar is found in the tropical rainforests and swampy grasslands in through Central America stretching into South America. The jaguar is known as a forest dweller, with its highest population found in the lowland rain forests of the Amazon Basin. They are also found in high altitudes. The jaguar generally chooses an area where there is a source of water and enjoys swimming or resting in a stream on hot days, like the tiger does.

Hunting and Feeding
Unlike many other big cats, the jaguar does not kill their prey by attacking at the neck yet bites through the temporal bones of the skull. South American Indians call the jaguar 'yaguara', meaning 'a beast that kills its prey with one bound'. The jaguar lives mostly on smaller prey, but will prey on what ever is available such as livestock, deer, smaller prey such as fish, rodents, and also reptiles and monkeys, or any other animals that seems fitting to the jaguar; the jaguar stalks its prey.

Reproduction and Cubs
The jaguar has no breeding season. After mating and a gestation period of 95 to 105 days, one to four cubs are born in a den which they will stay in for up to six months. They are weaned by three months and then begin to accompany their mother on hunts. By the time the cubs are two years of age, they will have set off on their own to try and make their own territories.

During the sixties and seventies around 18,000 jaguars were killed every year for their beautiful coat. Today there is still poaching, but not nearly as bad as before. The destruction of the jaguar's habitat from logging and cattle ranching as well has having to compete with humans for food has brought a large decrease to their population. More trees are cut every day, and more jaguars are killed as the demand for their skin increases.

Jaguar Facts
Jaguars are included in the group of the four roaring cats. The roar has been likened to a series of hoarse coughs, which function as a means of proclaiming territorial boundaries and announcing their presence. The Tucano Indians of the Amazon believe the roar of the jaguar is the sound of thunder; other primitive tribes believe it to be the god of darkness; some believe the spots on the jaguar's coat represent the stars and heavens, with eclipses caused by it swallowing the sun. The Olmecs, the earliest known Mexican civilization, believed in a man-jaguar transformation "were-jaguars" with characteristics of both man and jaguar. Were-jaguars are thought to be the forerunners of Aztec and Mayan rain gods.

Although occasional attacks on humans have been reported, jaguars are rarely aggressive towards humans and , unlike leopards, have not developed man eating tendencies.

Although the jaguar does have a deep and hoarse cry during mating, it is the only big cat which does not roar.

Jaguars have the reputation of being human-eaters, however, numerous stories of men being followed for miles through the forest by solitary jaguars may suggest that they are merely escorting them off their territory and not stalking them as prey. There are also stories from the Amazonian Indians that tell of jaguars emerging from the forest to play with village children.

Jaguar - Panthera Onca


Save The Jaguar
For millennia, jaguars have served as potent cultural icons for many indigenous American people from the Mayans and Incas, to the Guaraní Indians of the Gran Chaco. The Maya believed the jaguar's skin symbolized the night sky, while the Aztecs fed the hearts of sacrificial victims to the big cats. Among Amazonian societies, the jaguar, with its shining, reflective eyes, were thought to connect to the spirit world.




  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.



The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the

Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001 of Paul C. Barry.

All Rights Reserved.