Bagheera the black panther is an animal fictional character in Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli stories in The Jungle Book (coll. 1894) and The Second Jungle Book (coll. 1895). The word Bagh (बाघ) means tiger in Hindi.
Originally born in captivity in the menagerie of the Rajah of Oodeypore, India, Bagheera begins to pine for his freedom after his mother dies. Once he is mature and strong enough he breaks the lock on his cage and escapes into the jungle, where his ferocity and cunning win him the respect of all its other inhabitants, except Shere Khan the tiger (likely out of his arrogance). Bagheera reveals all this to Mowgli later. None but Mowgli ever learn that Bagheera once wore a collar and chain, explaining the cat's special insight concerning Men.
When Father Wolf and Raksha of the Seeonee (Seoni) wolf pack adopt the human "cub" Mowgli and the pack demands that the new cub should be spoken for, Bagheera buys Mowgli's life with a freshly-killed bull and helps to raise him as one of the pack. Because his life has been bought by a bull, Mowgli is forbidden to eat cattle (coincidentally, just as the Hindu villagers of the region are also forbidden).
Bagheera shares in many of Mowgli's adventures as he grows, but eventually the time comes when the man-cub becomes a man and has to return to human society. Bagheera frees Mowgli of his debt to the wolf pack by killing another bull, and Mowgli returns to his adopted human mother Messua.
In Disney's adaptation, Bagheera the panther was male, and voiced by Sebastian Cabot in English. The Panther was portrayed as a clever, serious and responsible character, quite similar to the Bagheera in the novel, except that in the novel Bagheera spoiled Mowgli more.
In the movie, it is Bagheera and not the wolves who first finds Mowgli in a wrecked boat, and he is the one who takes him back to the village.
During the movie, Bagheera often argues with Baloo, for he knows that as long as Shere Khan is in the jungle, the jungle is not safe for Mowgli despite all attempts of the bear to protect him. Bagheera is also the narrator of the movie's story.
Bagheera is also one of the major characters left out of the TaleSpin series which used several Jungle Book characters. However, many of Shere Khan's soldiers and pilots are black panthers very similar in style to Bagheera.
In some Disney comics drawn in Italy, Bagheera is depicted as a female non-anthropomorphic animal movie star, loosely based on her animated movie appearance. Originally all black, she has white body parts. She enjoys signing autographs to her fans and eating pistachio-flavored pet food, being vegetarian.
In the comic book series Fables, Bagheera appears as one of the characters living in exile on the Farm in upstate New York. Along with the other "Kipling" fables, he assists Goldy Locks in tracking down Reynard the Fox. Bagheera actually succeeds in tracking down Reynard, though the Fox manages to escape from him. It is implied Bagheera's primary motivation for capturing the Fox was to show up Shere Kahn after Kahn arrogantly rejects Bagheera's offer of help.
Voices of Bagheera.