A jaguar is an apex predator and has no natural enemies, but if it needs to protect itself from large animals when it is hunting, it can do so with its powerful bite, which is the strongest of any of the big cats. It is skilled and swift at climbing trees and swimming, and its spotted coat camouflages it in the mixed light and shadow of the forest floor.
The jaguar is the largest and heaviest carnivorous mammal in the Western Hemisphere. It has short, powerful legs. Its jaws are so strong it can crush turtle shells. When it attacks large animals, it bites through the base of the skull into the brain, and after it ambushes and kills its prey, it hauls it off to a secluded spot to feed. Often, periods of gorging are followed by periods of famine.
Jaguars hunt any large beast in its territory, including adult caimans, a type of crocodile, and anacondas, which are among the world's largest snakes. They regularly hunt tapirs, deer, capybaras, peccaries, foxes and dogs, as well as smaller animals such as sloths, monkeys, birds, fish, armadillos and turtles. When near human habitation, jaguars prey on domestic cattle and sheep and are easily able to take down adult horses. Unlike other big cats, jaguars do not normally attack humans. Only an old or wounded jaguar will go after human prey.