There are some photos of the jaguar in a glass case, stylishly posed in a recline, with its tail in mid-flick. But along with the photo of the mount, the post includes a bevy of extremely ’70s-looking photos (shag carpet included) showing the jaguar’s life.
There’s a portrait of a young woman carrying a fluffy jaguar kitten, and a cub rolling in someone’s lap while it drinks from a baby bottle. Later, you see a cat the size of a 7-year-old human prowling around a tinsel-covered Christmas tree, and a full-grown, beefy-looking adult spilling over the side of a leather recliner, its teeth clamped around something you can’t see.
The seller’s name is Jim Crouch. This was his jaguar.
It was 1972. Crouch lived in Syracuse, New York. He had a job hiring salespeople down in Florida, which meant he occasionally went cruising around the south on weekends. It was on one of those weekends that he met Robert Baudy.
Baudy was a world-famous big cat breeder and trainer. He owned Savage Kingdom, a breeding facility in central Florida. His career was at its peak in the ’50s, when his animal acts were regularly featured on The Ed Sullivan Show. He was a little man, Crouch says -- and French. At the time he met him, Baudy was training a mess of tigers for some folks in Russia.
The United States Department of Agriculture later shut Baudy’s breeding operation down in 2006 after several grisly accidents occurred there. In 2001, a handyman named Vincent Lowe had his throat torn out by a 318-pound tiger. His co-workers could only watch, unable to stop it. Eventually, Baudy -- in his 80s at the time -- shot it.
Crouch got to know Baudy. So well, in fact, that Baudy asked Crouch to be a part of a little research he was conducting. He was raising some Brazilian jaguars, he said, and he wanted to see how this tropical cat would fare in a cold climate. He asked Crouch if he’d take a cub with him.
Crouch had always wanted a big cat.
The litter was born. Crouch selected the cub he wanted the most -- Sabu, the chunkiest, roly-poliest kitten in the bunch. He was taken from his mother right away and fed by hand. That way, Crouch says, all the jaguar knew was humans. It makes them easier to handle.
When Sabu was weaned, Crouch took him back to Syracuse with him, and then to Minnesota in 1973.
Some quick facts about the Brazilian jaguar: It is the third-largest cat in the animal kingdom. It also has the strongest bite. Its jaws are powerful enough to crush the skulls of capybara, cayman, and cows--its prey of choice. Its name comes from the Native American word "yajuar,” which means "he who kills with one leap." A full-grown male can weigh up to 250 pounds and measure eight feet from nose to tail.
Crouch and his wife at the time, Chris, raised Sabu in a hobby farm out in Maple Plain. Half the basement served as his habitat, and once he reached adulthood, Crouch fed him 10 to 20 pounds of meat a day. He’d buy beef from the renderer and nearly 300 pounds of chicken cutlets at a time from the grocery store.
As it turned out, Sabu loved the cold climate. Crouch says he played in the snow all the time.
Crouch played mother and father to the cat. Every day after Crouch came home from work, Sabu would “hoot and holler” until he’d come downstairs and visit. He’d sometimes let Sabu run free through the house, even though he was a bit of an “elephant in a china shop.” There are photos of him prowling around the Christmas tree and playing with the family’s 10-pound poodle, Nooper. Nooper was the boss in the relationship, Crouch says.
But Sabu was still a wild animal. Only Crouch and his wife could touch him. Otherwise, Sabu would “put the hurtin’ on ya.” When he and Chris eventually divorced and he married his second wife, Maureen, she could never get close Crouch’s beloved pet. Neighbors loved to stop by and look at him through a chainlink fence, and sometimes schools would bring busloads of kids over, but all they could do was look.
When the Crouches wanted to go on vacation, they left Sabu with the only babysitter that could possibly take him: the Como Zoo. The zookeepers always said Sabu was a terrible houseguest. He was the meanest, most ill-tempered cat they’d ever had. He’d snarl and lunge at anyone who approached.
They’d always gawk in amazement when Crouch would come to pick him up. He’d walk straight into the cage and Sabu would start meowing and licking his face. Then Crouch would slip a chain around Sabu’s neck and walk him out like a dog. The jaguar would grumble at the zookeepers as he passed.
Sabu lived to be 18. In the wild, jaguars live to be 12 to 15, but it helps when all of your food comes in cutlet form and you don’t have to participate in gory mating rituals.
After Sabu died, Crouch paid $15,000 to get him stuffed and mounted. When he moved to a small farm in Waverly, he didn’t have room to display Sabu anymore and put the ad up on Craigslist. He thinks Sabu should be somewhere where he can be seen and appreciated, he says. He won’t go lower than the posted amount of $26,000. Serious offers only.
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