Bagheera the black panther (Indian Leopard) was one of Mowgli's best friends in the jungle.
Originally born in captivity in the menagerie of the Rajah of Oodeypore, India, Bagheera began to pine for his freedom after he ran away with his friends. Once he was mature and strong enough he broke the lock on his cage and escaped into the jungle, where his ferocity and cunning won him the respect of all its other inhabitants, except Shere Khan the tiger (likely out of his arrogance). Bagheera revealed all this to Mowgli later. None but Mowgli ever learned that Bagheera once wore a collar and chain, explaining the cat's special insight concerning Men.
Bagheera shared in many of Mowgli's adventures as he grew, but eventually the time comes when the man-cub became a man and had to return to human society. Bagheera freed Mowgli of his debt to the wolf pack by killing another bull, and Mowgli returned to his adopted human mother Meshua.
- Tommy/Bucky the Gazelle from Kimba the White Lion resembles Bagheera, except in Aryll's New World from Astro Boy Productions, where he's renamed Hakherra.
- A knew genus of jumping-spider from the Americas was named after Bagheera, with one species, Bagheera kiplingi, being partly herbivorous (plant-eating).
- In the animated Russian version Adventures of Mowgli, Bagheera is portrayed as female. This may be related to the fact that the Russian word for "panther" is a female noun. It should also be noted that she has three cubs, one black and two normally colored ones.
- 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 series Talespin 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.
Voices of Bagheera
- Sebastian Cabot (The Jungle Book)
- Bob Joles (The Jungle Book 2)
- Elizabeth Daily and Dee Bradley Baker (Jungle Cubs)
- Jim Cummings (Adult in Jungle Cubs: Born to be Wild)
- Dana Delany (The Adventures of Mowgli)
- Arthur Grosser (Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgli)
- Eartha Kitt (The Jungle Book: Mowgli's Story)
- Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book (2016 film))
- Christian Bale (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle)