Jacob Savery was born in Kortrijk around 1565-1567, the second son of Maerten Savery and Catelijne van der Beecke. According to Karel van Manders, Hans Bol was his teacher. As Bol left Antwerp after its occupation by Spanish troops in 1585, Savery must have begun his apprenticeship under him beforehand. Apparently he fled from the Catholic rulers himself, for in 1585 he settled in Haarlem, making paintings for the St Bavokerk. In 1587 he was accepted into that city's Guild of St Luke, and in the same year married Tryntgen Kokelen van Meenen. In 1591 Savery attained citizenship in Amsterdam. The couple made their last will in 1602, naming the younger brother, painter Roelant Savery, as guardian of their children. On 23 April 1603 Savery was buried in the Zuiderkerk in Amsterdam.
Jacob Savery painted primarily floral still lifes, peasant genre scenes and landscapes. His animal paintings influenced his brother Roelant. After his move to Amsterdam, he was influenced in important ways by Gillis van Coninxloo, famous for his forest paintings and hunting scenes. Van Mander names as Savery's pupils his brother Roelant and Frans Pietersz. de Grebber.