- A-Z Animals
The tiger is the largest of all cat species, belonging to the genus Panthera and classified in the family Felidae. It is a large predator distinguished by the dark vertical stripes on dense reddish-brown or orangish-brown fur. Alongside its recognizable coat pattern, the tiger possesses a muscular body, large head, small, rounded ears, powerful forelimbs, and a long tail. The global tiger population today has declined to about 4,683 due to poaching, habitat destruction, and reduced food sources.
The species Panthera tigris is divided into two subgroups, including the Mainland Asian tigers and the Sunda Islands tigers. These two subgroups include the following extant subspecies.
Among the living subspecies, the Siberian Tiger is the biggest and is followed by the Bengal Tiger. The extinct subspecies are Caspian Tiger, Javan Tiger, and Bali Tiger.
Size: The males vary in length, ranging from 8.2-12.8 ft (250-390 cm) and having a skull length of 12.4-15.1 inches (316-383 mm). Females, on the other hand, are 6.5-9 ft (200-275 cm) long and have a skull length of 10.5-12.5 inches (268-318 mm).
Weight: Male tigers can weigh anywhere between 198 and 675 lbs (90 and 306 kg) while the females have a weight ranging from 143-368 lbs (65-167 kg).
Color: Tigers usually have three color variations, including the standard orangish-brown with black stripes, pale golden with cinnamon stripes, and white with dark or black stripes.
Eyes: They have amber or yellow irises with black pupils, while the white tiger has blue eyes
Ears: Small, rounded with a white spot on the back and surrounded by black
Skull: The frontal region is less flattened, and the area located behind the postfrontal region is slightly longer than a lion’s skull
Teeth: They have a powerful jaw containing 30 teeth, with the upper canines being the largest among cat species, measuring 2.5-3 inches in length.
The historical distribution range of tigers extended from Transcaucasia and eastern Turkey, across South Asia and Southeast Asia to the Sea of Japan coasts and the islands of Java, Bali, and Sumatra. However, tigers are now mainly distributed across the Indian subcontinent, the Russian Far East, Sumatra, and the Indochinese Peninsula. Breeding populations often move to Myanmar and China from the neighboring countries.
Tigers usually live in places where populations of deer, antelopes, sheep, goats, buffalos, and bison are stable. They are found in a wide range of habitats, including riverine forests, swamp forests, tropical forests, evergreen forests, savannah, rugged montane forests, mixed deciduous forests, and tall grasslands.
The average lifespan of tigers in the wild is 10-15 years, while captive tigers usually live for 16-20 years.
Tigers are apex predators, preying on large and medium-sized animals, including ungulates that can weigh up to 2,000 lbs. They can take down sambar deer, wild boars, swamp deer, Manchurian wapiti, and adult gaurs. Tigers are also opportunistic hunters, and they feed on smaller prey like peafowl, monkeys, hares, porcupines, fish, and ground-based birds. They occasionally hunt rhinoceros and elephant calves, as well as other predators such as leopards, crocodiles, pythons, and wild dogs.
At birth, the weight of a tiger varies between 750 and 1600 grams. The cubs stay hidden for the first 8 weeks of their lives in the den prepared by their mother. While the mother nurses her cubs, she gradually introduces them to solid foods when they are 6-8 weeks old.
When they are two months old, they are allowed to go out of the den. In the next few months, the mother trains her cubs to live and hunt independently. By 18 months of age, the cubs are able to hunt alone. Nonetheless, they remain with their mother up to the time they are 2-2.5 years old.
Female tigers reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years of age while the males attain maturity when they are 4-5 years old.
Although tigers can mate all year round, copulation typically happens in the cooler months, i.e., between November and April. The female tigers are receptive for 3-6 days, and mating frequently occurs during that time. Cubs are mostly born during the summer months (from March to June), with the mother giving birth to a litter of three or four cubs in sheltered locations like caves, rocky crevices, dense thickets, and tall grasses. The male tigers do not take part in raising the young.
After a gestation period of 103-105 days, the cubs are born with their eyes closed. While they open their eyes at the age of 6-14 days, they lose their milk teeth when they are about 2 weeks old.
Several conservation programs, including the Terai-Arc Landscape, have been set up to improve tiger habitats especially the fragmented ones in northern India and Nepal. In July 2006, a conservation organization named Panthera worked jointly with the Wildlife Conservation Society on the Tigers Forever project to increase the population of tigers in India, Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Laos, and Indonesia by 50% over 10 years. The World Wildlife Fund has undertaken efforts in protecting landscapes and preventing poaching. It has formed the Save Tigers Now project, which aims to double the population of wild tigers by 2022.
1. How many tigers are left in the world?
There are at least 3890 tigers left in the wild.
2. Are there tigers in Africa?
No tigers have ever existed in the wild in Africa.
3. Are tigers endangered?
According to the IUCN RED List, tigers are globally considered an “Endangered” species.
4. How fast can a tiger run?
Adult tigers can run at a speed of 49-65 km/h in short bursts.
5. Are tigers bigger than lions?
Yes, the tigers, particularly the Siberian and Royal Bengal tigers, are 15%-25% bigger than lions.
6. What is a baby tiger called?
It is called a whelp or cub.
7. What are the predators of a tiger?
Although tigers do not have any predators, they have natural enemies including bears, elephants, and crocodiles that may attack them during conflicts.
8. Do tigers purr?
Tigers make a friendly, soft, low-frequency chuffing instead of purring.
9. How much do tigers eat?
In the wild, adult tigers can fast for up to 2 weeks and then gorge on about 75-100 lbs of flesh at a single sitting. In captivity, they are fed 6-13 lbs of meat per day.