Facts About Tigers
Tigers are the largest cat in the world. Their tails help them balance in tight turns, and are also used for communication with other tigers. They have round pupils and yellow irises (blue for white tigers), with their night vision being 6 times better than humans. Like house cats, their claws are retractable. And like all cat species, they like to keep themselves very clean, dedicating much time to thorough grooming. Tiger stripes are for camouflage, with the smaller Sumatran having the most stripes, Siberian the least. Every tiger has unique facial markings, stripe patterns and pug marks.
- Being ambush hunters, tigers stalk their prey until they are close enough to charge from behind. The killing bite is applied to the neck or throat, depending on the prey. For smaller animals, a neck bite snaps their spine, with the throat bite reserved to suffocate larger prey. Usual prey are ungulates (hoof animals), ranging from 65 - 2000 pounds, consisting mainly of wild pigs, wild cattle and deer. After gorging themselves at the kill site (they are capable of eating up to 40 pounds at one sitting) tigers drag their kill to a safe place where they can consume it at their leisure. Hunting may resume several days later, when the tiger is propelled by hunger.
- In similarity to humans, females mature faster than males, around the age of 3, with males maturing at 4. Female tigers come into heat seasonally in temperate climates, or at any point in the year in tropical climates. Scent marking and roars are indicators of the female's readiness to mate. Copulation occurs frequently over a span of 5 days, with gestation lasting approximately 103 days. The average litter is 2 or 3 cubs, who are born blind, and weigh 2 to 3 pounds. Cubs are fed by their mother's milk for 6-8 weeks before she introduces them to meat. Cubs begin to hunt and learn stalking and attacking skills at 6 months, and can hunt for themselves at 18 months.
- After leaving their mothers at the average age of 2, tigers are very solitary animals, each with their own realms. They mark their territories (ranging in size from 26-78 sq. km, but can exceed that) by spraying, scratching trees, or leaving droppings in plain sight. Territory size depends on the availability of prey, and a male's range often overlaps with those of several females. Females also tend to stay closer to their mother's home region, while males stray further away, as to enhance his chances of finding a suitable mate.
- Tigers paw pads are more sensitive and vulnerable to damage than other animals... hindered by this, the big cat can only watch as its prey escapes over rocks heated by the sun.
- Male tigers have longer and heavier whiskers than females.
- The white tiger is not a separate race or subspecies of tiger. In fact, they are born in litters of normal cubs. The white variation occurs because of a gene which is normally recessive in Bengal tigers. The white tiger is not a true albino, since its eyes are blue (not pink) and its stripes are black or rusty-brown.
- There are a few black tigers on record that all came from northeast of the Bay of Bengal.
- It is believed that all subspecies of the tiger were derived from the Siberian (also known as the Manchurian).
- The tiger is the largest of the world's 36 cat species. On average, tigers weigh 15 to 20 percent more than African lions, the second largest feline species. The very largest of tigers exceed the largest lions in size by even greater percentages.
- Tiger cubs are exceedingly playful. This activity helps strengthen their growing muscles and also helps them learn stalking and hunting skills.
- Tigers are magnificent athletes. They are tremendously agile and supple for an animal that routinely weighs more than 300 pounds and can exceed 600 pounds. They can leap 13 feet (4m) and scale walls 6 feet (2m) high.
- Tiger mothers are protective and conscientious guardians of their young. Cubs rely on their mothers for food and protection for more than a year.
- The tiger's colouration and markings enable it to blend into the dappled shadows of the forest where it has lived very successfully until the encroachment of man.
- Tigers are often found near water, in which they lie and drink to cool themselves. Since they are large animals, generate substantial body heat and live in warm climates (with the exception of Siberia), tigers are the second most water-loving big cat after the jaguar. Tigers are great swimmers; they can swim for 3 miles without having to rest, and have been known to swim from one island to another.
- The Sumatran tiger is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is the smallest of the five remaining tiger subspecies. A large male Sumatran often weighs only 200 to 220 pounds, less than half as much as a large, male Siberian tiger.
- Of the five remaining tiger subspecies, three - Sumatran, Siberian, and South Chinese - are considered critically endangered. Two species - Bengal and Indochinese - are endangered.
- All the white tigers in captivity spring from a single cat captured in central India in 1952. There are no known white tigers now in the wild. All white tigers are Bengal tigers.
- Many people believe that the tiger, because of his size, color and charisma, is the most exciting large mammal on earth. In spite, or because of that appeal, the worldwide count of tigers in the wild decreased from more than 100,000 to approximately 5,000 - 7,000 during the past century. The population trend continues downward despite dedicated conservation efforts.