Tigers are the largest cat species on earth and are part of the genus Panthera family. These huge felines have vertical stripes decorating their orange and white coats.
You may not think it, but tigers are camouflaged in their natural environment. The black stripes help to distort the look of a tiger’s body, and their orange fur blends in well with the beams of sunlight on the forest floor, or in the long grass.
It may be easy for us humans to spot a bright orange tiger, but it is a different story entirely for their unsuspecting prey.
Speaking of prey, tigers are apex predators and eat a varied, meat-based diet. Tigers eat a wide range of animals, including elephant calves, deer, buffalo, and wild boar.
When it comes to their personality, tigers can be a bit of a mystery. A tiger can be both fierce and calm, fearless and emotional, adventurous and unpredictable. Basically exactly the same as our own fluffy house cats, it’s all on their terms.
So Let’s take a deeper look at them.
Tiger Historic Range
Tigers can only be found in a handful of Asian countries today, but this was not always the case. They were once found in areas from Turkey to Eastern Russia and Southeast Asia.
Research now shows that tigers have lost around 93% of their historical range, and there are now more tigers living in captivity than in the wild, this is just heartbreaking. And to add to this, some subspecies that were once thriving have become extinct, including the Java and Bali tigers.
The range of tigers today is unbelievably smaller than it once was, and there are only a few countries that these animals can call home, places like Nepal, Thailand, and India.
Throughout history, the word tiger has taken several different forms, including Tigre, Tygre, and Tyger. All the different variations of tiger originate from the Old English word Tigras. The word also derives from the French Tigre and Latin Tigris.
Tigris is a form of the Avestan word Tigri, meaning arrow. In Old Persian, the word Tigra means pointed or sharp and has strong links to the word arrow. All of these meanings perfectly suit the ferocious tiger, an animal with sharp teeth, pointy claws, and a killer pounce that resembles an arrow aimed at the kill.
Taxonomy sounds like a complicated word, but it is simply the scientific classification system used when studying animals, plants, humans, and other organisms.
Want to know all the ways a Tiger is classified? Here is the taxonomy information for the biggest wild cats on earth.
- Kingdom: Animals
- Phylum: Vertebrates
- Class: Mammals
- Order: Carnivores
- Suborder: Feliformia
- Subfamily: Pantherinae
- Genus: Panthera
- Species: Panthera tigris
Tigers are stunning wild cats, but did you know that there are more than one tiger species? In fact, there are six subspecies of tiger, and these are classified into two separate groups, recognized by the WWF.
Continental tigers are the largest big cats living in mainland Asia and the largest subspecies. This group includes the following types of tigers: Indochinese, Malayan, Bengal, and Siberian tiger.
Years ago, this subspecies also included the Caspian tiger. Unfortunately, these tigers are now extinct, and the South China species is considered to be critically endangered.
Panthera Tigris Sondaica
The Sunda tigers were originally found in several parts of the Sunda islands of Indonesia. Unfortunately, today this subspecies of tiger is only found in the small areas of forest remaining in Sumatra – one of the largest Greater Sunda islands.
Historically, Sunda tigers included the Java and Bali tigers. Sadly, both of these beautiful tigers are now extinct, and the Sumatran tiger is the last living tiger of this subspecies.
Where Are Tigers From
Despite all the shows about big cat sanctuaries here in the US, tigers are not native to North America. The different types of tigers come from various parts of the world, the majority living in south and southeast Asia.
Let’s take a look at each Tiger and find out what country they call home.
These tigers live in India and are sometimes known as Indian tigers. The Bengal tiger population makes up over half of the current wild tiger populations. As well as India, they can be found in Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.
There are less than 300 Malayan tigers living in the wild today. This subspecies of the tiger can be found living on the Malayan peninsula and in the south of Thailand. The Malayan tiger’s historical range once stretched as far as Singapore, but the country has not had native tigers since the 1930s.
This subspecies of Tiger originates from southeast Asia. They live in subtropical and tropical forests, but tiger populations here are in decline. It is a sad fact, but today these tigers are thought to only be breeding in southern Thailand and Myanmar.
These tigers, like all of the above, are named after their location. Sumatran tigers live in the remaining rainforests on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. We were interested to learn that Sumatra Island is the only place where you will find orangutans, rhinos, elephants, and wild tigers all living together in the wild.
Amur tigers were once known as Siberian tigers and are native to eastern Russia. Similar to most tiger subspecies, the Amur tiger population is reducing, and there are now only approximately 600 remaining in the wild. Amur tigers are found in the Khabarovsk and Primorsky provinces of Siberia, with small populations crossing the border into China.
There is no mistaking a Tiger with any other cat, their distinctive orange coat with black stripes is easy to pick out in a lineup. So, with obvious black stripes and orange fur aside, let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of wild tigers.
Tigers can range in size from six to ten feet long, this also means that they are the largest Asian big cats. Females are quite a bit smaller, coming in between 4.8 and 5.8 feet in length. An interesting fact is that these figures actually don’t include their tail length, which is normally 50% of their overall head and body length.
These bad boys can have huge top weights, with males weighing up to 660 pounds, so you can understand why they are such fierce predators. The smallest Sumatran tigers have a top weight of around 310 pounds meaning that they are literally half the size of their bigger cousins, the continental tiger.
We all know that tigers are best known for their bright orange coats and thick black stripes, and an interesting fact is that every tiger’s stripe pattern is individual to them, just like our fingerprints.
Did you also know that you can actually get an albino tiger that has pink eyes? Now, these tigers will not survive in the wild as they will have absolutely no camouflage at all and be easily picked off by predators.
An adult male tiger is a purposeful and well-built killing machine, with their huge muscular body, massive shoulders, paws, and forearms, not many prey escape their clutches. Adult females are around one and a half times smaller than males but are just as deadly.
Tigers communicate in several different ways. We all know that our beloved pet cats like to purr and meow, but tigers are on a much bigger scale. Tigers growl, roar, and make a chuffing sound to communicate, but did you know that tigers can’t purr? In fact, the only big cat that can make a purring sound is the cheetah.
Lone tigers are territorial animals and will scent mark and scratch trees to ensure that everyone knows that they are on their land.
Every living creature on earth has a natural habitat, and an animal’s habitat must have everything they need to breed, feed and survive.
Different tigers have different habitats, just like different species of monkeys or any other species. One tiger subspecies may live in the rainforest, while another is roaming through the hot savanna desert, for example.
Here are some of the most common tiger habitats:
- Mangrove swamps
- Mangrove forests
- Lowland forests
- Rocky areas
- Evergreen forests
A tiger’s habitat needs to cover a large area and have water sources, places to shelter, and plenty of available prey. A male tiger will need approximately 300 sq km of natural habitat to roam, while females only require 100 sq km.
Adult tigers are protective of their territory, and they will protect their habitat by scent marking and warning off intruders with their terrifying roar.
Where Are the Most Tigers in the World?
We know that tigers in the wild are critically endangered in most areas, but the population of our stripy feline friends hasn’t completely vanished yet. While the historical range of these powerful creatures has reduced to just 7%, tigers are still fighting for their rightful place in the wild.
According to the WWF, there are approximately 4500 tigers left in the wild, and Bengal tigers make up most of this number (around 3000). The great news is that while they do remain an endangered species, tiger populations have been increasing in recent years.
India is home to approximately 75% of the wild tiger population, with 53 tiger reserves, tiger numbers have been able to grow in India, and the population has definitely become more stable. These nature reserves provide tigers with a safe environment for mating, as well as surviving and thriving out of captivity.
Ecology and Behavior
Learning about an animal’s day-to-day life is fascinating, right? Just think about how much time you have spent studying the weird and wonderful habits of your pets. Tigers are mysterious creatures, but here is what we do know about them:
Daily and Social Activities
Have you ever wondered what the modern tiger does to pass the time? Well, as a nocturnal species, these big cats tend to sleep for large portions of the daylight hours. However, unlike many wild cats, tigers can swim and like to spend time cooling off in lakes and rivers.
And as a cousin of our domesticated furry feline, the tiger plays games in the same way. In fact, these big fluff balls like nothing more than splashing around in the water or climbing trees.
It’s true that tigers like to hunt at night, but studies have found that if there were no humans to fear, they would seek out prey during the day too. However, due to the increasing threat from humans, tigers have become nocturnal.
While you may occasionally raid the fridge for a midnight snack, tigers are killing at least one large animal a week during the middle of the night. It is estimated that tigers eat every two days and will catch a fresh kill approximately 50 times a year.
These cats have a solitary nature and tend to hunt alone, choosing an ambush method of attack. That being said, there have been rare occasions where two tigers have worked together on a hunt to catch and kill prey species together. However, tigers are not pack animals like lions and will do the majority of their hunting alone.
Predators and Competitors
Tigers are apex predators, meaning they exist at the top of the food chain. There are no other animals in the forest trying to eat a powerful tiger, that’s for sure. However, that doesn’t mean adult tigers have an easy life, free from fear of attack.
Tigers can coexist in habitats with leopards, dholes, Asiatic wild dogs, and wolves – all predators but one animal that they won’t dig a fight with is sloth bears, as they are known to be really dangerous even to a 600-pound killing machine.
While an adult tiger has little to fear, the same can’t be said for their cubs. Baby tigers are at risk of being killed by elephants and hunted down by crocodiles, snakes, leopards, and hyenas.
The sad fact is that the biggest threat to tigers is not other tigers but people. Human activities have been responsible for the huge reduction of the tiger population over the last century.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Tigers gain sexual maturity around 3 years of age, and female tigers can give birth to up to 7 cubs at a time. A tigress can have a litter of cubs every two years.
Male tigers reach sexual maturity a little later on, usually around 5 years of age. As tigers are solitary animals, they do not meet their mate and go on to have a happy little tiger family, these animals will mate over several days and then part company, never to meet again.
Cub mortality is high in tigers as it is going to be really difficult for single female tigers to feed and protect up to seven cubs. Normally only around two out of each litter survive to adulthood, and this is if the mom is a good hunter and can provide enough food to feed her little family.
The female tiger will also take the lead in teaching her cubs how to hunt, swim and even kill prey in the water, now there are not many land-based predators that can also kill in the water!
The average lifespan of a wild tiger is 14 to 16 years. However, they can live up to 20 years, especially when they are well looked after in captivity and safe from the risks of the wild.
Why Are Tigers Endangered?
This is really not a difficult question to answer, and the truth is that tigers are endangered and definitely extinct because of us.
Not only have we destroyed their habitat, but now we hunt them because they threaten our communities, and if that’s not bad enough, we are poaching these amazing creatures for so-called medicinal purposes.
Let’s dive deeper.
Tigers have lost more than 90% of their habitat across the world. Their populations depend on them having large areas of land to roam, but humans are ripping apart the homes of these big cats and using them for other purposes. Forests have been torn down to make space for agricultural farming and to build roads.
With their habitats destroyed, tigers have no choice but to stray into populated areas to hunt domestic livestock. With this, the likelihood of people encountering a tiger and suffering tiger bites is becoming far more common as we take away more and more of their natural habitat.
When tiger attacks become a risk to local communities, residents have no other choice but to hunt them down and kill them to solve the problem and eliminate the threat.
Tigers became an endangered species due to habitat loss, but tiger poaching played a huge part too.
Killing tigers for sport is illegal, but there is still a market for body parts, things like tiger bones, teeth, and eyes all bring big paydays for those that can supply them, especially for buyers in Chinese medicine. Their pelts are also sold on the black market, and poaching is used to keep the illegal trade of tiger parts thriving.
Why Are Tigers Going Extinct?
Tigers are becoming extinct for the exact same reasons as to why they are endangered – humans. Not only are we taking over their habitat and leaving them with no other choice but to compete with us for territory and food, but we are also poaching and hunting them for every body part you can think of.
Can we help the wild tiger populations, of course, we can, and taking an active interest in tiger conservation is a good way to save tigers, more about that later.
How Many Tigers Are Left in the World?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the tiger population is believed to actually be stable if not increasing. There are currently 40% more tigers in the world, with numbers between 3,726 and 5,578 wild tigers this is a huge jump on the numbers from 2015.
Its believed that this increase is being seen due to projects such as habitat protection and improved monitoring of the species. This also means that hope is not lost and conservation of the tiger, through breeding programs and safe habitats such as a national park, actually works.
At the start of the last century, there were 100, 000 tigers in the wild, today there are just over 4000. You are going to need to take a minute to let those numbers sink in.
Tiger conversation efforts are essential to keeping these powerful and majestic creatures as a part of the animal kingdom. It was a human intervention that caused this huge decline in tiger numbers, and it is down to us humans to bring these numbers back up again through tiger conservation efforts.
Conservation status – All of the tiger subspecies are classified as endangered. Malayan and Southern China tigers have a critically endangered status. Bengal and Siberian tigers live in two different parts of the world, and while the Bengal is considered endangered, the Siberian tiger isn’t due to the fact that there are around 400 left in the wild.
Protected areas – A home should be a safe place to live, and this is the same for our wild animal friends. Tigers need spaces to live where they are safe from poaching and habitat loss. Over the years, more and more protected areas have been created in the historical range countries of tigers.
There are over 50 tiger conservation areas in India, seven of which can be found in the Saptuda landscape, the Sariska, Kanha, and Pench National Parks are all protected areas where tigers can roam safely.
What Is the WWF Doing?
The WWF has set itself a goal to double the number of tigers in the wild, and to get to their goal, they are concentrating on conservation in areas like Nepal, India, and Russia.
This hugely ambitious goal is a direct result of the Tiger Summit in 2010, when all the governments concerned committed their resources and time to make this dream come true.
In order to achieve their ambitious goal, the WWF had to start monitoring both their tigers and their prey because, without prey, no tigers are going to survive, let alone breed.
This was done through the use of some super high-tech equipment such as camera traps, tracking technology, and DNA collection. All this information helps them to plan their next line of attack
To further help these endangered animals, they also run an adoption site where you can donate money to your particular tiger each month.
Relations With Humans
Tigers are not a major threat to humans, the opposite is actually true. However, man-eating tigers do exist, purely out of their desperation for food and survival.
At the beginning of the 20th century, a tigress killed over 400 people in Nepal – but this is not common tiger behavior. In fact, tigers are often wary of humans and will only attack if they feel under threat.
If you have seen shows like Tiger King, you will know that tigers bred in captivity can be affectionate when they are young. However, even tigers living in zoos and sanctuaries can be unpredictable and dangerous, after all, these are wild animals and not pets.
Role of Tigers in Culture
Tigers play a huge role in Asian culture and can be found in Chinese art, stories, and folklore dating back centuries. The tiger is the 3rd animal in the Chinese zodiac, and people born in the year of the tiger are thought to be strong, sympathetic, brave, and courageous.
In Indian culture, tigers are linked to Shiva and Durga deities. Bengal tigers are the national animal of India and are a symbol of power, beauty, fearlessness, and elegance.
Tigers in Western culture are also a symbol of strength and courage. These big cats can be found in several films, stories, and cartoons popular in the West, even though this is not their original home.
How Many Types of Tigers Are There?
There are nine subspecies of Tiger, only 6 of which are still alive today. The Bali tiger, Caspian tiger, and Javan tigers are all extinct in the wild, and there are not thought to be any currently living in captivity.
The six tiger species still roaming the earth include the South China tiger, Bengal tiger, Indochinese tiger, Sumatran tiger, Amur tiger, and Siberian tiger.
What Is the Scientific Name of the Tiger?
The scientific name used for Tigers is Panthera tigris. Tigers are the largest cats classified with the genus Panthera; other members of this family of animals include lions, jaguars, and leopards.
What Is the Latin Name of the Tiger?
The Latin name for a tiger is Panthera tigris.
Can I Pet a Tiger?
Tigers are wild animals and can not be domesticated like regular cats. However, captive tigers and their cubs can be petted by their owners, if they have formed a strong connection. Baby tiger cubs are cuddly and will enjoy being petted, but once they grow large enough to knock you over, it is best to keep your distance.
Lion vs Tiger, Which Is the More Dominant Predator?
Studies suggest that a Tiger is more likely to be victorious in a fight against a lion. Tigers are faster, more agile, and have a more ferocious attitude. That being said, lions hunt in packs and are likely to have more success than lone tigers looking for food.
Tigers were once found all over the world, but now they are only in small areas across Asia. They are the largest of the Asian wild cats and are incredibly powerful yet graceful animals. Tigers are not a cat that is easily mistaken for something else with distinctive black stripes and orange fur.
If you love animals as much as we do, then there is no way that you can not find the majestic and stunning tiger intriguing. While the leopard, lion, and other big cat species have their own appeal, there’s no wild cat quite as striking as the tiger.
Tigers are far more than an orange coat and black stripes these animals are the mysterious and beautiful creatures of children’s books, they play a huge part in many cultures, and without them, so much would be lost.
Can you imagine having to explain to your children, or your children’s children, what a tiger is? And unfortunately, if we do not do something about this now, this is exactly the reality that we are heading towards.
There are over 7000 tigers living in captivity in the US alone, and although many of these are in approved zoos where they are safe, and well looked after, many are not. The hard truth is that these are wild animals that should be living out their days in the jungles and deserts of the world and not in a cage!