Natural Histories

photograph of a Sunda Pangolin


Panthera tigris


Tigers are a large cat species. This species has reddish-orange fur with vertical black stripes of different sizes, and the fur of the belly, chest, throat, inside of legs and muzzle are white. There are patches of white fur above the eyes, cheeks, and on the back of each ear. The body size and features of this species can vary among subspecies. The Siberian tigers, aka. Amur tigers, (P.t. altaica) are the largest of tigers; males can be 3.7 m long and weigh 432 kg while the females grow to be 2.44 m long and 168 kg. Sumatran tigers (P.t. sumatrae) are the smallest of living tigers (males are 2.34 m long and weigh 136 kg, while the females grow to be 1.98 m long and weigh 91 kg).


There are 8 subspecies of tigers found in different regions. Siberian tigers (P. t. altaica) are found in a small part of Russia; Bengal tigers (P.t. tigris) are found in India, Bengladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and China; Indochinese tigers (P.t. corbetti) are found in Camboida, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam; South China tigers (P.t. amoyensis) are found in isolated areas of southcentral China; and Sumatran tigers (P.t. sumatrea) are found on the Indonesian island Sumatra. Stable populations of tigers in the wild exist in northeastern China, Korea, Russia and parts of India and the Himalayan region. This animal can survive in a variety of climates (ranging from warm moist climates to cold climates with temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius) and habitats that provide vegetative cover; such as tropical lowland evergreen forests, monsoonal forests, dry thorn forests, scrub oak and birch woodlands, tall grass jungles, and mangrove swamps.

Feeding Behavior and Diet

Hunting mostly, but not exclusively, large ungulates (hoofed animals; such as sambar, chital, barking deer and sika deer) this carnivorous predator prefers to hunt in dense vegetation. Tigers are ambush predators, leaping on to their prey. In pursuit of prey, tigers can jump 8-10 meters. To kill smaller prey, tigers will bite the back of the neck. Larger prey is killed by biting the neck, crushing the trachea and suffocating their prey.


Tigers are solitary mammals and only come together to mate. Females are able to mate every 3-9 weeks but they will only receive males during a 3-6 day period. Males will compete with other local males to mate with a female. 103 days after mating, the female gives birth to a litter of 2-3 young called “cubs” while in a den. The female nurses the cubs until they are 90-100 days old but they begin eating solid foods 2 months after birth. Cubs remain with their mother until they are 18 months-3 years old. Female tigers reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years old while the males reach sexual maturity at 3-4 years old.

Months and Times of Activity

Although this species can be active any time of the day, it is mostly nocturnal (most active at night) because that is when their prey is most active.

Special Features, Stories, Relationships

•    Similar to a housecat, tigers have retractable claws (making them excellent climbers) and a rough tongue covered with hard papillae (used to scrape meat from bones). Unlike a housecat, tigers love water, they are excellent swimmers.
•    A tiger’s roar is a way to show other tigers dominance and how large it is from far away.
•    The Siberian, South China and Sumatran tigers are considered critically endangered. Bengal and Indochinese tigers are endangered while the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers are now extinct.
•    To read legends featuring this animal go to:
•    Children’s book featuring this animal: Louis the Tiger Who Came From the Sea by Sholto Walker


Dacres, K. 2007. "Panthera tigris" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2014 at