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Cats: Felidae

Tiger (panthera Tigris): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The largest of cats, tigers range in color from pale yellow to reddish ochre (brownish yellow). Each tiger has a black stripe pattern that is uniquely its own. In the wild, tigers blend in with the natural background, especially against tall grasses, which break up their body shape. Males have a ruff of hair around the face. Ears are black with a white circle in the middle. The body length is 75 to 150 inches (190 to 310 centimeters). The tail measures 28 to 40 inches (70 to 100 centimeters). Tigers weigh 140 to 670 pounds (65 to 306 kilograms).

Geographic range: Tigers are found in Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, Sumatra, and Russia.

Female tigers raise their cubs for about two years. After that, female cubs usually stay near their mother's home range, but male cubs may travel far away to establish their territories. (© Tom Brakefield/Corbis. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Tigers inhabit coniferous and deciduous forests that provide prey and cover. They also inhabit jungle grasslands and mangrove swamps. They need water for drinking and swimming.

Diet: Tigers prey on deer, wild pigs, wild cattle, and occasionally young elephants and rhinoceroses, birds, reptiles, and fish. An adult eats up to 90 pounds (40 kilograms) per feeding. It hides surplus kill to eat later.

Behavior and reproduction: Tigers are solitary, hunting at night. Good swimmers, they will pursue an animal into the water. They roar to advertise ownership of a territory. They further communicate through scratches on trees and scent marks with urine, feces, and anal and cheek secretions.

A male and female pair off briefly, producing an average of two to three cubs. The mother rears the young for about two years. Young females stay close to their mother's home range, but young males may travel far to secure their own territories. When a male takes over another's territory, he kills the cubs because a tigress will not mate while caring for her young.

Tigers and people: Tigers represent either good or bad spirits in some religions. They are illegally hunted for their fur. Body parts are used by some Asian cultures for medicine. They are killed for attacking humans and livestock.

Conservation status: The tiger is listed as Endangered due to habitat loss, illegal hunting for fur and traditional medicine, and declining prey. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsCats: Felidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Cats And People, Lion (panthera Leo:): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS