This page contains information about tigers, and a list of facts about tigers for kids (and adults). Tigers are the biggest members of the cat family; they’re even bigger than lions. Tigers are fast, strong and stealthy; apex predators wherever they are found.
There are 6 subspecies of tiger alive today. Sadly, three of these are not just endangered; they’re critically endangered. It is possible that they will be extinct in the wild within our lifetimes.
Tigers are mammals, and the largest members of the cat family, Felidae.
The Tiger’s scientific name is Panthera tigris.
The six extant (alive today) subspecies of tiger are:
- Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
- Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
- Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)
- Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)
- South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)
- Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) (Also called the Amur Tiger)
It may seem hard to believe, but tigers are in the same family as domestic cats. If you watch your pet cat closely and compare it with a tiger (on film or at a zoo) you might see similarities in the way both animals move and behave. All cats, from domestic cats to tigers, are stealthy, fast, able to leap and climb, and have sharp teeth and sharp, retractable claws.
Where do tigers live?
Tigers live in Southeast Asia, including China and eastern parts of Russia. Tigers live in a variety of habitats, and are found in swamps, rainforests or grasslands.
Tigers need a large area to provide them with the food and cover that they require. Because they need such a lot of space, they are vulnerable to habitat loss, particularly from deforestation.
What do tigers eat?
Tigers are carnivores (meat eaters). These stealthy jungle cats are deadly predators (an animal that naturally preys on others). Tigers are mostly nocturnal (active at night).
Tigers rely on stealth and bursts of high speed rather than long pursuits. Tigers stalk or ambush their prey, taking their time before striking.
A meal for a tiger may be a deer, a monkey, buffaloes, or baby elephant. Tigers have been known to take cattle, and other livestock (farm animals).
Tiger attacks on humans, although rare, do occur.
If food is scarce, tigers eat berries and some plants.
How big are tigers?
Large male Tigers are between 9 and 9.3 ft. (2.73 and 2.83 m) long, including a 3 ft (0.91 m) tail. They are around 3 ft. (0.91 m) tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 400 and 500 pounds (181 and 226 kg). Females are around 1 ft (.3 m) less in length and 100 pounds (45 kg) lighter than the males.
The different species of tiger vary in size. The largest species, the Siberian tiger, can be significantly bigger than this.
What colour are tigers?
Most tigers are orange, black and white, but occasionally tigers have different colour variations. White tigers with black stripes, and black tigers are known. Often zoos and circuses want tigers with unusual colors, so they are sought out by poachers (people who hunt illegally). The unusual tigers are then bred to produce more of the valuable colour variations.
Do tigers have any known predators?
Tigers are usually the hunters, not the prey. However, buffalo, elephants, and bears will occasionally take down a tiger in self defence.
The biggest danger tigers face are humans. People take tigers from the wild for use in zoos, circuses, and as exotic pets. They are hunted for their fur and stuffed as decorations. Jewelry, belts, and purses are made from their fur.
Do tigers live alone or in groups?
Tigers are solitary hunters and live alone, only meeting to mate and staying together while a female has cubs. Tiger cubs live with their mothers for about eighteen months, and then go off to find their own territory.
Tigers mark their territory with urine, droppings, scent, and scratch marks. They are extremely protective of their territories. A male tiger’s territory takes in that of several females.
You can see a video of a tiger cub in the wild below.
Are Tigers Endangered?
Yes, tigers are an endangered species. The IUCN Red List shows that every species of tiger is at least Endangered.
Of the six subspecies of tiger, three, the Sumatran Tiger, Malayan Tiger and South China Tiger, are Critically Endangered.
How Many Tigers Are Left In The Wild?
It is estimated that there are around 3,200 tigers in the wild today. If you watch a football game on television it is likely that there are more people in the crowd than there are tigers left in the wild.
Tiger Numbers Increasing?
Stop press: a recent (2016) survey has found that global tiger numbers are increasing. The survey found that there are now 3,890 wild tigers. This is an 690 increase from the 3,200 wild tigers counted in 2010.
This is good news, but there is still a long way to go.
Why Are Tigers Endangered?
Tigers are endangered mainly because of the growth of human populations in the countries where they live. Humans move into the areas that tigers used to live in. Tigers are pushed out into smaller and smaller areas. As we’ve found, tigers are also hunted by humans.
There are several charities who are working to save tigers, one of which is UK based Tiger Awareness.
Facts About Tigers For Kids
- Unlike most cats, tigers are very good swimmers. They often spend time cooling off in pools of water when they get too hot. Tigers can also drag prey into the water and drown them.
- Tigers rely on their strong jaws to kill prey. They often grip them by the neck to kill them. Tiger’s strong jaws easily rip apart prey. If a tiger loses it’s teeth because of an injury or old age, they will starve to death.
- Tiger’s stripes are like fingerprints, no two have the same stripes.
- A tiger’s tongue is covered with projections called papillae. These help a tiger strip skin, feathers, and meat off of their prey. Tigers have even been known to lick paint off their surroundings in captivity.
- There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild. If this doesn’t change, tigers will cease to exist in the wild.
- Most tiger cubs don’t make it to adulthood. Predators like jackals and hyenas are a threat to cubs. So are humans who sell the cubs to zoos, circuses, and exotic pet markets. Disease and starvation are other causes of death in cubs.
- White spots called “ocelli” on the backs of a tiger’s ears help tigers communicate with each other in the thick grass and brush.
- Tigers don’t usually attack other tigers. If one has taken down a large animal they will often share with other tigers. In the case of smaller prey, the tigers wait their turn to eat. A male will usually let a female and her cubs eat first.
- Tigers can run at speeds of over thirty five miles per hour in the wild.
- The name Tiger comes from the Greek word Tigris which means arrow.
- In captivity, lions and tigers mate to make “ligers”, a mix of the two cats.
Tiger Activities For Kids:
- Fold a large piece of paper in half. On one side pretend you are a tiger in captivity. What is your life like? What do you eat? Where do you live? Do you ever wish you were in the wild? How did you get taken captive? Paint a picture of a tiger in captivity. On the other half of the page pretend you are a tiger in the wild. What do you eat? How do you feel? What predators are you on the look out for? Paint a picture of a tiger in the wild. Discuss the good and bad about each of the tiger’s lives. Which one do you think is happier and why?
- A “ haiku” is a traditional Chinese poem that has seventeen syllables and three lines. The first and third line have five syllables each, the second line has seven. Since tigers are native to China, as well as an important part of the culture, write a haiku about tigers. Follow the traditional formula, and use descriptive words. Then illustrate your poem.
- Use graph paper and make a tiger word search. Use words from this article. Trade with a friend and see who can solve their puzzle faster.
Learn about more amazing animals here: Rainforest Animals.
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