This page contains tiger facts, pictures, video and in-depth information.
The tiger is the biggest member of the cat family. Fast, strong and stealthy, it is an apex predator (i.e. top of the food chain) wherever it is found.
The tiger is instantly recognizable due to its striped coat and large size. Yet despite being one of the world’s best known animals, the tiger is an endangered species.
Research suggests that there may be fewer than 3,200 tigers left in the wild. It is quite possible that this fearsome big cat will become extinct in the wild within our lifetimes.
On this page we’ll take an in-depth look at these beautiful, but deadly, predators.
- Tiger Facts At A Glance
- Tiger Family & Related Animals
- Where Do Tigers Live?
- Tiger Behavior (hunting, diet, family life, etc.)
- Tiger Video
- Tiger Subspecies
- Are Tigers Endangered?
- Top Tiger Facts
Tiger Facts at a Glance
- Scientific name: Panthera tigris
- Type of Animal: Mammal, member of the order Carnivora
- Animal Family: Felidae
- Where Found: Southeast Asia, eastern Russia
- Length: males: 250 to 390 cm (98 to 154 in); females: 200 to 275 cm (79 to 108 in)
- Weight: males: 90 to 306 kg (198 to 675 lb.); females: 65 to 167 kg (143 to 368 lb.)
- Shoulder height: 0.7 – 1.22 m (2.3 – 4.0 ft.)
- Conservation Status: Endangered
The tiger has a large, muscular body. Its orange coat is marked with vertical black stripes, the likely purpose of which is to provide camouflage in tall grass and foliage. The fur on its chest, undersides and the insides of its legs is white.
The tiger has the typically flat face of a felid (a felid is a member of the cat family, Felidae). There are patches of white fur around the eyes and on the cheeks and muzzle. The face is marked with black lines. The tiger’s eyes are pale yellow.
On the back of each of the tiger’s ears is a white spot. There are a number of theories as to what the purpose of these spots may be. One suggestion is that they are ‘false eyes’ that serve either to confuse prey or to trick potential predators into thinking that the tiger can see them. Another suggestion is that they are used in communication – an aggressive tiger will twist its ears so that the white spots are visible.
A third theory is that the spots help cubs to keep track of their mother’s location in tall grass. This may be the least likely explanation, as male tigers – who play no part in bringing up the young – also have ear spots.
The tiger’s claws are retractable, and are only extended when in use. This helps to keep them sharp and in good condition. There are five toes on each forefoot and four on each hind foot.
The tiger’s canine teeth are the longest of any felid, and can extend up to 90 mm (3.5 in) from the jaw.
There is a significant size difference between male and female tigers, with males weighing up to 1.7 times more than females.
Very occasionally, a mutation causes a tiger’s coat to be white rather than orange. This only occurs in the Bengal tiger subspecies (see below). Tigers with this mutation are known as ‘white tigers’.
Tiger Family & Related Animals
Tigers are mammals, and the largest (non-hybrid) members of the cat family, Felidae. However, not all tigers are bigger than lions; there is a large overlap in size between the two species.
Hybrids are the offspring of two different species. Occasionally, a male lion and a female tiger may mate and produce a hybrid known as a liger. Ligers are bigger than tigers and are the largest cat.
It may seem hard to believe that the domestic cat (Felis catus), is in the same family as the tiger, but If you watch your pet cat closely and compare its behavior with that of a tiger (on film or at a zoo) you’ll see similarities in the way both animals move and behave!
(Your pet cat may be cute, but at heart he’s a killing machine!)
- You can see every living member of the cat family here: Wild Cat List with Pictures.
Felidae is split into two subfamilies: Pantherinae and Felinae. The tiger is in the subfamily Pantherinae, along with the other species which together are known as the ‘big cats‘.
‘Big cats’ is not a very scientific term, and can mean different things to different people. You can read more about the various definitions here: What Is a Big Cat?
Tigers are members of the Panthera genus, which also includes lions, jaguars, leopards and snow leopards. (A genus is a group of closely related animals.)
The Tiger’s scientific name is Panthera tigris. There are 6 types, or subspecies, of tiger. You can read about them further down the page.
- Confused by words such as ‘genus’ and ‘subspecies’? Check out our Animal Classification page and all will become clear!
Where do tigers live?
Breeding populations of tigers currently exist in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, Russia, and Thailand. They may also be present in China, Myanmar and North Korea.
Use the map below to find out where these counties are:
Tigers used to be present across all of Asia, from Turkey in the west to eastern Russia. Today they are present in only 7% of their former range.
Tigers are found in a variety of habitats, including tropical rainforests, taiga (cold northern forests), swamps and grasslands.
Most tigers live in tropical regions, in which the temperature is hot all year round. One isolated population remains in Siberia, in the Russian Far East. In this temperate region the land is covered by snow for part of the year.
Tigers need a large area to provide them with the food and cover that they require. Because of this, they are vulnerable to habitat loss, particularly from deforestation.
Tiger Hunting & prey
Like all cats, the tiger is an obligate carnivore; it needs to eat meat in order to survive.
The tiger is stealthy, fast and agile. Its size and strength allow it to target large animals. Ungulates (hoofed mammals) such as deer and buffalo form the bulk of its prey.
The tiger hunts alone, usually at night. It stalks and ambushes its prey, relying on an explosive burst of speed to capture its victim rather than a long pursuit.
The tiger is able to reach a maximum speed of around 30 to 40 mph (49 to 65 km/h), but only over a short distance. It usually gets to within 20 m (66 ft.) of its prey before charging.
The tiger holds onto its victim with its forelimbs, and clamps its jaws over the victim’s windpipe or muzzle. The bite throttles the victim and may not even draw blood.
Smaller prey is dispatched with a lethal bite to the back of the neck or, less often, with a swipe from one of the tiger’s immensely powerful forelimbs.
What animals do tigers eat?
The tiger’s natural diet comprises large ungulates (hoofed animals) such as chital (spotted deer), gaur (Indian bison), sambar (a large deer), serows (goat-antelopes), banteng (wild cattle), Manchurian wapiti (elk subspecies), Siberian musk deer, Amur goral (goat-like mammal), moose, and wild boar.
Tigers will also take a wide range of other prey, including: Malayan tapirs, Asian black bears, Ussuri brown bears, wild pigs, small deer species, porcupines, birds and hares.
Do tigers have any known predators?
Tigers are apex predators (top of the food chain) and are usually the hunters, not the hunted. However, buffalo, elephants, and bears will occasionally take down a tiger in self-defense. Tigers also occasionally succumb to crocodiles or packs of dholes (a wild dog found in Asia).
Do tigers live in packs?
Like most cats, tigers are solitary hunters and live alone. Tigers are territorial, and mark their property with urine, droppings, scent marks and scratch marks.
A male tiger’s territory takes in that of several females. He will have mating rights to any of the females who live within his territory, and will fight any male tiger that attempts to enter the territory.
Related female tigers will often live in neighboring territories. A tigress will often let her daughters’ territories overlap her own. Males disperse further than females. Young males either have to claim unused territories, or live as transients until strong enough to challenge another male for an existing territory.
Although male tigers pay no part in rearing their cubs, the cubs are reliant on their father’s protection from other adult males. This is because if an incoming male defeats the existing dominant male, he may also kill any cubs present in the territory.
Tiger Family Life
A male tiger can tell from a tigresses’ scent marks that she is ready to mate. Competing males will fight for the mating rights to a female.
The pregnancy lasts for 3 to 4 months (the average gestation period being 105 days). The tigress gives birth in a den, which consists of a naturally sheltered area such as a cave. Litter size can range from 1 to 6 cubs, but 2 or 3 is the usual number.
The tigress is fiercely protective of her cubs. Despite her diligence, the mortality rate for tigers is around 50% in the first two years.
Tiger cubs are born blind and are completely dependent on their mother. They are weaned at between 3 to 6 months. Cubs reach adult size after 11 months, but stay with their mother for up to 2.5 years before acquiring territories of their own.
You can see a video of a tiger cub in the wild below.
Tigers are found in several unconnected Asian regions. There are slight differences between the tigers found in each region. Six ‘types’, or subspecies, of tiger are currently recognized.
Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris)
The Bengal tiger competes with the Siberian tiger for the title of ‘largest tiger subspecies’. The largest recorded tigers are Siberian tigers. Today, however, the average size of the Bengal tiger is larger than that of a Siberian tiger.
The Bengal tiger is the most common type of tiger with a likely world population of around 1,700. Most Bengal tigers are found in India. They are also found in Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
- Subspecies conservation status: Endangered
Indochinese tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti)
The Indochinese tiger is found in Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, and southwestern China. It can be distinguished from other tiger subspecies by its markings, coloration and skull size.
The subspecies was named after Jim Corbett, a British conservationist who studied and wrote about tigers.
- Subspecies conservation status: Endangered
Malayan tiger (Panthera tigris jacksoni)
The Malayan tiger was recognized as a separate subspecies in 2004. It is very similar in size and appearance to the Indochinese tiger. It is found in the Malay Peninsula. There are fewer than 250 mature Malayan tigers left in the wild.
- Subspecies conservation status: Critically Endangered
Siberian tiger (Also called the Amur Tiger) (Panthera tigris altaica)
The Siberian tiger is also known as the Amur tiger. Today it is found only in the Russian Far East but historically occurred over a much wider area.
The largest ever recorded tigers were Siberian tigers. Today, however, the average size of the Bengal tiger is larger than that of the Siberian tiger.
In the 1930’s there were only between 20 and 30 Siberian tigers left in the wild. A 2010 survey found there to be an estimated 360 wild Siberian tigers.
- Subspecies conservation status: Endangered
South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis)
There have been no official sightings of the South China tiger in the wild since the early 1970’s, and it is likely that this subspecies is now extinct in the wild.
As its name suggest, the South China tiger lived in the forests of southern China. It suffered greatly from loss of habitat and hunting, including government-backed campaigns in the mid-20th century.
There are now plans to re-introduce captive South China tigers into the wild.
- Subspecies conservation status: Critically Endangered (possibly extinct in the wild).
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae)
The Sumatran tiger is found only on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. It is the smallest tiger subspecies.
A 2007 study estimated the breeding population of Sumatran tigers to number 176 to 271 individuals.
- Subspecies conservation status: Critically Endangered
2017 Tiger Subspecies Update
Recent study by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Cat Specialist Group suggests that only two tiger subspecies should be recognized: Panthera tigris tigris (which includes all extant subspecies except for the Sumatran tiger) and Panthera tigris sondaica (which includes the Sumatran tiger).
You can see the results of their findings here.
Are Tigers Endangered?
Sadly the tiger – one of the world’s best-known and most magnificent animals – is endangered. Its population is severely fragmented and the population is decreasing.
It is estimated that there are only around 3,200 tigers left in the wild (some surveys have resulted in even lower population estimates). To get this figure in perspective, if you watch any major sporting event on television the number of people in the crowd will be several times the number of tigers that are alive in the whole world.
There are currently more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild.
The tiger’s endangered status is largely due to habitat loss. Asia is densely populated by humans and throughout the tiger’s range its natural home has been converted into plantations, mines, livestock farms, roads and towns.
Poaching is another major threat to the tiger’s survival. Tiger skins and teeth can fetch high prices and, despite being illegal in many areas, the illegal trade of these products persists. Tiger bones and other body parts are used in traditional Asian medicine, and the species is also hunted to supply this industry.
Livestock owners persecute the tiger as they see it as a threat to their livelihoods.
There are several charities who are working to save tigers. Why not get in touch and see how you can help?
Top Tiger Facts
- Unlike most cats, tigers are good swimmers. They often spend time cooling off in pools of water when they get too hot. Tigers are also known to drag prey into the water on order to drown it.
- If a tiger loses its teeth due to an injury or old age, it will starve to death.
- The tiger’s top speed is 49–65 km/h (30–40 mph), but this cannot be sustained over long distances.
- Tigers are mostly nocturnal (active at night). In areas that aren’t inhabited by humans, tigers may also be seen hunting during the day.
- A tiger’s stripes are like fingerprints: no two individuals have the same pattern.
- A tiger’s tongue is covered with projections called papillae. These help a tiger strip skin, feathers and meat off of their prey. Captive tigers have even been known to strip the paint from items in their cages.
- There are more tigers in captivity than in the wild.
- White spots called “ocelli” on the back 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.
- The name Tiger comes from the Greek word Tigris, which means ‘arrow’.
- Captive lions and tigers occasionally successfully mate, the resulting offspring being known as “ligers”.
Tiger Facts: Conclusion
We hope that you have enjoyed this in-depth guide to the magnificent tiger. If you are shocked to find that this well-known species is in danger of becoming extinct in the wild then spread the word, and get involved with an animal conservation society.
Related Pages at Active Wild
Now that you’re a tiger expert, take a look at the following related pages: