Tigers are voted as the most favorite animal by 50,000 people from over 73 countries during a poll conducted by the animal planet! Being the most admired and adored animal, their numbers keep going down drastically. Most people are not aware of many of the interesting facts about them.
The word “Tiger” is said derived from the Greek term, “Tigris” of Persian origin meaning ‘Arrows’. This refers to the speed of the animals as they are as swift and fast as an arrow in the wild. They can sprint at a speed of 60 km/hr over short distances.
Tigers are famous for their fierce and gigantic personality. Most of us have heard about them being poached incessantly, and most of the species are becoming extinct due to lack of sufficient prey and loss of habitat. There is widely spread misconception that these tigers are being killed for medicinal purposes, but actually most of the medicines made are available from many other sources than from the tiger’s parts. They are indeed used for exotic purposes more, than for their traditional medicinal properties. They lose their habitat because of deforestation and human occupation in their territories. Most of the tigers starve to death due to lack of prey as most of the other animals too are becoming extinct because of man’s selfish and cruel activities and other natural causes. All these lead to the extinction of this rare and amazing animal of the wild.
There are many misconceptions and myths regarding tigers which we believe to be true and real! You may wonder what makes the tigers so special among all the animals of the wild. They are special because they have many distinct features and characteristics which are unique only to them when compared to all the other animals. These animals need human’s protection from fellow men’s inhuman activities. Here are some of the most interesting facts about tigers which will make you admire them even more than you usually do and inspire you to protect them even more!
10. The Grand Camouflage
Tigers are differentiated from other cat species only by their distinct mark – The Stripes! The pattern of the stripes on the body of every tiger is unique like the human finger prints. No two tigers have the same pattern of stripes on their body. In fact their stripes are not just on their fur but are also imprinted on their skin. Even when all their fur is shaved, you can see their stripes on their body over their skin. The stripes on their body act as a camouflage to help them conceal themselves among the thick grasses and bushes in their habitat when they are about to attack their prey. Tigers come in different colors like white tiger, golden tiger, blue or slate colored tiger and the black tiger which is thought to be unreal and if existed, it could only be a species of intermittent mutations than being distinct species.
9. Fierce and Fiery!
When you see a tiger’s eyes, your body trembles and your mind shudders! They are fierce and fiery. Tigers have ‘circular’ pupils and their irises are yellow in color while the domestic cats are found to have slit pupils. This is due to the fact that although the tigers are considered to be nocturnal, some of the subspecies are crepuscular. Nocturnal animals are those that hunt at night. Crepuscular are those that prefer hunting during the day time. Most tigers are found to prefer hunting during the daytime rather than hunting at night. But tigers have night vision that is six times better than those of the human beings. Tigers are also found to be completely blind during the first week of their life. When they are happy, they squint or close their eyes! But closing their eyes would imply lesser defense and greater danger of being attacked. Thus they express their happiness only when they are in a comfortable and safe environment.
8. “Trespassers will be prosecuted”
Every tiger has its own territory with in which it confines its movements. They hunt and roam around only with in the limits. They mark their territories by scratching the trees and make use of their urine as well. A tiger can easily identify the age, gender and its reproductive capability and other conditions by the smell of its urine. No two male or female tigers’ territory will overlap each other. But, a male tiger’s territory is always bigger than that of a tigress’ so that they overlap each other in order to facilitate mating and reproduction. The size of a female’s territory would be about 20 km while a male’s territory would be as large as 60 to 100 km depending on the availability of food and other resources for their survival. They get irritated when a tiger of the same sex crosses their territory and sometimes they get into violent combats too!
7. Eat and Prey! — Ladies and Kids first!
Tigers are carnivorous and eat a minimum of 34 kg of meat at once and can even starve for almost 30 days at a stretch. When they hunt, if there are any female tigers and cubs, they generally allow them to eat first unlike the lions, which do the opposite. Once the tigresses and cubs finish eating, the tigers move on to eat the rest. It is found that only 1 of 20 attempts in hunting the prey is successful. Hence they are mostly prone to starving and die eventually due to lack of enough food. They eat animals of small as well as medium size and mostly prefer ungulates that weigh at least 90 kilograms or even more. If the food obtained after the hunt is large or more than sufficient, they hide them under leaves and come back to eat them later.
6. Ambush, Swift or Streak?
A group of tigers is generally termed as a streak or ambush or swift. All these terms describe their characters and features. They are quite swift when it comes to their movements and hunting. Tigers generally use ambush as a method when they attack their prey. Sometimes they imitate the sounds of other animals to attract them and finally attack them once they fall for the trick. In fact, if the targeted animal sees them face to face, the chance of being attacked is quite low as the tiger loses the sense of surprise and attack! They usually make use of their strong canine teeth that are as long as 10 cm and sometimes they just smack the animal with their paws. With a single blow with their paws, they can smash the skull of a bear! They also use strangulation to kill the prey or nail them down until the prey dies due to bleeding. In come cases, like the crocodile, they have very thick skin on the upper surface of their body and can easily attack the tiger when they are in water. During such circumstances the tiger swiftly grabs the crocodile and turns it to tear the bottom skin which is soft and tender with its canine teeth.
5. Long and Strong!
A tiger’s limbs are very strong and muscular that they can keep standing even when the tiger is dead! The canine tooth of a tiger is usually around 30 cm long and very sharp that they can even bite through bones of the prey! Tigers weigh around 100 – 300 kg. They are the largest cat species on the earth. They are of varied sizes ranging from the smallest subspecies – the Sumatran tiger which are of 2 meter long and weigh around 100 kg to the largest subspecies – the Siberian tiger that are 3.5 meter long and weigh over 300 kg! They can jump about 5 meters vertically and can leap over a distance of 6 meters horizontally.
4. Water’s Friend
Tigers are adept swimmers unlike the other species of the cat family! When they are young, they enjoy swimming and playing in water. They literally love to spend time and take bath in lakes, ponds and rivers. Once they become adults, they swim over very long distances to hunt other animals and they bring them to their habitat by dragging the prey along the water after the hunt. Tigers can swim over 6 to 7 kilometers across a river and are capable of swimming 29 kilometers in a day! The upper side of a tiger’s tongue has fleshy bristles that helps them to wash themselves with their tongues and also to comb their fur. Thus they do not drink water by lapping them up with their tongue. Instead, they cup the back side of their tongue and flick water into their mouth. During very hot weather conditions, they enjoy cooling off their bodies in the water bodies as well!
3. The White Tiger
White tigers are not a special species or subspecies but only a very rare pigmentation variant. Another misconception is that they are considered to be albinos – that is absence of pigments, even though the pigments are found in the stripes of a white tiger. They are mostly found among the Bengal tigers as they carry the recessive genes that cause the white color variation in them. White tigers are prone to have crossed eyes. Apart from all these, the white tigers are famous for their blue eyes that make them sparkle!
The most famous misconception is that tigers are man eaters. No. they actually do not target human beings as their prey. They attack humans only when they are disturbed all of a sudden or surprised by human presence. Also when a mother is along with her cubs, they may feel insecure and attack a human who comes along the way and disturbs them. But, tigers once they eat human flesh, they may get used to them as well. Most of the man-eating tigers are found to be old and canine-less. They tend to target men as they cannot hunt their targeted animals due to their lack of strength and canine teeth. One such is the case of a Champawat tiger. She is estimated to be responsible for the death of 430 humans. She was found to have lost two of her canine teeth.
1. Liger and Tiglon
Tigers not only mate with fellow tigresses but also with other cat species in captivity. They also mate with lions to give birth to hybrids! A male lion produces a large offspring while a female lion produces smaller ones. The female tiger does not have such problems. Thus a male lion and a female tiger mate and produce a really large hybrid – the Liger. While a male tiger and a female lion produce a smaller hybrid – the Tiglon. Ligers are 4 meters long and are the largest cat hybrid. A leopard and tiger also mate naturally and give birth to a hybrid which has stripes that break down into spots eventually along their lengths.