1902 Encyclopedia > Tiger


TIGER. Although this name is often applied by settlers and sportsmen to several of the larger Felidae, as the leopard of Africa and the jaguar of America, it should properly be restricted to the well-known striped species of Asia, Felis tigris of Linnaeus, an animal which is only rivaled by the lion in size, strength, and ferocity among the cat-like beats of prey. It is a true cat on a large scale, and possesses all the essential characters of the genus as defined in the article MAMMALIA (vol. xv. P. 434). It belongs to the section in which the pupil of the eye contracts under the stimulus of light into a round spot and not a vertical slit, and in which the hyoid bone is connected loosely with the skull by a long ligament, instead of by a continuous chain of bones. In the points it agrees with the lion and the leopard and differs from the common cat. Almost everything that is said in the article LION (vol. xiv. pp. 680-681) of the structure of the skeleton, teeth, and claws of that animal will apply equally well to the tiger, the difference between the two lying mainly in the skin and its coverings. There are, however, slight distinctions in the proportionate size of the lower teeth, the general form of the cranium, and the relative length of the nasal bones and ascending processes of the maxillaries by which the skull of the lion and tiger can be easily discriminated by the practiced observer.

Although examples of both species present considerable variations in size, and reliance cannot always be placed upon alleged dimensions, especially when taken from skins stripped from the body, it seems well ascertained that the length of the largest-sized Bengal tiger may exceed that of any lion. Larger specimens are certainly recorded, but 10 feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail is, according to Jerdon, an unusual length for a large male tiger. The female is somewhat smaller and has a lighter and narrower head. The tiger has no name, but in old males the hair of the cheeks is rather long and spreading. The ground color of the upper and outer parts of the head, body, limbs, and tail is a bright rufous fawn, and these parts are beautifully marked with transverse stripes of a dark, almost black color. The markings vary much in different individuals, and even on the two sides of the same individual. The under parts of the body, the inside of the limbs, the cheeks, and a large spot over each eye are nearly white. The tigers which inhabit hotter regions, as Bengal and the south Asiatic islands, have shorter and smoother hair, and are more richly colored and distinctly striped than those of northern China and Siberia, in which the fur is longer, softer, and lighter colored.

Tiger drawing

Tiger (Felix tigris, Linn.)

The tiger is exclusively Asiatic, but has a very wide range in that continent, having been found in almost all suitable localities south of a line drawn from the river Euphrates, passing along the southern shores of the Caspian and Sea of Aral by Lake Baikal to the Sea of Okhotsk. Its most northern range is the territory of the Amur, its most southern the islands of Sumatra, Java, and Bali. Westward it reaches to Turkish Georgia and eastward to he island of Saghalin. It is absent, however, from the great elevated plateau of Central Asia, nor does it inhabit Ceylon, Borneo, or the other islands of the Indo-Malayan Archipelago, except those named.

The principal food of the tiger in India is cattle, deer, wild hog, and pea-fowl, and occasionally human beings. The regular "man-eater" is generally an old tiger whose vigor is passed, and whose teeth are worn and defective; it takes up its abode in the neighborhood of a village, the population of which it finds an easier prey than the larger or wilder animals named above. Though chiefly affecting grassy plains or swamps, it is also found in forests, and seems to be fond of haunting the neighborhood of old ruins. As a rube, tigers do not climb trees; but when pressed by fear, as during an inundation, they have been known to do so. They take to the water readily and are good swimmers. The tigers of the Sundarbans (Ganges delta) continually swim from one island to the other to change their hunting-grounds for dear. The following extract from Sir J. Fayrer’s Royal Tiger of Bengal (1875) may complete this notice of the tiger’s habits.

"The tigress gives birth to from two to five, even six cubs; but three is a frequent number. She is a most affectionate and attached mother, and generally guards and trains her young with the most watchful solicitude. They remain with her until nearly full-grown, or about the second year, when they are able to kill for themselves and begin life on their own account. Whilst they remain with her she is peculiarly vicious and aggressive, defending them with the greatest courage and energy, and when robbed of them is terrible in her rage; but she has been known to desert them when pressed, and even to eat them when starved. As soon as they begin to require other food than her milk, she kills for them, teaching them to do so for themselves by practicing on small animals, such as deer and young calves or pigs. At these times she is wanton and extravagant in her cruelty, killing apparently for the for the gratification of her ferocious and blood thirsty nature, and perhaps to excite and instruct the young ones, and it is not until they are thoroughly capable of killing their own food that she separates from them. The young tigers are far more destructive than the old. They will kill three or four cows at a time, whilst the older and more experienced rarely kill more than one, and this at intervals of from three or four days to a week. Fort his purpose the tiger will leave its retreat in the dense jungle, proceed to the neighborhood of a village or gowrie, where cattle feed, and during the night will steal on and strike down a bullock, drag it into a secluded place, and then remain near the "murrie," or "kill," fro several days, until it has eaten it, when it will proceed in search of a further supply, and, having found good hunting ground in the vicinity of a village or Gowrie, continue its ravages, destroying one or two cows or buffaloes a week. It is very fond of the ordinary domestic cattle, which in the plains of India are generally weak, half-starved, under-sized creatures. One of these is easily struck down and carried or dragged off. The smaller buffaloes are also easily disposed of; but the buffalo bulls, and especially the wild ones, are formidable antagonists, and have often been known to beat the tiger off, and even to wound him seriously." (W.H.F.)

The above article was written by Sir William Henry Flower, K.C.B., D.Sc, D.C.L., LL.D., Ph.D., F.R.S.; Director of British Museum, Natural History Department; President of the Zoological Society; President of the Britsh Association, 1889; author of Introduction to the Osteology of Mammalia and The Horse: a Study in Natural History.

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