Most adult male tigers weigh about 420 pounds (190 kilograms) and are 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, including a 3-foot (0.9-meter) tail. Most adult tigresses (females) weigh about 300 pounds (140 kilograms) and are 8 feet (2.4 meters) long. The tiger's coat ranges from brownish-yellow to orange-red and is marked by black stripes. Each tiger has a unique stripe pattern, which is as distinctive as a human fingerprint. The fur on the throat, belly, and insides of the legs is whitish. Many tigers, especially the males, have a ruff of hair around the sides of the face. The tigers that live in Siberia, where winters are bitterly cold, have shaggy winter coats.
Some tigers have chalk-white fur with chocolate-brown or black stripes. These tigers, called white tigers, are also distinctive because they have blue eyes. All other tigers have yellow eyes. White tigers are very rare in the wild. More than 100 white tigers live in the world's zoos. They are all descendants of a white cub caught in India in 1951. A normal-colored tigress can give birth to a litter in which some of the cubs are white.
Tigers and lions look similar except for the color and length of their hair. The two species have even mated in zoos and produced offspring called ligers or tigons.
Tigers hunt large mammals, such as deer, antelope, wild cattle, and wild pigs. They may even attack young rhinoceroses and elephants. They also catch such small animals as peafowl, monkeys, and frogs. At times, tigers attack porcupines, but the porcupine's quills may stick in the tiger's face and body, causing painful wounds. In many parts of Asia, tigers prey on domestic cattle and water buffalo, especially where hunters have greatly reduced the amount of wildlife.
The tiger usually hunts at night, wandering along animal trails and dry stream beds. A tiger depends chiefly on its sharp vision and keen hearing, but it may also use its sense of smell. After stalking closely or waiting in cover, the tiger rushes at its prey in several bounds. Using its sharp claws, the tiger grasps the victim by the rump or upper body and pulls it down. Its large canine teeth are well suited for holding prey and for killing it.
Tigers are extremely swift for short distances. However, if a tiger fails to catch its prey quickly, it usually will give up because it soon tires. As long as a week may go by without a successful hunt. After a kill, the tiger drags the carcass (dead body) to thick cover. The tiger's neck, shoulders, and forelegs are very powerful. A tiger may drag the body of a 500-pound (230-kilogram) water buffalo for 1/4 mile (0.4 kilometer). The tiger stays near the carcass until it has eaten everything except the large bones and stomach. A tiger may eat at least 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of meat in a night. A tiger often takes a long drink of water and a nap after a meal.
Adult tigers usually live alone but are not unfriendly with one another. Two tigers may meet on their nightly rounds, rub heads in greeting, and then part. Several may share in eating a killed prey.
Adult males often claim their own territory and try to keep other males out. In areas with abundant prey, such territories may average about 20 square miles (52 square kilometers). The male tiger marks trees in his territory with his scent and urine. The scent tells other tigers that the territory is occupied. A male's territory overlaps the territories of two or more females. Female territories are smaller than a male's. Each tiger wanders alone, but they communicate with each other. In addition to scent, they communicate with sounds, including a roar that can be heard for up to 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) or more. Some tigers do not have territories and travel widely.
A tigress usually bears her first cubs when she is 3 1/2 to 4 years old. She carries the young within her body for about 3 1/2 months. She then gives birth to from one to six cubs, though usually two or three. Newborn cubs are helpless and weigh about 2 to 3 pounds (0.9 to 1.4 kilograms). Tiger cubs, like kittens, are playful. They are wholly dependent on their mother for food until they are about a year old. Even then, they cannot kill a large animal. Cubs become fully independent at about 2 years old. Female cubs then often settle down in a territory near their mother. Males tend to roam far from their birthplace. Tigers live up to 20 years in the wild. Tigers are good swimmers. They may swim across rivers or between islands. On hot days, they may cool off in water. Tigers can climb trees but usually do not.
People have greatly reduced the number of tigers by killing them and by clearing the forests in which they lived. Scientists generally recognize eight varieties of tigers. Of these, three varieties are now extinct and three others-the South China tiger, the Sumatran tiger, and the Amur, or Siberian, tiger-are critically endangered. Several countries, especially India and Nepal, protect tigers in nature reserves. The survival of wild tigers depends on such efforts.
Tigers are easy to breed and raise in zoos. Cubs are popular with zoo visitors. Adult tigers are often trained to perform in circuses. They jump through hoops and are even ridden. Today, enough tigers are born in captivity that no more need to be captured for zoos.
The Javan tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) is an extinct tiger subspecies. It inhabited the Indonesian island of Java until the 1980s and was one of the three subspecies limited to islands.
Javan tigers were very small compared to other subspecies of the Asian mainland, but larger in size than Bali tigers. Males weighed between 100 and 140 kg (220 and 310 lb) on average with a body length of 200 to 245 cm (6.6 to 8.04 ft). Females were smaller than males and weighed between 75 and 115 kg (170 and 250 lb) on average. Their nose was long and narrow, occipital plane remarkably narrow and carnassials relatively long. They usually had long and thin stripes, which were slightly more numerous than of the Sumatran Tiger.
The smaller body size of the Javan Tiger is attributed to Bergmann’s rule and the size of the available prey species in Java, which are smaller than the cervid and bovid species distributed on the Asian mainland. However, the diameter of their tracks are larger than of Bengal Tiger in Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
At the end of the 18th century tigers inhabited most of Java. Around 1850, the people living in the rural areas still considered them a plague. Until 1940, tigers had retreated to remote mountainous and forested areas. Around 1970, the only known tigers lived in the region of Mount Betiri, the highest mountain (1,192 metres (3,911 ft)) in Java's southeast, which hadn’t been settled due to the rugged and slopy terrain. In 1972, the 500 km2 area was gazetted as wildlife reserve. The last tigers were sighted there in 1976.
They preyed on rusa deer, banteng and wild boar, less often on water fowl and reptiles. Nothing is known about their gestation period, life span in the wild and in captivity. Up to World War II Javan tigers were kept in some Indonesian zoos, but these were closed down during the war. After the war, Javan Tiger were so rare already that it was easier to obtain Sumatran tigers.
At the beginning of the 20th century 28 million people lived on the island of Java. The annual production of rice was insufficient to adequately supply the growing human population, so that within 15 years 150% more land was cleared for cultivating rice. In 1938 natural forest covered 23% of the island. 1975 only 8% forest stand remained; the human population had increased to 85 million people. In this human-dominated landscape the extirpation of the Javan Tiger was a process intensified by the conjunction of several circumstances and events:
Tigers and their prey were poisoned in many places during the period when their habitat was rapidly being reduced; Natural forests were increasingly fragmented after World War II for plantations of teak, coffee and rubber, which was unsuitable habitat for wildlife; Rusa deer, the tiger's most important prey species, was lost to disease in several reserves and forests during the 1960s; During the period of civil unrest after 1965 armed groups retreated to reserves, where they killed the remaining tigers.