10 Unusual Facts About the Amazing Tiger
A sighting of the magnificent Tiger is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and dedicated Tiger watching tours to India, which allow travellers to encounter this magnificent animal in its natural habitat, are becoming a popular way of seeing eye to eye with a tiger. Led by expert naturalists into prime Tiger watching habitat, these tours allow ordinary people with a passion for wildlife to get genuinely 'up close and personal' with the world's most iconic big cat.
10 Unusual Facts
These 10 unusual facts go some way to offering an insight into Panthera tigris.
- They have round pupils: While domestic cats have slit-shaped pupils (allowing them superior nocturnal vision), these big cats' are round. This is because they're 'crepuscular', meaning they hunt primarily in the early morning or evening. Despite not having 20/20 night vision, their eyesight is still at least six times better than ours.
- The importance of urine: The big cat is able to determine the gender, age and even the reproductive characteristics of another by the unique scent of its urine. They use urine to mark their territories by scratching tree trunks then leaving their scent, which, interestingly, smells remarkably like buttered popcorn.
- A well-mannered male: Unlike other big cats, the males will quite often step aside after a kill to allow cubs and females to feed first. Even in groups there is rarely any conflict over food and, as a rule, everyone is happy to wait their turn.
- Unique markings: Just as all humans' fingerprints are unique, a Tiger's markings are theirs and theirs alone. What's even more fascinating is that the stripes do not simply appear as a pattern on their fur, they also appear on the skin beneath.
- A small window of reproduction: Females only come into season for about four or five days annually, so when they're fertile they mate frequently. They have a short gestational period of about three months, and usually give birth to multiple (two or three) cubs.
- A show of emotion: Unlike the domestic feline, these big cats cannot purr. Instead, if they are content, they close their eyes or squint in a show of dropping their defences when they're feeling safe or comfortable.
- Superior memory skills: Research has proven that the big cat's short term memory is at least 30 times better than a human's. Not only do their memories last longer, they also able to remember more than us.
- And bigger brains: Panthera tigris has the largest brain of all carnivores on Earth with the exception of the Polar Bear, weighing, on average, over 300 grams.
- Blended families: In the wild, Tigers have been known to mate with other cats, like the Leopard. Their offspring are slightly smaller than usual and their fur is a combination of stripes and clustered spots. These hybrid cats are born sterile, however, so the line is not continued.
- Magnificent but endangered: Despite their iconic status and incredible hunting prowess, it's estimated there are only around 3,500 left in the wild, although the number is greater in captivity. This critical situation has led to a number of focused conservation efforts, and recently released figures show the first increase in numbers for over a century.
If you're embarking on a Tiger watching tour, the experience will be much enhanced if you do a little research beforehand to understand some of the behaviours and characteristics of this beautiful big cat. These more unusual facts are just the beginning and the study of this incredible animal and its habitat is a truly fascinating subject.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Tiger watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led wildlife holidays organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
Writer and Online Marketing Manager in London.