1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tiger

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TIGER (Felis tigris), an animal only rivalled by the lion in size, strength and ferocity among the cat-like beasts of prey (see Carnivora). Almost everything that is stated in the article Lion concerning 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. A tiger's skull may, however, always be distinguished from that

The Tiger (Felis tigris).

of a lion by the circumstance that the nasal bones extend higher on the forehead than the maxillae, instead of stopping on nearly the same line. Although examples of both species present considerable variations in size, it is ascertained that the length of the largest-sized Bengal tiger may exceed that of any lion. Much larger specimens are recorded, but 10 feet from the tip of the nose to the end of the tail is no unusual length for a large male tiger. The female is somewhat smaller and has a lighter and narrower head. The tiger has no mane, but in old males the hair on the cheeks is rather long and spreading. The ground-colour of the upper and outer parts of the head, body, limbs and tail is bright rufous fawn; and these parts are beautifully marked with transverse stripes of a dark, almost black colour. 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 coloured and distinctly striped than those of northern China and Siberia, in which the fur is longer, softer and lighter-coloured. The Siberian tiger is F. tigris mongolica, and the Persian F. tigris virgata. Black and white phases have been recorded, but they are rare. 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 the 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-Malay 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 vigour is past, and whose teeth are worn and defective; it takes up its abode in the neighbourhood of a village, the population of which it finds an easier prey than wild animals. Though chiefly affecting grassy plains or swamps, tigers are also found in forests, and seem to be fond of haunting the neighbourhood of old ruins. As a rule, they 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 deer. 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 practising 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 gratification of her ferocious and bloodthirsty 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, while the older and more experienced rarely kill more than one, and this at intervals of from three or four days to a week. For this purpose the tiger will leave its retreat in the dense jungle, proceed to the neighbourhood of a village or gowrie, where cattle feed, and during the night steal on and strike down a bullock, drag it into a secluded place, and then remain near the “murrie” or “kill,” for 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.; R. L.*)