TIGER, NO LAUGHING JOKE
How is a tiger's face like your thumb?
ANSWER: The stripes on the tiger's face are like your thumbprint. No
two people have exactly the same thumbprint. And no two tigers have exactly
the same stripe pattern.
It takes a lot of muscle to move a 400-pound body (180 kilograms). And
a tiger's body is packed with muscle. So it can leap 10 yards (9 meters)
over level ground, or jump 15 feet (4.5 meters) in the air. Yet it can move
so gracefully that it doesn't make a sound.
Tigers are big-game hunters. They hunt water buffalo, wild pigs, deer,
and other large animals. Water buffalo weigh more than a ton (900
kilograms). It would take 13 men to move such an enormous weight.
Tigers are also big eaters. In a single year, one tiger must eat about
70 deer or other large animals. That is one reason why tigers hunt alone.
If they lived in big groups, they could never find enough prey to feed them
Many people think that a big, dangerous tiger could easily kill all
the prey it wants. But that's not true. In fact, the life of this big game
hunter isn't easy. Most of the animals it tries to attack get away. It
sometimes goes weeks without eating. And then it may hunt animals that can
be dangerous, even for a tiger.
To get enough food, tigers have to hunt day and night. They often hunt
at night, because that's when deer and antelope are most active. Tigers
also hunt at night because they are safe from humans then.
When it hunts, a tiger usually sneaks close to its prey by hiding
behind trees, bushes and rocks.
Tigers cannot run fast for long distances. So they must get close to
their prey before attacking. On their huge, padded feet, they can creep
silently to within 20 feet (6 meters) of another animal without being
heard. Its rear legs press beneath it, like a pair of giant springs about
to be released.
Then, in a series of explosive leaps, it attacks from behind.
Next, the tiger grabs its prey with its claws and pulls it to the
ground. It bites the animal on the throat or on the back of the neck
The tiger has had a long history; the name tiger itself comes from the
Roman word "Tigris", named after the mighty Mesopotamian Tigris River. The
tiger's closest living relative is the lion, and believe it or not, they
can even be interbred. The male tiger can reach sizes of up to 8-10 feet in
length, with three feet for the tail, the male Siberian tiger can reach
lengths of up to 13 feet with weights up to 750 pounds. Tigers can be found
in a fairly diverse area, from north China and Siberia, to the jungles of
Indonesia, even as far west as Iran and the Caucasus Mountains.
The tiger is a solitary animal, hunting mainly at night. The tiger's vision
and sense of smell are relatively poor; the tiger will rely strongly on its
sense of hearing, moving silently through the brush waiting to ambush its
prey. The tiger's main diet consists of deer, antelope, wild pigs, and
cattle. The man-eaters are all too often the sick and injured, too weak to
hunt and capture wild animals. The tiger would much rather flee rather than
stick around and put up a fight.
Tigers are excellent swimmers and will often rest in pools of water
just to escape the heat, or, will swim from island to island such as in the
Sumatran islands. Tigers are poor tree climbers, often only doing so in
emergencies or when they are young, (and on occasion, just out of
curiosity). The Bengal, or, Indian Tiger is the
The largest of all living tigers lives in the coldest climate; but has
thick fur to keep it warm. Its pale color makes it difficult to spot in
the bleak, snowy landscape of Siberia and also makes it easier to get close
to its prey. There are no more than 200 Siberian tigers living in the
The Indian tiger is the most common tiger in the world today. In all,
there are about 2,500 left, and most of them live in India.
Hunting tigers used to be a sport for the rich people of India. But
it wasn't really a sport, because the tigers had little chance of escape.
The hunters rode on elephants, while their servants drove the tigers toward
their guns. Over the years, thousands and thousands of tigers were killed
Their stripes hide them as they stalk prey in the jungle. How? Their
stripes look like the shadows of tall blades of grass, or like shadows and
light playing across trees.
For a fierce hunter, you'd think that food would be plentiful. Not
true as most attacks fail. There may be weeks without eating.
Some Sumatran villagers believe that the tiger holds magical powers
and that it's very bad luck to kill them.
Tigers are among the most admired and most feared animals in the world.
When we think of tigers, we think of danger. We think of powerful beasts
hiding in the dark jungle. We think of the strong jaws, big teeth, massive
feet, and long, sharp claws of the tiger.
But we also think of beauty. We picture a tiger running swiftly through a
jungle, or plowing through snowdrifts. Its muscles ripple. Its brilliantly
striped orange and black coat gleams like satin. Its steely eyes glare into
the distance as it looks for prey.
This animal is a hunter. In fact, tigers are probably better than any other
land animal at capturing large prey single-handedly. Even so, the life of a
tiger is not easy. Finding food can be difficult, especially for a tiger
that is old or weak.
When they are desperate, some of them may even attack humans. But tigers
also get blamed unfairly for many deaths. Very few people are really killed
by tigers each year. Most tigers run away when they see people. And with
What tigers have done to people is nothing compared to what people have
done to tigers. Over the last 200 years, we have almost eliminated them in
the wild. Today, they are one of the most endangered animals on earth.
If humans do not disturb it, a tiger may live 20 years or more. Females
usually live longer than males, because the males live more dangerously.
They often fight among each other. Sometimes one of them is killed this
way, or wounded so badly that it cannot hunt.
It isn't easy for people to tell a male tiger from a female, unless
the female happens to be with her cubs, because only females take care of
the young. Otherwise, the most obvious difference between males and females
is size. Male tigers are much bigger. An adult male Bengal or Indian tiger
usually weighs about 420 pounds (190 kilograms), and from head to rear, it
is roughly seven feet long (2 meters). Females are about a foot shorter (30
centimeters), and they weigh about one hundred pounds less (45 kilograms).
Sumatran tigers are generally smaller than Indian or Bengal tigers. The
biggest tiger ever measured was a male Siberian Tiger. It was over 9 feet
long (2.6 meters) and weighed more than 700 pounds (320 kilograms).
Tigers once roamed over most of Asia. Some trekked over the frozen
north, others climbed the jagged mountains of Central Asia, and many crept
through the steamy jungles of the south. The tigers that lived in these
different places gradually developed into a number of different types, or
Although tigers have been able to live in different climates and
landscapes, they have not been able to live alongside people. In fact,
people have killed so many tigers that two races may already by extinct.
The Bengal tiger is the most common tiger in the world today. In all,
there are about 2,500 Bengal tigers, and most of them live in India. The
Caspian tiger is one that you will only see in pictures. This beautiful cat
is now extinct. The Chinese tiger used to live in most parts of China.
Today, there are fewer than a hundred Chinese tigers in the whole country.
The Siberian tiger is the largest of all living tigers. It also lives
in the coldest climate, but it has very thick fur to keep it warm. And its
pale color makes it hard to see in the bleak, snowy landscape of Siberia.
This makes it easier to get close to its prey. There are no more than 200
Siberian tigers living in the wild.
Sumatran and Javan tigers live on land south of the Asian continent.
Their islands are covered by heavy, tropical jungles. To help them run and
hide in the jungle, these tigers are smaller than other tigers. Today,
there are fewer than 30 Sumatran and Javan tigers left in the wild.
The body of a tiger is like a deadly weapon. It has the quickness and
strength to take down animals twice its size. It has long, razor-sharp
claws for grabbing its prey. And it has enormous teeth, which can easily
kill large animals.
But a tiger is also very quiet. It can sneak up on its prey without
being seen or heard. And its stripes help it do this, because they make it
easier for the tiger to hide. You will also discover another reason why a
tiger's stripes are interesting. You can learn to tell one tiger from
another by its stripes.
Like other cats, tigers usually keel their claws hidden beneath the
fur. This way the claws do not wear down too quickly. And they won't make
noise when the tiger steps on rocks or hard ground. When it wants to use
its claws for grabbing or scratching, the tiger will extend them.
Tigers have longer canine teeth than any other predator. One of these
teeth is at least 10 times longer than the biggest tooth in your mouth.
Using its big canine teeth and its broad, powerful paws, a tiger can kill
its prey with one quick bite.
Tigers and other predators play an important role in nature. By
killing deer and other prey, they keep the numbers of these animals under
control. And because of this, the animals that survive are healthier.
If there were no tigers in the wild, the number of prey animals would
grow too fast. At first, they would eat so much that they would destroy
many plants. And then many of these animals would go hungry.
A big, hungry tiger can eat about 100 pounds of meat (45 kilograms) at
one sitting. This is about one fifth of its total weight. That would be
like a 10-year-old human eating 40 hamburgers in one meal. Of course, a
tiger has to eat this much because it often goes several days without
On occasion, a tiger will attack a baby rhino. This can be dangerous
though, because the mother rhino is probably close by. And even a tiger
does not want to make a four-thousand-pound rhino (1,800 kilograms) angry!
If a tiger is hungry enough, it may even attack a bear. But that may
be a big mistake.
Baby tigers look like cute kittens. At birth, they are about 12 inches
long (30 centimeters), and they weigh less than two pounds (one kilogram).
But in a year's time, these "kittens" will be big enough to hunt deer and
A mother tiger usually gives birth to two, three, or four cubs at a
time. This is necessary so that at least one of her cubs will survive. Many
predators attack tiger cubs. To help keep them safe, the mother stays with
her cubs for three or four years. During this time, the young tigers have a
lot to learn from her if they are to hunt and survive on their own.
Animals, unlike man, must either capture prey, or, evade predators. In
order for these animals, such as the tiger, to get close enough to its prey
for the attack, these animals must be able to hide, or blend in with the
background. That way the prey animal does not know that they are there…
The tiger uses what is known as disruptive camouflage, which means
that instead of blending in with it's surroundings, the tiger uses it's
stripes to break it's outline, or familiar shapes into smaller unfamiliar
Like all young animals, cubs are full of energy. They spend their days
wrestling, chasing each other, and darting after butterflies. All this
exercise helps prepare them for their first real hunt. And they are ready
for this when they are about six months old.
It's hard to believe that in just six months, a playful little cub
will be a ferocious hunter. By then, it will weigh almost 200 pounds (90
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