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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

this way.


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

good reason.

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

eating anything.

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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