The amazing tigers

2016-06-20 16:24:27

For those planning to embark on a Tiger watching tour, these 10 unusual facts offer a fascinating insight into the magnificent animal.


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. A show of emotion: Unlike the domestic cat, 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.

7. 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.
8. 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.

9. Blended families: In the wild, Tigers have been known to mate with animals, 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.

10. 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.