6 Nov 2023

10 FACTS ABOUT TIGERS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE KNOWN

With as few as 5,600 left in the wild, every big cat counts.

Take action now to help protect tigers and save them from extinction. 

There are few creatures on Earth as iconic as the tiger. Powerful and elusive, this big cat is known and loved all around the world and has inspired everything from songs, stories and films to logos, fashion and even sporting teams.

But how much do you actually know about tigers? To boost your knowledge on this incredible animal, here are some of our favourite interesting facts about tigers.

1. Tigers are the largest living cats

Tigers are the biggest cats in the world, with adult males weighing in at around 300kg! The largest females usually weigh only half this amount. From tip to tail, tigers can also measure up to a lengthy three metres! Now that’s a lot of cat.

2. Tiger stripes are unique

Like human fingerprints, tiger stripe patterns are unique to each individual and can be used to identify one tiger from another. What’s more is that this pattern isn’t only in a tiger’s fur, but is also visible on their skin. So even if you shaved a tiger (we don’t recommend this!), the stripey pattern would remain.

tiger-stripes

3. Tigers have been around for a long time

Millions of years, in fact! Though they likely looked quite different to how they look now, some of the earliest ancestors of the modern tiger lived on Earth a whopping 2 million years ago.

4. Tigers are strong swimmers

Unlike their domestic cat cousins, tigers don’t mind getting wet and will often enter bodies of water to hunt prey or to cool off from the heat of the day. They are also very adept swimmers, with their partially webbed toes helping them to move easily through the water.

5. Tigers are usually solitary

While lions live in prides and male cheetahs often band together to form coalitions, tigers are mostly solitary felines. Males and females will come together only to mate, and at around two years old, cubs will leave their mother to establish their own territories.

A male tiger lies asleep under a green tree. His stripes and colourings makes him difficult to see amongst the dappled light and colours of his habitat.
Tiger resting under a tree in Ranthambore National Park, India © Sourabh / stock.adobe.com

6. Their orange coats help them camouflage

The tiger’s distinct orange and black striped coat doesn’t just look nice - it helps them camouflage against their backgrounds, especially drier habitats, with the stripes mimicking dappled light patterns and vertical vegetation like grasses and trees.

So the stripes make sense but perhaps you’re wondering how the animals that tigers prey upon don’t see a very orange cat in the middle of the lush green forest they often inhabit. It’s believed that most mammals, including ungulates (hooved mammals) like the deer, boars and buffalo that tigers usually hunt are what’s known as ‘dichromats’. This means they see in much fewer colours than we do and, as a result, can’t easily distinguish between green and red-based hues.

7. They’re in trouble

Since the beginning of the 20th century, wild tiger numbers have declined by around 95%, and tigers face daily hazards from habitat loss and poaching, predominantly led by demand for tiger parts and traditional medicines. 

8. There are more tigers in captivity than are left in the wild

You’d think most of the world’s tigers would be found in their forest homes throughout Asia. Sadly, that is not the case. There are thousands of tigers held in captivity all around the world. While some are part of legitimate conservation programs, the majority are owned privately or kept as forms of entertainment or for profit. More than 5,000 tigers are believed to be privately owned in the United States alone, with a further 8,900 held in tiger farms across Asia.

A snared tiger being rescued by personnel from the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. It was discovered by one of WWF-Malaysia's patrol teams in a snare set by local poachers in the Belum-Temengor Forest Complex, Malaysia.
Snared tiger in Malaysia © WWF-Malaysia / Lau Ching Fong

9. Tiger parts are sold on the black market

Awfully, tigers and their parts - from their whiskers to their tails - are regularly found and sold on the black market. Despite there being no scientifically-proven evidence, tiger parts have been sought after for their supposed numerous medicinal properties for hundreds of years, and tiger skins are seen as status symbols in many cultures.

10. Tiger numbers are on the rise

Despite the many challenges tigers are facing in the wild, thanks to a long and coordinated international tiger conservation campaign (TX2), global tiger numbers are slowly increasing. 

However, we still have a long way to go to get tigers off the Endangered list and are committed to fighting for this species until tigers everywhere are protected.

With less than 5,600 tigers left in the wild, tigers urgently need our support. 

Globally, WWF is proudly working to secure wild tiger populations. There are many ways you can support this vital conservation work. Find out how here