What Are Some Facts About White Tigers?

white-tigers Credit: Kevin Clogstoun/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images

White tigers are very rare, owing their unique color to a defective recessive gene present in roughly 1 in 10,000 tigers. This gene also causes them to have blue eyes rather than the normal yellow or green eyes found in most Bengal tigers.

To produce a white tiger, both parents must carry the recessive gene. However, the Bengal tiger population is declining, making it increasingly unlikely for a white tiger to appear naturally. As of 2014, the last known wild white tiger was shot and killed in 1958. White tigers are primarily housed in zoos and animal sanctuaries that protect them from trophy hunters or poachers looking for exotic pets.

Although captive breeding programs exist to produce white tigers, because all living white tigers descend from a single captive white tiger cub, inbreeding is a major risk and some wildlife advocates have called the practice morally questionable.

Like other Bengal tigers, the white tiger prefers to occupy a large territory, which is marked with urine and claw marks to warn away other predators. Male tigers are likely to tolerate territory overlap with females, but they seek out and drive away any offending males. While beautiful, their white coloring puts white tigers at a severe disadvantage when hunting or acquiring territory as they are less well camouflaged.