Wild Tiger Facts: Where They Live, How They Hunt and More

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While the lion has long been considered the “king of the jungle,” tigers have a solid argument for disputing the claim. Aside from the fact that lions don’t actually live in jungles, tigers bring plenty to the table when it comes to ferocity, beauty and a bit of feline dignity. To see what we mean, join us for a look at some amazing wild tiger facts you might not have known.

Where Do Wild Tigers Live?

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Unfortunately, there are only believed to be around 4,000 wild tigers left in the world today. Those remaining are commonly grouped into six subspecies: Siberian, Bengal, South China, Sumatran, Indochinese and Malayan. While there used to be three other subspecies — the Bali, Caspian and Javan — they’ve sadly gone extinct. Over the past century alone, the total number of tigers on earth has dropped by 97%, which is why conservation is more important than ever. 

Today, over 70% of the wild tigers left on Earth can be found in India. The rest are scattered over 12 other countries, including Nepal, Bhutan, Russia, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Tigers are impressively adaptable and can live in various ecosystems, from rainforests and swamps to grasslands and savannas. 

Tigers Are the Biggest of Big Cats

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The animals commonly known as “Big Cats” are actually members of the Panthera genus, which includes tigers, snow leopards, jaguars, leopards and lions. Tigers, however, have the distinction of being the biggest big cats in the world; they can weigh anywhere from 143 to 683 pounds.

In the 1980s, a Siberian tiger named Jaipur scored the world record for the biggest tiger ever recorded.He weighed in at 932 pounds and measured over 10 feet long. But don’t make the mistake of assuming that a tiger’s impressive size slows it down — they can run up to 40 miles an hour, even if it’s only for a short period of time.

Like our house cat friends, tigers are also impressive jumpers. They can leap up to 30 feet forward and 16 feet straight up in the air. A tiger can easily clear the head of an elephant if it feels so inclined, so it’s best to bring plenty of catnip next time you head out on a safari. And yes, tigers love catnip as much as house cats. Just see for yourself in this adorable video

Tigers Take Strength to a New Level

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Not only are tigers incredibly large, but their bite is every bit as bad as their roar. The scientific community has actually come up with a way to measure the strength of various bites with the aptly named “bite force quotient,” or BFQ. Tigers have an impressive BFQ of 130.4, the second strongest (after the polar bear) of any carnivorous land mammal. 

Unfortunately for prey everywhere, the tiger’s superstrength doesn’t end with its jaws. Tigers can have paws as big as 8 by 8 inches, and they know how to use them. A single punch from a tiger is backed by about 10,000 pounds of force. And that’s not to mention the razor-sharp claws. 

Tigers’ strength is one of the reasons they enjoy the perk of having no known natural predators. Male Siberian tigers can grow to be as long as 12 feet and have the strength of six average humans, so it’s best to stay on their good side. 

How Do Tigers Hunt?

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Ever wondered what to call a group of tigers? The correct name is either a “streak” or an “ambush.” Despite the snazzy names, it’s actually quite rare to see a gathering of tigers in the wild. Tigers tend to be solitary creatures and do most of their hunting alone at night. As you may have guessed from their large teeth and claws, tigers are meat eaters that dine on anything from deer, buffalo, boars and oxen to, yes, hippos if they’re feeling hungry enough. 

They usually sneak up on their prey from behind and use their biting skills to go for the neck or snap the spine. Despite how fast they can run, tigers can only keep up with quicker prey for so long. So, they often rely on their stealthy moves and striped, camouflaging fur to wait for the perfect moment to strike. Researchers have discovered that tigers are such big masters of the element of surprise that they’ll sometimes rethink an attack if they’re spotted. 

Once they successfully catch prey, tigers can eat up to 60 pounds in a single meal, allowing them to go several days between meals. They also tend to be big fans of leftovers, often hiding the remains of their kill under leaves, in bushes or even in trees. Have you ever seen your house cat cover their leftover food with a rug, toy or another nearby item? This is a leftover trait from their wild ancestors, who like to make the most of every meal. 

Tiger Behaviors and Social Skills

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Unlike many other big cats, and even house cats, tigers actually love water. They’ll often lounge around in lakes or rivers, especially on hot days, for many of the same reasons people love hanging out in pools. Going for a nice swim helps them stay cool, and they sometimes even manage to catch fish to eat.  

While they tend to lead pretty solitary lives in the wild, tigers are surprisingly humble creatures and get along well with each other in captivity. Young tigers, and sometimes adults, often enjoy playing and will tumble around with each other much like house cats. 

Tigers also make a wide variety of sounds in addition to roaring. When they’re feeling friendly, they make a “chuff” sound known as a “prusten.” While it’s not quite the same thing as a purr, the intention behind it is similar, and tigers use it as a greeting when they mean no harm. They can also grunt, moan, hiss, blow, growl and even mimic the sounds of other animals to trick potential prey.