Physical traits of tigers

Body size

Together with lions, tigers are among the biggest wild cats (felids) living on earth. Depending on the subspecies, male tigers can weigh between 170 to 300 kg (370 to 660 lb), females between 85 to 167 kg (190 to 370 lb). Siberian and Bengal tigers are larger than other subspecies like Malayan (Panthera tigris jacksoni), Sumatran (Panthera tigris sumatrae) and Indochinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti).

Female tigers (i.e. tigresses) are smaller than their male counterparts in each subspecies. Interestingly, the size difference is more pronounced in larger subspecies, with males weighing up to 1.7 times more than the females. This significant sexual dimorphism is probably accounted by the different roles assumed by males and females. Females care for the young; males protect the territory covering sub-territories of one or more females with their family against all kind of threats including other males at the top. The strong selection forces of evolution (evolutionary arms races) may have produced larger and stronger males for survival and reproduction. Male tigers typically have larger heads and paws in proportion to their body size, just like domestic cats or dogs.

Now extinct Bali tigers (Panthera tigris balica) were the smallest tiger subspecies with a weight of 90–100 kg (200–220 lb) in males and 65–80 kg (140–180 lb) in females. As a tragic example of ecocide, Bali tigers were hunted to extinction. The last Bali tiger, a female, was presumably killed in 1937.

Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as Amur tigers, are the biggest subspecies. In fact, after grizzly and polar bears, Siberian tigers are the third largest carnivores living on land with weights up to 300 kg (660 lb). The body length of Siberian tigers from head to tail (excluding the tail) can vary from 190 to 230 cm (75 to 91 inches) for males, and from 160 to 180 cm (63 to 71 inches) for females. The tail length vary between 60 and 110 cm (24 and 43 inches). The average weight of male Siberian tigers is reported to be about 227 kg (500 lb).

Males of the most common subspecies, Bengal tigers (Panthera tigris tigris) weigh between 175 – 260 kg (390 – 570 lb); females between 100 – 181 kg (220 – 400 lb). That makes Bengal tigers even larger than lions in terms of average weight. The average weights of African lions are reported as 181 kg (400 pounds) for males and 126 kg (280 pounds) for females. The average weight of a male Bengal tiger is about 195 kg.

The size variation is substantial among tigers as well as among lions. As a consequence, many adult lions are heavier than adult tigers, and vice versa. But it can be expected that the majority of Siberian and Bengal tigers are larger than the majority of lions.

The largest Siberian tiger ever recorder measured 330 cm (130 in) in body length, including the tail (about 1 meter, 40 inches). Weights of up to 318 kg (700 lb) have been recorded.

WikiPedia tells:

A further unconfirmed report tells of a male tiger shot in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains in 1950 weighing 384 kg (850 lb) with an estimated length of 3.48 m (11.4 ft). In some cases, Siberian tigers in captivity reached a body weight of up to 465 kg (1,030 lb), such as the tiger “Jaipur”.

Now compare these tiger outliers with lion’s:

The longest known lion, at nearly 3.6 m (12 ft) in total length, was a black-maned male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973; the heaviest lion known in the wild was a man-eater shot in 1936 just outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa and weighed 313 kg (690 lb). Another notably outsized male lion, which was shot near Mount Kenya, weighed in at 272 kg (600 lb).

It seems that giant lions are almost as large as giant tigers due to the high variation in size among lions. But the fact remains that Siberian and Bengal tigers are larger than lions on the average.

What about the shoulder height of tigers?

Male Bengal tigers can grow up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) at the shoulder, sometimes even more. Siberian tigers can reach up to an incredible 1.22 meter (4 feet). This is about the height of a seven year-old child!

How about lions? On the average, they are slightly taller than Bengal tigers, and slightly shorter than Siberian tigers. But the variation among lions is quite high with shoulder heights up to 123 cm (4 feet). Again, giant lions are as tall as giant Siberian tigers.

Tunç Ali Kütükçüoglu, 23. February 2012



Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 Tunc Ali Kütükcüoglu

Leave a Reply