White tigers are Bengal tigers. A mammal sometimes called a “bleached” tiger, they have the Bengal tiger’s black stripes but have a white or off-white coat. Many people believe, myself included that the white tiger is the most beautiful of all tiger species.
White tigers are born when two Bengal tigers, carrying a recessive gene that controls coat color, are bred together. It is thought that the entire white tiger population began with one white tiger and has been inbred ever since.
There are many white tiger facts regarding their habitat, appearance, lifestyle, behavior, and how they reproduce, their diet, and the threats they face.
White Tiger Facts
- Their group behavior is solitary.
- The biggest threat to their existence is habitat loss and humans.
- Their top running speed is 60 mph.
- The common name is White Tiger, but they are also known as the White Bengal Tiger.
- Along with the White Bengal Tiger, the white tiger is the second largest tiger species in the world, following the Siberian tiger.
Habitat of the White Tiger
The white tiger’s habitat is dense jungle and mangrove swamp. A mangrove swamp is a shrubland or woodland habitat formed by mangrove trees in slightly salty water or a mixture of river water and seawater.
The white tiger is found throughout the Indian subcontinent. It would at one time been found throughout much of India and the surrounding countries. Their range has decreased significantly over the last 100 years. Today they are found in small pockets of their natural habitat in India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh.
In the past, the white tiger could be seen in the wild. However, it is rare today for the gene carrying parents actually to mate. This is causing a rapid decline in the number of white tigers throughout their range, with their population becoming less each day.
White Tiger Appearance
Although some people believe white tigers are albino, they are Bengal tigers and not a separate species. They are 6.8 ft. to 11 ft. in length and weigh between 300 and 650 lbs. They are large and powerful animals. They have vertical black or brown stripes running along the body, a characteristic unique to the tiger species. The white fur can have an orange tint.
The recessive gene carried by the white tiger means they have blue eyes rather than the typical green or yellow eyes of the Bengal tiger. The beautiful white fur is a disadvantage because it is not easily camouflaged in the jungle. But it is the white fur and the bright blue eyes that make them so distinctive.
A recap of the white tiger appearance
- White tigers are Bengal tigers, not albinos
- They measure 6.8 ft. to 11 ft. in length
- They weigh between 300 and 650 lbs.
- White tigers have black or dark brown stripes that run vertically
- They have blue eyes because of the recessive gene
White Tiger Lifestyle and Behavior
Like other tiger species, the white tiger is a solitary animal, enabling it to sneak up on its prey more effectively in the dense jungle. The white tiger is diurnal (active during the day), not nocturnal. Despite this, they do most of their hunting at night. They have incredible sight and hearing, which, along with their speed, enables them to hunt in the dark.
Each tiger marks his territory with urine and claw marks on trees. Their domain can be up to 75 square miles in size. Unless it is the mating season, they are solo animals. The territory of the white male tiger can overlap with the females, especially in areas where much prey is found.
Males will defend their territory aggressively from other males that may try to infringe on their domain.
- The white tiger is solitary
- It is active during the day, but they hunt mostly at night
- The tiger marks his territory with urine and claw marks
- Their domain can be up to 75 square miles
- The territory of the male white tiger can overlap with the territory of the female white tiger
- Males will aggressively defend their territory
White Tiger Reproduction
The white tiger reaches sexual maturity between three and four years of age.
To produce a white tiger, both of the parents must carry the gene needed. Male and female tigers are attracted to each other by their scent, marks, and roars. Once mated, they separate.
Their gestation period is three and a half months or 103 days. “Cub” is the name of their young, with three being the average litter size, but there can be as many as five. The white cub is blind at birth and weigh about 1kg each. Their fur can be either white or orange. The cubs feed on their mother’s milk for the first two months, then at two months begin to eat meat caught for them by their mother. They are completely weaned at about six months old.
They join their mother for hunting at six months and eventually leave her to begin their solitary life in the jungle at about 18 months old. They have a lifespan of ten to twenty years. The average lifespan in the wilderness is 12 years. However, in captivity, it is longer.
- The white tiger reaches sexual maturity between three and four years old
- Both parents need the white gene to produce a white tiger
- Once the male and female mate, they separate
- The White Tiger Cub is blind at birth
- The White Cub is weaned at six months old and join their mother for hunting
- At the age of 18 months old, they begin to live a solitary life
- Their lifespan is 10 to 20 years, but in captivity, it is longer
Diet of the White Tiger
White tigers, like other tiger species, are carnivorous and eat only other animals for nutrition. As an apex predator, also known as a top predator (or one at the top of the food chain), is without natural predators.
The white tiger hunts primarily large, herbivorous animals such as goats, cattle, deer, and wild boar. They have many advantages to help catch and kill prey, such as being strong and powerful, incredibly fast, and possessing sharp teeth and long, sharp claws.
With the encroachment of human settlements pushing the white tiger into smaller pockets within its habitat, they have been known to hunt and kill livestock. They also have been known to enter into villages, which is becoming increasingly common.
- White tigers are carnivorous
- They are an apex predator
- They hunt goats, cattle, deer, and wild boar
- They have sharp teeth and long, sharp claws
- Because of human encroachment, white tigers are known to hunt and kill livestock
- It is becoming increasingly common for them to enter a village
White Tiger Threats
Being an apex predator itself, the white tiger has no predators in its natural environment. They are, however, severely threatened by man and have been for hundreds of years. They have been hunted and captured for their beauty, but because of deforestation due to human settlements and agriculture, they have lost much of their habitat.
Because of this, the population is becoming harder to sustain. As there are fewer white tigers in the wild, fewer will be produced. The severe decline in their numbers could mean that white tigers could disappear from the wild forever. Due to this fact, they are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list for endangerment and face severe threats in its environment.
At the beginning of 1900, it was estimated that 100,000 tigers were found in the jungles and mangrove swamps of Asia. Today it is estimated that there are only 8,000 tigers in the wild, perhaps less, with 2,000 being Bengal tigers. There are no known individual white tigers found in the wild.
The white tiger can be found in zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world. They are often the star attraction because of their extraordinary beauty.
- The white tiger is an apex predator
- They have lost much of their habitat due to deforestation and human settlements
- They are on the endangered species list
- It is suspected that there are only 2,000 Bengal tigers in the wild
- There are no individual sightings of white tigers outside of captivity
- The white tiger can be found in zoos and animal sanctuaries
More Interesting Facts About the White Tiger
The white tiger is thought to have a shorter life expectancy than the Bengal tiger. There is no evidence of this in the wild. Still, studies conducted in captivity conclude that it is due to the white tiger’s mutated genes and continuous inbreeding that causes a shorter lifespan.
Over the past few centuries, the white tiger, because of trophy hunting for the exotic pet trade, has become even rarer in the wild. They were often captured by the rich and kept as a rare and exotic pet.
The white tiger is one of the most adaptable and versatile predators in the Asian jungle. They are not only quick and agile, but they are capable swimmers, which allow them to traverse rivers and wetlands with ease.
Since white tigers were first brought into captivity, humans have interbred them in a morally questionable and profit-based business.
- White tigers have shorter lifespans than other Bengal tigers
- Due to hunting them for exotic pets, they are becoming increasingly rare
- They are adaptable and versatile predators
- Besides being quick and agile, they are capable swimmers
- Humans have interbred them for profit-based business
The Tragic Story of Joy Holiday
Ron and Joy Holiday were a husband and wife team of cabaret-type ballet dancers called “Cat Dancers” who wanted to improve their act. They added trained wild cats, such as panthers, then leopards, tigers, and jaguars. They prefaced more famous acts like Siegfried and Roy.
As their act became more successful, they felt they needed to add another person into their show. Chuck Lizza began as an animal trainer and stagehand. Jupiter, their prized captive white tiger, was added to the act at the insistence of Ron. But it eventually killed Chuck after he tripped in the cat’s enclosure. Many wondered why Jupiter was not put down after this terrible incident.
Joy grew despondent over Chuck’s death. But it also made her increasingly fearful of Jupiter, her favorite cat. She took to her bed for a time, suffering from depression. Ron and their new trainer eventually convinced Joy it was time to accept what happened and begin to live again. She hadn’t seen her cats for some time and missed them.
When the time came for her to see her cats, she approached the enclosure feeling nervous and shakey. Animals can sense fear in humans, and Jupiter reacted by attacking Joy, killing her instantly.
Ron then had all his cats euthanized. Perhaps if he had made a better choice earlier with Jupiter, he would not have lost Joy. Many animal trainers believed that the only thing to do after Chuck’s death was to isolate the white tiger. But they chose not to do that. That poor choice cost Joy her life.
This sad story captured the moviemakers’ attention, so a film was made about Ron and Joy Holiday. A segment on Animal Planet featured people who had an obsession with wild animals that ultimately lead to disaster. This story certainly qualifies.