The nine types of tigers have individual characteristics that contribute to their continued survival in diverse habitats worldwide. From the snow-covered expanses of Siberia to the densely wooded Sundarbans of South Asia, these big cats are well-adapted. Yet, humans have driven three species to extinction.
The diversity of tigers balances the planet's ecology, and so we must expand our knowledge about them. The lives of these notable tiger species will take you on an informative journey into this particular section of the animal kingdom.
Related Read: Tiger Facts
Fun Fact: Besides being the most common and most numerous tiger subspecies, the Bengal tiger is the largest cat species in the world. They can weigh up to 550 pounds (250 kilograms) and measure up to 10 feet (3 meters) from head to tail.
The Bengal Tiger lives in India, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Moreover, this creature has a fiery yellow and orange coat with distinctive black stripes. These nocturnal predators are solitary and territorial, marking their territory to deter intruders.
This type of tiger prefers large, hoofed animals like deer and wild boar. However, they also eat smaller prey like monkeys or rabbits now and then.
Today, agricultural expansion encroaches on their dwindling habitats; rampant poaching threatens their populations. As a result, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified these tigers as endangered species3.
Fun Fact: The Siberian or Amur tiger is the world's largest tiger subspecies. These creatures can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh as much as 660 pounds. Their size and power also help them take down much larger prey.
Due to their thick ten cm-long fur and layer of fat, they can survive the harsh winters of the Russian Far East and northeastern China. Moreover, despite their massive size, Siberian tigers can easily cross rivers and lakes.
Their lighter orange fur helps the tigers blend into snowy, tree-filled landscapes. As solitary animals, they only socialize for mating and raising their cubs. They primarily eat elk and wild boar; they eat small game, fish, and rabbits when food is scarce.
Fun Fact: The Sumatran tiger is the world's smallest tiger subspecies. Despite its size, it has impressive agility and strength.
These tigers can swim and climb trees, allowing them to navigate the dense forests of Sumatra. For instance, they can chase prey into the water. They also have dark orange fur with narrow stripes. Moreover, they have beards and manes.
Despite being smaller than other tiger species, Sumatran tigers are still considerably large animals. Males can weigh 100-140 kg, while females typically weigh 75-110 kg. As an apex predator, the Sumatran tiger can kill prey larger than itself2.
The Sumatran tiger prefers isolation and lives in rapidly shrinking habitats, including the peat-swamp forests and above-ground forests in the mountains.
Fun Fact: The South China Tiger is a relatively small tiger subspecies. Males weigh around 330 lb and measure about eight feet from head to tail. They also have manes like lions.
The South China Tiger once lived in Fujian, Guangdong, Hunan, and Jiangxi lush forests. However, hunting and habitat loss has led to its classification as a "critically endangered" species.
The Chinese government tagged them as pests in the 1950s, giving rise to poaching, even though the animal symbolizes strength and bravery in their culture.
As hunters, the South China tigers prefer to ambush their prey, such as deer and wild boar. However, they won't turn down smaller games when food is scarce.
Fun Fact: The Indochinese Tiger can cross rivers and even swim long distances for prey. They are among the best swimmers of all tiger species, thanks to their webbed paws and streamlined bodies.
They have darker orange coats with black or dark brown stripes. Each tiger's unique pattern helps it sneak around forests, grasslands, hilly terrains, and nearby water bodies.
However, they are smaller than other tigers. Males average 150-195 kg, while females weigh around 100-130 kg. The solitary Indochinese Tiger only interacts with other tigers during the mating season. While hunting, this animal feeds on wild boar and sambar, though they can eat porcupines and hares now and again.
After mating, the female tiger typically births two to three cubs. These cubs stay under her watchful eye and tutelage for around two years, acquiring the necessary survival skills for the wild.
Fun Fact: The Malayan Tiger can swim across stretches of water up to 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide. This exceptional ability makes them one of the world's most aquatic subspecies of tigers.
Malayan tigers live in the dense jungles of the Malay Peninsula and southern parts of Thailand. Biologists officially recognized it as a distinct subspecies in 2004. They have dark orange coats with black stripes that help them sneak around the jungle.
The Malayan tiger is solitary and nocturnal. Its excellent night vision helps it sneak around in the darkness, looking for sambar deer, bearded pigs, birds, reptiles, and fish.
Fun Fact: The Balinese Tiger, also known as the Bali tiger, had a lighter orange coat with thinner, tightly packed stripes, which made it a favored subject among artists and collectors. Regrettably, this animal is now extinct.
The Bali Tiger previously inhabited the Indonesian island of Bali. Males weighed around 90-100 kg, while the females sat between 65-80 kg. This type of tiger was a dominant predator in various habitats like forests, savannahs, and mangrove swamps. It could swim and hunt underwater, preying on boars, rusa deer, and the occasional small mammal or bird.
Although the Bali Tiger was a solitary creature, it sought out other tigers during the mating season. Unfortunately, humans hunted the last known individual Balinese Tiger in 1937. But they were officially declared extinct in 2008.
Fun Fact: The Javan Tiger was once only found on the Indonesian island of Java. Sadly, the Javan Tiger is extinct. The last reliable sighting was in the 1970s, and they were officially declared extinct in 2003.
Javan Tigers lived in the abundant rainforests and mangroves of Java. This tiger had long, thin stripes on a lean body. It also had a narrow nose and was smaller than other tigers. Males grew 2.4 meters long, from head to tail, while females measured 2.2 meters long.
The Javan Tiger escaped the hot tropical weather by swimming in rivers or lakes. It hunted prey underwater, such as wild boar, rusa deer, and the banteng, a wild cattle species native to the region. Unfortunately, agricultural expansion and hunting drove the animals to extinction.
Fun Fact: The Caspian tiger, also known as the Hyrcanian tiger, went extinct in the early 1970s due to hunting, habitat loss, and reduction of prey.
This type of tiger was among the world's biggest tigers; male Caspian tigers could weigh up to 660 pounds (300 kilograms). Their thick coat was reddish with closely set stripes, and it helped them survive harsh winters. Like all tigers, the Caspian tiger was an apex predator. It fed on wild pigs and deer, though it also ate hares and birds.
They used to inhabit the forests and plains surrounding the Caspian Sea1, including Turkey, Iran, Mesopotamia, and Xinjiang in China. Their favored habitats were reed beds, wetlands, and areas with thick vegetation.
During hot weather, the tiger cooled off in bodies of water. They were also solitary animals that aggressively defended their territory, which overlapped with those of several females.
Driscoll, C. A., Yamaguchi, N., Bar-Gal, G. K., Roca, A. L., Luo, S., Macdonald, D. W., & O'Brien, S. J. (2009). Mitochondrial Phylogeography Illuminates the Origin of the Extinct Caspian Tiger and Its Relationship to the Amur Tiger. PLoS ONE, 4(1), e4125.
Wibisono, H. T., & Pusparini, W. (2010). Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae): A review of conservation status. Integrative Zoology, 5(4), 313-323.
Goodrich, J., Lynam, A., Miquelle, D., Wibisono, H., Kawanishi, K., Pattanavibool, A., ... & Karanth, U. (2015). Panthera tigris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 159, e.T15955A50659951.