Siberian tiger / Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)
It is said that beauty is relative. But how to relate this statement to the king of Asian forests, that eclipses other big cats with its majestic appearance? The Siberian tiger also known as the Amur tiger is a subspecies of the tiger and the largest living cat in the world. The population of Amur tiger today amounts to less than 500 animals living in the Far East of Russia and adjacent areas of North Korea and China. The IUCN lists this subspecies as “critically endangered”.
The Siberian tiger is also called “Amur tiger”, “Manchurian tiger”, “Korean tiger”, “Ussurian tiger”, depending on the region where tigers are/were observed. The Siberian tiger is very adaptable and inhabits both deciduous and coniferous forests, flatlands and low mountain ranges in the region.
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Carnivora
- Family: Felidae
- Genus: Panthera
- Species: Tiger (Panthera tigris)
- Subspecies: Siberian tiger / Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica / Panthera tigris tigris)
Occurrence and habitats
In contrast to its tropical relatives, the Siberian tiger lives in fairly cold climates. The range of this subspecies was once much larger than it is today and reached from Lake Baikal to Korea and Sakhalin. Today it is limited to a narrow stretch of coast on the Sea of Japan in the border area between North Korea, China and Russia.
The main distribution area today is in the Far East of Russia. Its occurrence there extends from north to south over 1000 km through the Primorsky Krai to the southern parts of the Khabarovsk Krai.
The range of this rare tiger subspecies stretches throughout the Sikhote Alin mountain region in Primorsky Krai – the south-eastern administrative unit in the Far Eastern federal district of the Russian Federation. It inhabits mostly boreal forest of eastern Russia, but small populations can be found in China and North Korea.
Although the climate that the tiger lives in is harsher than the habitats of other subspecies, it has its advantages. The northern forests offer unpopulated or hardly populated areas and a stable ecosystem. Vast forest areas allow the tiger longer roams (forestry in Russia is not so expansive when compared to other countries).
The Siberian tiger is famous for its beautiful, red-brown or rusty-yellow fur with numerous, narrow and transverse stripes, that are black or dark brown. The body length varies from 150 to 208 cm, and the height at shoulders is between 90-106 cm. The weight of these animals reaches up to 200-300 kg.
The stature is majestic and strong, although it is supported by relatively short, but strong limbs, and it ends with a long tail.
The fur coloration is often quite faded, particularly in the winter, when the fur becomes denser; its color is, however, mostly determined by the region of occurrence. The animal may be proud of its beautiful fur, but in comparison with other felids from the former Soviet Union, its fur is not so thick. It has been observed that the individuals from the western populations were brighter and more uniform than the individuals from Far East.
In the winter, the fur gets denser, and in the summer – thicker. In the coldest months the fur becomes longer, softer, and silky-smooth. In the winter, the cat is shaggier, and the fur grows even on its ears. Moreover, the fur on the back of the head and around the neck creates a collar, which is the characteristic feature of this subspecies. In the summer, the fur is enhanced by rusty and orange colors, and the stripes are more visible.
Diet and hunting method
The Siberian tiger can down an Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and a brown bear (Ursus arctos), if the population of ungulates decreases. However, in such a situation, it more often attacks brown bears near their winter habitats. The Siberian tiger is more willing to hunt the bears because they cannot climb trees, contrary to Asian black bears, and they prefer more open spaces where they are easier to hunt.
The tiger hunts large and dangerous animals off guard – it stands on a tall rock or hides on a tree. When a prey comes closer, the tiger jumps down on it and digs its claw into the prey’s throat, and its teeth into the prey’s neck, immobilizing it. Then, the tiger breaks the prey’s spinal cord and crushes its spine.
When the tiger kills a bear, it starts its feast from the thick layer of subcutaneous fat situated on the animal’s back, upper parts of its legs, and in groins.
As you can see, although the tiger can hunt bears in a very effective way, there have been reports on a tiger’s death caused by a bear, that protected itself from the attacking predator.
People who have been observing the animals in the taiga have noticed several times, that a bear that saw a tiger’s traces changed its route.
Thanks to its coloration, the Siberian tiger can easily hide in grass and on trees. If there is harmony in a given ecosystem, the tiger willingly hunts elks and boars.
Siberian tiger and wolf
The Siberian tiger has been decreasing the population of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) to such an extent that in some places the wolf is at risk of complete extinction. A shared ecological niche is the main problem, because the species fight one another – the interactions between these animals were thoroughly observed until the beginning of 20th century in Sikhote Alin, where the number of wolves had always been small.
With the decrease in the population of the Siberian tiger, the population of the gray wolf increases. It has been proved by the stories of local inhabitants who claim that wolves haven’t been seen in Sikhote Alin before; everything changed in 1930s, when the Siberian tiger started being hunted, and its habitats were occupied by the colonization of those regions at the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th centuries.
A confrontation between a tiger and a wolf may end in the death of one of the opponents, because they are both strong and persevere enough to kill the rival. Of course, in case of the wolves, we are talking about a pack, because a single wolf is not able to win over the Siberian king.
It is worth mentioning, that the tiger usually doesn’t hunt wolves, although there have been 4 reports on a wolf being killed by a tiger that had no intention of eating it.
Temper and relation with human
The Siberian tiger is solitary and nocturnal. It is among those territorial animals that can be aggressive while meeting an intruder trespassing their territory marked by scent traces. Despite its unfavorable reputation, the Siberian tiger doesn’t attack people, it avoids them, unless it’s very hungry or sick and can’t hunt its usual prey. The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is more dangerous, although the Siberian tiger is larger.
In the past, the Siberian tiger was also considered to be shy and non-threatening towards people, unless it was provoked, although there were incidents when a tiger killed a woman collecting wood, and a defenseless officer when he was crossing a reed bed. We need to add the latest case, when an Amur tiger killed a zoo keeper in Germany.
Moreover, some attacks on shepherds working by the Ili River and children have been recorded several times. However, calling the tiger a “man-eater” would be very harmful.
The Siberian tiger is fertile a whole year. A female signalizes her readiness to mate by leaving the scent of her urine and claw marks on trees. The rutting time lasts for about 3 days; at that time a female is able to mate with 5-6 males. Pregnancy lasts for 3-3.5 months, and litter consists of 2-4 cubs, sometimes 6.
Cubs are born blind in a covered den. When the mother is hungry, she leaves the cubs and goes for hunting. The cubs are dependent on their mother until about 18th month of life; after that time, they are able to hunt independently. They leave their mother when they are 2-3 years old.
Young females stay with the mother longer than males, and they inhabit territories located close to their home area. Young males leave the family, roam alone, and go to remote places, which make them an easy target for poachers and adult tigers.
Siberian tiger vs. Bengal tiger
This subject qualifies as part of interesting facts, but it will certainly be interesting to many people.
In short, you can say about the Bengal tiger that it has a nasty character. It feels an overwhelming need of confrontation, and it has been observed many times, as a tiger caused fights with lions or Siberian (Amur) tigers in in zoos.
The Siberian tiger, although it is more peaceful and doesn’t cause such encounters, always wins them. Its size, weight, and range of arms are decisive factors. It is the largest cat and it is unrivalled among felids.
Maybe a fight between those tigers doesn’t resemble one between Polish boxer Adamek and Ukrainian champion Kliczko, but the result is quite similar 🙂
In fact, the Siberian tiger should be titled as the king of animals, because the lion would be defeated in such a fight – more: Lion vs tiger.
Lion vs. tiger
To readers who are more interested in this subject, we recommend the article that analyzes a fight between the lion and the tiger: Lion vs. tiger – fight.
Detailed information and size
Siberian tiger / Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)
- Body length with the tail: 150-330 cm (4ft 11in – 10 ft 10 in)
- females to 270 cm (8ft 10in)
- The record length for male was 348 cm (11ft 5.0in) in the wild, and 390 cm (12ft 9.5in) in captivity – the male Jaipur (1999)
- Tail length: 90-100 cm (2ft 11 in – 3ft 3.4 in)
- Height at shoulders: 90-110 cm (2ft 11 in – 3ft 7.3in)
- Weight: 200 – 318 kg (441 – 701 lb)
- The record weight was 384 kg (847lb) in the wild, 465 kg (1025lb) in captivity – the male Jaipur (1999)
- Lifespan: about 15 years
The given records for tigers in the wild do not have confirmed source.
Siberian tiger / Amur tiger – interesting facts
- The Siberian tiger is the largest living representative of felids, and one of the largest felids that have ever lived.
- It is usually taller than the Bengal tiger by 5-10 cm (2-4 in).
- Stripes on fur are unique for each individual, they play the same role as fingerprints.
- Bears constitute 5-8% of the whole diet of the Siberian tiger.
- A hungry tiger may eat about 27 kg of meat overnight, but usually it eats less, about 9 kg (20 lb).
- An image of a gold Siberian tiger is on the coat of arms and flag of Primorsky Krai – it is the symbol of prosperity, and draws attention to enormous variety of plants and animals of this region.
- The tiger is also the symbol of development; an open jaw of the predator means that it’s ready to repulse any attacks, protecting the eastern Russian borders. A lifted tail on the coat of arms and flag symbolizes the bravery of the animal.
- The Siberian tiger is at risk of extinction, despite many actions taken in order to protect it. The animal is hunted by poachers who want its fur. Also the doctors specializing in traditional Chinese medicine contribute to the killings of Siberian tigers.
- The largest measured Siberian tiger weighed 465 kg (1025 lb). It was Jaipur tiger.
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