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Big Cats - Tiger

( Originally Published 1936 )

The Tiger is the largest of all the cats, and is generally considered the most beautiful on account of its splendid colouration. The upper parts of the body are a brilliant orange colour, crossed at irregular intervals with black stripes, the under parts white, relieved by large patches or blotches of black, and the tail is ringed with black bands. The head is distinguished by long whiskers which come down on either side of the jaw, just under the ears, and are continued underneath the throat. As a rule the females have longer whiskers than the males. See Plate 12, Fig. 56. Except for the fact that the front teeth are larger in proportion, the Tiger in form very closely resembles the domestic cat.

The principal home of this animal is India, al-though it is found in some of the islands of the Indian Archipelago and as far north as Siberia and northern China. The fur of the Indian Tiger is very short and smooth, with numerous broad black stripes over it which give it almost the appearance of being painted, while that of the northern animal is much longer and lighter in shade. So far as is known, how-ever, there is but one existing species. The northern Tigers are often of very large size, and, judging from the accounts of travellers in those regions, they are not nearly so fierce and therefore are not so much feared by the natives as are their more southern relatives. Native hunters have been known to follow these animals into caves and spear them to death with very clumsy weapons. Although they often live close to villages, they seldom, if ever, molest the inhabitants. In Sumatra, on the other hand, the people live in great dread of the Tiger, which hides in the thick jungle and is hunted with difficulty.

When, for any reason, Tigers in India find it hard to obtain their natural prey, they take to man-eating; and finding human beings comparatively easy victims, persist in this practice as long as they live. Often whole districts are terrorised and dozens of people slain before some foreigner, usually an Englishman, succeeds in shooting or trapping the man-eater. These Tigers live in the immediate vicinity of villages and good-sized towns, and women, especially, who go to the rivers for water are often struck down and carried off by them.

Tiger-hunting in India is conducted in several different ways. Sometimes a very rich prince, or Rajah, will have an enormous hunt, using dozens of elephants and many " beaters," whose business it is to make loud noises and drive the Tigers towards the hunters, who then shoot them from " howdahs," little houses on the backs of the elephants. At times these hunts are attended by considerable danger and excitement, owing to the fact that the elephants sometimes become suddenly panic-stricken and dash wildly about under the overhanging boughs of trees, crushing the howdah and its occupants.

A much less spectacular and more dangerous method is to hunt on foot, accompanied by one or two men as gun-bearers, tracking the Tiger through the jungle. Another way is for the hunter to make a platform in the branches of a tree, tie an ox or a sheep under it, and shoot the Tiger when it comes out to seize the victim.

The Tiger feeds on the smaller and larger game as he can find itódeer, wild boars, domestic cattle, and probably some of the smaller buffaloes. It is especially fond of the peacock, whose home also is in the jungle. The Tiger in attacking large animals springs upon its prey, seizes it by the back of the neck, and by a quick wrench dislocates the vertebra, thus causing almost instant death.

In captivity this feline is much more savage and untamable than the Lion, possibly because it is less intelligent. Many men and women who engage in the business of lion-taming fear to enter a cage with Tigers, which they consider far more treacherous and more difficult to handle.

Although lions have a decided dislike to entering the water, Tigers, on the other hand, owing to the fact that many of them live on islands and in swampy places, are often obliged to swim long distances in pursuit of their prey. Many of the islands in the Ganges are thus inhabited by Tigers who make long excursions through the water in search of food. In zoological gardens they are often provided with tanks filled with water for their enjoyment. In the Jardin des Plantes. l have seen two Tigers swimming in a large pool that had been made in their cage, and there is an old Tiger in the Washington Zoological Park that in summer remains for hours in his tank and upon emerging is careful not to shake the water off, simply allowing it to drip from his skin.

While this animal is much less noisy in captivity than the Lion, its infrequent call is like the magnified growl of the house cat, with the addition of a peculiar blood-curdling ring.



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