The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Beaver
Story Of The Lion
Story Of The Elk
Story Of The Tiger.
Story Of The Mountain- Lion
Story Of The Camel
Story Of The Jaguar
Story Of The Buffalo.
Read More Articles About: The Story Of Wild Animals
Story Of The Tiger
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
My first direct knowledge of the jungle tiger was obtained in a manner startling in the extreme to both the beast and myself. I was out but a short - distance from our camp near Calcutta when I noticed a band of monkeys in the distance. They were perched in the tops of some trees and were chattering incessantly. I approached them rather incautiously, desiring to acquaint myself with the cause of the commotion. When under the nearest tree I chanced to look at the ground just ahead, where I saw crouched a tiger of immense size. The surprise was mutual and for a moment each of us hesitated, neither seeming prepared for the meeting. Fortunately, I was standing beside the trunk of the tree with low hanging branches, and I swung up among them before the tiger had fully grasped the situation. I remained in the tree for a half day, at the end of which time a party came out from the camp in search of me. The tiger was still on guard, and paid the penalty with his life.
Whether the lion or the tiger is the more powerful animal, is a question which has given rise to much discussion, but the opinion of those most competent to decide is in favor of the superiority in this respect of the latter. The absence of the mane, which forms such a striking feature in the male lion, renders, however, the appearance of the tiger decidedly less imposing, and hence the second position in the series is commonly assigned to this "cat." In spite of the difference in coloration, the lion and the tiger are very closely allied animals, both having a circular aperture for the pupil of the eye, and there is also a similarity in the bones which support the tongue.
The usual manner of measuring a tiger is to follow the curves of the body. It appears that all the largest tigers on record have been measured in this manner. Full-grown tigers thus measured vary from 9 to 10 feet in length; and tigresses from 8 to 9 feet. Unusually fine specimens will, however, reach, or even slightly exceed, a length of 12 feet ; 12 feet 2 inches being apparently the maximum dimension`s ascertained with any approach to accuracy. There is still need of additional information as to the maximum weight attained by tigers. Some unusually large tigers, which fell to my rifle, must have weighed from 450 to 500 pounds, The Maharaja of Kuch-Behar has killed tigers which are stated to have varied from 481 to 540 pounds. The weight of a tiger depends, of course, largely upon the condition of the animal at the time of its death; and if a specimen under 10 feet in length will turn the scale at over 5oò pounds, it may be taken as certain that those of 11 or 12 feet in equally good condition must reach considerably heavier weights.
At the saine time that it is the most beautiful, the tiger is certainly one of the most ferocious of quadrupeds. Indeed, so sanguinary is its disposition, that there is no animal, however strong and powerful, it will not venture to attack. Such furious combats have taken place between the lion and tiger, that in some instances both animals have been known to perish, rather than give up the contest.
It commits the most lamentable ravages among flocks and herds in the countries where it resides; and neither the sight nor the opposition of man has any power to make it desist. When undisturbed in seizing an animal, it plunges its head into the victim's body, and drinks large draughts of blood, the sources of which are generally exhausted before its thirst is appeased.
The muscular strength of the tiger is excessively great. A peasant in the East Indies had a buffalo fallen into, a quagmire; and while he went to call for assistance, an immense tiger came and drew out the animal, on which the united efforts of several men had been of no avail. When the people returned, the first object they beheld was the tiger, with the buffalo, thrown over its shoulder, carrying it away, with the feet upwards, towards its den. As soon, however, as it saw the men it let fall the prey, and instantly fled to the woods ; but it had previously killed the buffalo and sucked its blood.
The method of the tiger's seizing its prey is by concealing itself from view and springing upon it with a horrible roar. Its cry, in the act of springing on its victim, is hideous beyond expression. Like the lion, if it misses the object, it walks away without repeating the attempt. When it can securely attack mankind, it prefers them to any other prey ; but seldom makes an open attack upon any creature that is capable of resistance.
Sometimes it is easily scared. A company, seated under the shade. of some trees, near the banks of a river in Bengal, were alarmed by the unexcepetted sight of a tiger, preparing for its fatal spring; when a lady, with almost unexampled presence of mind, unfurled a large umbrella in the animal's face. This so confounded the tiger that it gave the party an opportunity to escape.
Of late years tiger-hunting has become less dangerous, principally on account of the innate fear that all wild beasts seem to have of the power of firearms. When mankind first waged war against the tigers, they did not heed the firearms, but experience has taught them a fear of those terrible weapons, which appears to have been communicated to their posterity, just as the puppy of a retriever dog will plunge into the water and fetch a stick without being taught.
Tigers are usually taken by the natives in pitfalls, at the bottom of which is planted a bamboo stake, the top of which is sharpened into) a point. The animal falls on the point, and is impaled.
The general notion that tigers cannot be tamed is erroneous. They can be tamed as easily as the lion ; but great caution must be used with all wild animals, as in a moment of irritation their savage nature breaks out, and the consequences have more than once proved fatal.
The coloring of the tiger is a good instance of the manner in which animals are protected by the similarity of their external appearance to the particular locality in which they reside. The stripes on the tiger's skin so exactly assimilate with the long jungle grass, among which it lives, that it is impossible for unpracticed eyes to discern the animal.
The attachment of animals to) man is one of the most pleasing and attractive traits in their character. It is not confined to domestic ones alone, but extends to the most ferocious, as the lion and tiger; and to the most suspicious, as the fox and the marten. A rat has been known to accompany its master in his walks, to fly to him for safety at the least alarm, and to shun the presence of strangers. Instances of strong attachment are frequently met with in birds.
A tigress showed a fidelity of attachment in a way that would scarcely be expected in that fierce creature. She was brought from India in a vessel where she was allowed to run about. Here she became quite friendly to all, and attached to her keeper.
On her arrival in London she was turned over to) other parties, and in confinement became sulky and savage, and was at last placed in a menagerie. Her old keeper one day visiting the place, asked permission to enter her den. Those in charge refused, and it was not till he exercised the most urgent entreaty that he obtained his wish, all present looking upon him as a doomed man.
No sooner, however, did the tigress recognize her old kind friend, than she fawned upon him, licked and caressed him, exhibiting the most extravagant signs of pleasure, and after he left she whined and cried for hours.
The most highly esteemed amusement in many parts of India is the contest of savage and determined tigers. They are suitably prepared for the encounter by being kept on short commons for some days before that appointed to test their strength, and no one who) has not been an eye-witness of this barbarous pursuit can imagine the breathless interest and expectation with which the assembled concourse await the entrance of the ferocious combatants upon the arena. On one occasion public interest had been wrought up to the highest pitch by numerous accounts of the warlike achievements and almost unrivaled strength of the tigers who were that day to be opposed to one another in the great arena. The one, a monster who had been the victor in several engagements already, had long been a popular favorite on account of his prowess; the other had been recently captured among the jungles, and, on account of his enormous size and savage ferocity, was esteemed a worthy adversary for the former animal.
For a few moments after being admitted to the arena the two gigantic beasts observed one another with gleaming eyeballs and open mouths; then Kagra, the popular favorite, owing to his previous victories, began to steal with cat-like motion and constantly agitated tail toward his adversary, who stood regarding him, evidently prepared for a spring. At length, with a sudden leap, Kagra was upon his enemy, and was received with such a hearty grip that it was difficult to tell which was the assailant and which the defendant. Their huge tails lashed the air with mad fury; their enormous jaws seemed literally buried in each other's throats, while the deep and formidable claws of each were plunged furiously into the neck of the other.
Thus they gradually rose to an upright position, the whole weight of the body resting upon the hind legs, still straining and swaying one another backwards and forwards with almost incredible force and energy, in the mortal embrace. Their height must have exceeded six feet as they stood thus erect and ponderous, their distended eyes literally darting fire, and bloody foam quivering on their lips.
Gradually their furious struggles became less and less; and it was apparent that all their vital energies were hazarded on this last decisive grapple. Life and death were upon its issue, and it must now depend upon strength alone as to which would be thrown undermost, and thus compelled to abandon his hold.
The silence all around the arena. and in the galleries, was unbroken and oppressive. The audience seemed fearful even to draw a breath, and every eye was riveted upon the two ferocious beasts as they glared on one another in that terrible embrace. You might have heard the fall of a pin through the intense, painful hush of that moment of suspense. It was not long protracted, however. Kagra, more accustomed than his adversary to these con-tests, threw him over by a lightning movement, as unexpected as sudden, and the jungle tiger rolled over on its back in the arena, still clasped in the iron hug of Kagra.
An irrepressible murmur passed through the assemblage a triumphant shout on the part of Kagra's backers was heard but it was only for an instant. The jungle tiger struck his sharp claws into the eyes of Kagra, tearing one from its socket; and with an unearthly yell the wounded monster let go his hold, and strove to retreat from the contest. This, however, was not according to the jungle tiger's plans. He clung tightly and immovably to the quivering throat of his antagonist, and was dragged a few steps along the inclosure by the struggles of Kagra; then, suddenly springing from the ground, he threw himself on his adversary, tearing, biting, and rending him with savage triumph. When the battle was over, the king ordered his attendants to drive the jungle tiger to his cage with their white-hot irons. Popular favor was wholly with the victor and Kagra went to his cage without sympathy or alleviation for his wounds. He died the next day.
Wherever large tracts of forest and grass jungle remain in India, there tigers are to be found in more or less abundance. In the fever-stricken swamps and islands forming the so-called sandarbans of Lower Bengal, tigers are especially common; as they also are in the forests of Burma and Assam. Formerly they were to be met with in the grassy islands of the Bramaputra, but the navigation of that river by steamers has led to a large reduction in their numbers. In the forests flanking the easterly Himalaya, and known as the Terai, tigers still abound.
In parts of Java and Sumatra tigers absolutely swarm; and a firm of Dutch merchants at Padang, Sumatra, stated that the arrivals of coffee from the interior were much below the usual average, on account of the number of tigers infesting the route ; upwards of fifty men having been killed by them while engaged in bringing the coffee down country.
In spite of its predilection for water, the tiger can, however, at a pinch endure thirst for a considerable period, even in the hottest weather. As an illustration of this I may refer to an instance which recently took place, where two tigers were surrounded by nets in a small patch of jungle. The weather was hot; the circle in which they were enclosed was only seventy yards in diameter, and the heat of the fires kept up day and night all round was considerable. Still they existed without a drop of water for ten days, suffering from serious wounds the meantime. A tiger can go much longer than this without food without serious inconvenience. Like lions, tigers are had climbers, ascending trees but rarely, and being quite incapable of ascending a vertical stem, no matter what may be its dimensions. But, when aided by a sloping stem, or by a fork at some distance from the ground into which they can spring and thence obtain a fresh start, tigers will occasionally attack sportsmen who are waiting for them in trees. It is also stated that, when caught by inundations, tigers will endeavor to escape by climbing. Stems of trees, especially certain particular favorites, are in tiger-haunted districts marked by the vertical scorings in the bark made by the claws of tigers ; these markings not unfrequently extending tò a height of at least ten feet.
The idea that tigers are in the general habit of springing appears to be a popular delusion ; and it is but rarely that they move their hind-legs from the ground, except when they have occasion to. clear a fence or other obstacle. When so inclined, they are undoubtedly able to spring to a considerable height; and an instance is on record of a tiger having, at a single spring, pulled a native from a tree, at a distance of eighteen feet from the ground. The tiger's usual attack is a rush, accompanied by a series of short, deep growls or roars, in which he evidently thinks he will do much by intimidation ; when he charges home he rises on the hind-feet, seizes with the teeth and claws, and endeavors and often succeeds in pulling down the object seized. The truth is that the tiger seldom attacks to actually kill, unless it is driven, or wounded in a hunt. It will frequently charge with a short roar if suddenly disturbed, but it does not intend to charge home, and a shout from a native will be sufficient to turn it aside; it will then dash forward and disappear, probably as glad to lose sight of the man as he is at his escape from danger.
Formerly, before European sportsmen armed with rifles had access to most parts of the country by means of railways, whole districts in India were either depopulated or deserted owing to the ravages of man-eaters; and the sites of hamlets abandoned from this cause are still visible in the jungles. Not infrequently, however, the cunning and caution of the man-eater baffles, at least for a time, all the efforts of the European sportsman to encompass its destruction ; while there are districts where one of these pests may continue its depredations fora long period without coming under the notice of Europeans. The destruction of human life by tigers, most of which are probably habitual man-eaters, is, indeed, still deplorably large, especially in the more thinly-populated districts. According to the Government returns, it appears that within a period of six years no less than 4,218 natives fell victims to tigers, while in the Central Provinces alone 285 were killed during the years 1898 and 1899. In regard to the ravages committed by individual man-eaters, one tiger in 1897, 1898, 1899, killed respectively twenty-seven, thirty four and forty-seven people. I have known it to attack a party, and kill four or five at a time. Once it killed a father, mother and three children; and the week before it was shot it killed seven people. It wandered over a tract of twenty miles, never remaining in the same spot two consecutive days, and was at last killed by a bullet from a
spring-gun when returning to feed on the body of one of its victims. The account of the depredations. of another man-eater, which infested the neighborhood of a station in the Eastern Himalaya, states that the animal "prowled about within a circle, say of twenty miles, and that it killed on an average about eighty men per annum."
It has been considered that man-eating tigers, which generally belong to the female sex, were invariably animals unable to procure other food, from the effects of age. Although this is true in a very large number of instances, it appears that tigers may take to man-eating from a variety of other causes. Thus either wounds, excessive fat, or the fact of a tigress having had to bring up a family of cubs where food is scarce, may be the original cause of the adoption of this mode of life. All man-eaters were invariably at first cattle-stealers, which gradually became accustomed to the sight and presence of man, and thus lost their instinctive fear of the human race. When once a tiger has taken to man-eating, and has discovered how easily its victims are killed, it appears that it afterwards hunts the same kind of prey, although only some individuals confine themselves to this kind of food. Those tigers which are entirely or mainly man-eaters inflict fearful havoc on the unfortunate natives among whom they have taken up, their quarters ; an average native of India forming by no means a hearty meal for a tiger.
All who have had to do with them are unanimous as to the extreme wariness and caution of man-eaters, which from this cause are the most difficult to kill of all tigers. The slightest rustle or whisper on the part of the pursuer is sufficient to put the man-eater on its guard ; and it is marvelous how the animal is able to distinguish between an armed European and an unarmed native.
The general method of seizing its prey is for the tiger to slink up under cover of bushes or long grass, ahead of the cattle in the direction they are feeding, and to make a rush at the first cow or bullock that comes within five or six yards. The tiger does not spring upon his prey in the manner usually represented. Clutching the bullock's fore-quarters with his paws, one being generally over the shoulder, he seizes the throat in his jaws from underneath, and turns it upwards and over, sometimes springing to the far side in doing so, to throw the bullock over, and give the wrench which dislocates its neck. This is frequently done so quickly that the tiger, if timid, is in retreat again almost before the herdsman can turn round. Bold animals often kill several head, unsophisticated cattle occasionally standing and staring at the tiger in stupid astonishment; but herds that are accustomed to these raids only enter the jungle with extreme unwillingness. Occasionally the tiger seizes his prey by the nape of the neck; the blow of his paw will, however, stun even a large animal; and it is quite possible that cattle may be killed in this manner. Tigers will on rare occasions kill buffalo and gaur, and similar prey, by hamstringing them, probably by a blow with the claws. Such hamstrung animals are occasionally met with, but the exact method in which it is accomplished remains unknown.
It is probable that a cattle-killing tiger destroyed a victim about every fifth day; three days being employed in feasting on the carcass and resting in the intervals, while during the other two food was not specially sought. This, when we remember the number of these animals in certain parts of India, will give some idea of the losses they occasion. According to a return issued by the Government, it appears that in the Madras Presidency, during the quarter ending 31st December, 1900, the number of animals killed by tigers and leopards included 656 bullocks, 752 cows, 236 calves, 135 buffaloes, 105 sheep and 103 goats. In the returns for all India for one year, during which 1,835 cattle were killed, the total loss was set down at a little short of 60,000 head, of which 20,000 were assigned to tigers, and an equal number to leopards. > Although the man-eating tiger is much more dreaded, the cattle-lifting tiger is regarded with supreme indifference by-the herdsmen of the districts it infests.
It is only of late years that the existence of tigers in Siberia has been known. Heretofore it was supposed to be purely a tropical animal, but it is now found in snowy fields and forests and the colds plateaus of Asia. It is distributed over China to the northward of Amur territory and Eastern Siberia, and in Asia over the Altai to Northern Persia and Lake Aral. The most powerful species is the East Siberian tiger, rivaling the Royal Bengal tiger in beauty of form. In size and weight the animal is not surpassed by the latter, only the coloration is less brilliant. When the Siberian tiger has taken on its winter fur, in which one might bury the hand, and the tail appears so thick that it cannot be spanned by both hands, it is looked upon with feelings of astonishment and admiration by every hunter who has ever beheld this cat-like giant. As the long grass of the jungle harmonizes with the coat of the Bengal tiger and affords him a hiding place from hunters, so do the surroundings of the Siberian tiger make it difficult to see the animal at any great distance.
The home of the Siberian tiger is usually in a cave of dull gray rocks, which match the ground color of its coat. It has been less disturbed by hunters than its Indian relative, and for that reason is much bolder in the presence of man than the jungle tiger.