Amur or Siberian tiger -- Panthera tigris altaica

Amur - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3: In Captivity | 4&5: Subspecies Description| 6: Weight & Length Figures |
7: Conservation

Amur Tiger: size, weight and length:

The Amur is usually quoted as the largest felid alive; in fact this is not quite correct. It is certainly the largest naturally breeding cat, but for size and weight it is often exceeded by the liger. Those cats are a product of human interference and have a lion father and tiger mother. They do not occur in the wild.

Standing around 1 metre at the shoulder, the Amur tiger does not stand as tall as the African lion, though the tiger is longer and weighs considerably more. The comparative drawing below shows a Bengal tiger standing beside an African lion. There is little height difference between Amur and Bengal tigers; the differences occur in length and weight.

History records the largest Amur tiger as weighing in at 1,000 pounds, though this was an extreme case in a captive cat and they normally outgrow their wild cousins. A wild Amur would be lucky to reach 650 to 675 pounds.

In length, these tigers can reach 13 feet, between the pegs, but this is the exception, not the rule. Lengths of 8-10 feet are more usual. The term 'between the pegs' denotes measurement from tip of the nose to tip of tail.

Amur tiger - the coat (or pelage):

Though most tigers of all subspecies grow a mane or ruff of fur around the neck, this is much more developed and obvious in the Amur tiger. This adaptation comes about due to the cold conditions in which they live. Temperatures may plunge to -46 degrees Celsius.


Fur of this subspecies grows longer and thicker than that of the slightly smaller Bengal tiger. Indeed, the Amur's longhaired winter coat makes the subspecies appear quite massive. During cold winter months areas of this can measure as long as 21 inches and there are 3,000 hairs over every square centimetre of its surface. There is extra fur on the paws to provide insulation against the cold snow.

Both males and females have more white in their coats than other subspecies and coat colour is more gold than orange.

The Amur subspecies has less striping than other tiger types and the stripes are more brown than black. Almost no stripes appear on the outer area of the front legs. 

It remains a dilemma as to why the Amur tiger has failed to develop a coat colour which would provide better concealment in the long Siberian winters. Logic would seem to demand that a coat similar to that of the white Bengal tiger would assist in hunting.

The myth of the white Siberian tiger:

The gene for a white coat is not considered to occur in the Amur tiger. Though there have been very occasional claims of white tigers sighted in the wild none can be proven with photographic evidence. If the white coat does actually occur in the Amur subspecies it certainly seems most strange that it has not happened in captivity, considering the captive numbers of this subspecies outweigh the remaining wild tigers.

People are often confused by captive cats they think are white Amur tigers. This term may mistakenly be used to refer to a hybrid Bengal tiger which has some Amur genetic 'pollution'. However, the white coat colour will have arisen from Bengal parentage.

This page displays an image of one such tiger, a male born in 1984 at the Henry Doorly Zoo and transferred to the National Zoo (Smithsonian Institution) at the age of two. Though Taj does have Amur genes, it is his stronger Bengal lineage (and parentage) which gives him the white coat.

It should be emphasised that Taj is not an Amur tiger; neither is he a Bengal tiger; he is a hybrid and as such cannot be used for breeding or registered in the Species Survival Plan (SSP). If you compare him to the purebred Amur tiger also shown you may see that Taj has more of the finer look of a Bengal, as against the chunky Amur appearance. The Amur is heavier, wider in the muzzle area and has a much more extensive coat.

 (Continued Page 5)

Amur - Page 1&2: In The Wild | 3: In Captivity | 4&5: Subspecies Description| 6: Weight & Length Figures | 7: Conservation

Amur | Bali | Bengal | Caspian | Corbetts | Javan | Sumatran | South Chinese | Amur Leopard

Subspecies Index | Home

Photography With Thanks To  Ralf Schmode (Photos 1-2)
Jessie Cohen & the Smithsonian Institution (Photo 2).
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.