Black or Melanistic Tigers

Black Tigers - 1: Introduction To Melanism | 2: Early Evidence Of Black Tigers | 3&4: The C.T. Buckland Black Tiger Story |
5: Black Tigers Of Similipal Tiger Reserve | 6: A Colour Image!

The below image shows William M. Rebsamen, widely considered to be America's finest cryptozoological artist. (Click here for an interesting explanation of cryptozoology). His painting shows a melanistic tiger with a near reversal in striping. Such is the amount of black in the coat that this animal appears to be a black tiger with gold stripes. The available enlargement shows the painting in detail. More of William M. Rebsamen's works are displayed under the maltese tiger and the marozi.  

The skull shown is not that of a tiger, it is a leopard.  The domestic cat pictured is a clouded, or bulls-eye, tabby. This cat also has an unusual coat with cloudy uneven markings over the body. Only on the extremities is normal striping evident.

Click here for an enlargement showing just the black tiger.

Historic records of melanistic and black tigers:

There have always been occasional claims of black and melanistic tigers:

    • In the 1770s, Oscott College in England held a painting by James Forbes which showed an entirely black tiger whose stripes were darker still. The whereabouts of the painting became lost when the Forbes collection was sold at auction. It is a work this site would very much like to track down, but so far has had no luck. If you are aware of its location please contact
    • The Tower of London had a menagerie which was set up by Henry III in the 13th century and which remained operational until 1831. At one stage this reportedly housed a black tiger from the East Indies.
    • In 1844 an animal identified as a black tiger was displayed in Piccadilly. It was a gift to Napoleon from the King of Java. Today it is thought this felid may actually have been a leopard.
    • The following two pages reproduce a well-known 1889 article by naturalist C.T. Buckland in which he and a number of other experienced shooters sighted a dead black tiger.
    • 1915 and a completely black tiger was shot in Assam. There was said to be no appearance of striping at all on this animal which seems particularly strange. This site has never had evidence of an entirely black big cat, that is with the exception of the leopard mentioned on the prior page. All display some pattern, even if it is only obvious in bright sunlight. The perfect example of this is the black 'panther' (a term applied to the melanistic leopard or jaguar) which can appear completely black until the pelage is seen under strong illumination.
    • Another tiger shooting is said to have occurred in the Lushai Hills during 1928. It was claimed this animal was very similar to that sighted by C.T. Buckland.
    • Several sightings of black tigers were reported from Dongning in China. 1951, 1953 and 1957 all saw claims of melanistic animals. A capture was said to have occurred in 1972.
    • Even during the Vietnam War, soldiers serving with the Vietnamese Rangers were known as 'Black Tigers' in recognition of a legend from the local area.

    No carcasses were ever retained for scientific investigation, so until recently melanistic tiger sightings remained unsubstantiated and were put down to such things as bad lighting, orange-coloured tigers coated in blood, either from a large kill or the residue of forest fires, or simple mistaken identity. No photographic or recent reliable witness evidence was provided to suggest otherwise.

    The photos of the black tiger on this page are from the '80s phantasm movie, "Beastmaster". Surprisingly, rather than using a genuine melanistic leopard or jaguar to play the part of Ruh (pronounced 'Rrrr'), the movie directors employed a normal-coloured tiger which was then dyed black and called a panther. Quite why this done remains unexplained. Though the images do give some idea of the possible appearance of a black tiger, about two years after filming was completed, Sultan the tiger reportedly died of extreme skin problems caused by the black dye used on his coat.

Black Tigers - 1: Introduction To Melanism | 2: Early Evidence Of Black Tigers | 3&4: The C.T. Buckland Black Tiger Story |
5: Black Tigers Of Similipal Tiger Reserve | 6: A Colour Image!

History of the White Tiger | White Tigers | Albinos | Golden Tabbies | Black Tigers | Maltese (Blue) |
Red, Brown & Orange Tigers | White Lions

Colourations Index | Home

Photography With Thanks To William M. Rebsamen (Photo 1)
Promotional Shots From Movie Beastmaster (Photos 2-4)
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