Claws, Paws and Pug Marks

Claws, Paws & Pug Marks - Page 1&2: Claws| 3&4: Pug Marks | 5&6: Declawing


The correct name for the paw prints of an animal is 'spoor'. More specifically, the paw prints of a tiger are termed 'pug marks'; this is a Hindu word.

It is relatively easy for an expert to discern the spoor of a felid from that of a canid. The prints of a dog will always show the claws, whereas the prints of a cat normally won't, this being due to their retracted position. The spoor shown below came from a large domestic dog.

There are occasional exceptions to this rule of thumb and the claws of a cat will be in evidence if the animal was at a stretch when the print was made.

Pug marks:

An expert can tell many things from studying these, including the approximate age, weight, size, mood and even the sex of the cat (a male tiger leaves pug marks which are squarer and have thicker toes).

At birth the paws of males and females are the same size, but by three months the male has a pad which is about double the size of the female; this difference is maintained throughout life.

Front paws can be identified from rear paws as their forward thrust leaves the imprint slightly distorted. The imprints shown above are from a Sumatran tiger.

Pug marks from a male tiger can also be distinguished from a female. Males have much rounder prints; those of a female are quite misshapen and irregular.


Conservationists record pug marks, as they are unique and so are useful as a form of identification.

There are several ways of copying pug marks:

    • Measurement with sticks or fingers. This has been superceded by the following methods.
      • Tracing paper over a glass plate. On its own this system is inaccurate and misses important details.
      • Pouring plaster of Paris into the print and taking a cast. This is particularly useful for identifying irregularities in a print, but is cumbersome and awkward. Casts from a Sumatran tiger are shown at the top of this page.
        • Tracer boards. These are more expensive than the other options, however they tend to be more accurate.
        • The latest preferred method of recording pug marks involves the use of digital cameras. The pug mark is still traced onto glass, but then also photographed and put through special software designed to measure the various parameters. Any distinct pug mark characteristics are observed and noted.

        (Continued Page 4) 

Claws, Paws & Pug Marks - Page 1&2: Claws| 3&4: Pug Marks | 5&6: Declawing

 Taxonomy | Whiskers | Hearing & Ear Spots | Eyesight | Smell | Teeth | Communication | Flehman | Genetics |
Life Span | Streaking | Claws, Paws & Pug Marks | Skin & Coat | Gait | Tail | Cleanliness & Tongue |
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