Myths and Facts

Myths & Facts - Page 1 | Page 2

This page explodes some of the commonly-held myths and beliefs surrounding the tiger. All of these are explored extensively elsewhere on Tiger Territory. This section is a quick reference only.

Myth: Tigers live in Africa.

Fact: Tigers have never evolved in Africa and most experts now believe all modern subspecies descend from the South Chinese tiger form. From that part of the world tigers gradually made their way as far as Iran and Turkey, but there is no reason to suspect they ever made it as far as Africa.

Myth: White tigers are albinos.

Fact: White tigers are albinistic, meaning they lack some of their normal colour. However, they are not true albinos as they still display evidence of pigmentation. This site has, in over three years of searching, been unable to find reliable expert testimony or photographic proof to indicate there are presently any living albino tigers. You will, however, find tigers which are very close to being pure white, but these still have some areas of very faint striping and colour to be found on the lips, nose and paw pads; this means they are not albino animals. Though there is no reason albinism cannot occur within tigers, experts who have been consulted have all stated they have yet to sight a true albino.

Myth: White tigers are a separate subspecies.

Fact: Sorry, wrong again. White tigers occur in the Bengal subspecies, though they may occasionally appear in tigers with a mixed heritage. In other words, a Bengal tiger with some Amur genetic 'pollution' may have a white coat, but they will have Bengal parentage and the parents must both carry the unusual recessive gene which produces the white colouring.

Myth: There are white Amur (Siberian) tigers.

Fact: Though claims have been made that white Amur tigers have been sighted in the wild, we have no photographic or reliable expert evidence to back this up. The Amur tiger in captivity out-numbers its wild cousins, and if the white coat did occur within this subspecies it should have been obvious before now. There are, however, Bengal tigers with Amur genetic pollution and these are sometimes erroneously referred to as 'white Amur tigers'.

Myth: White tigers come from Siberia.

Fact: Many people believe they come from Siberia and that the white colour provides camouflage in the snowy conditions. White tigers actually originate from India, specifically, Rewa in India. It is something of a mystery as to why the Amur tiger hasn't developed a coat colour which would provide better camouflage; our best guess is this has to do with the very slow process of evolution.

Myth: Black tigers do not exist.

Fact: Yes, they do! Well, they have done. We now have photographic evidence of this colouration occurring, at least in Bengals. It is a simple case of melanism. This means there is an abnormally high amount of dark pigment in the coat. It is also melanism which causes black jaguars and leopards, often termed black panthers.

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