Myths and Facts

Myths & Facts - Page 1 | Page 2


Myth: Tigers can be identified by their pug marks (paw prints).

Fact: This is partially true. However, the pug marks of a tiger look different in varying soil types meaning unless the cat has an obvious foot irregularity reliable identification is not possible.

Myth: Tigers hunt in groups.

Fact: This myth comes from confusion between the tiger and the lion. Tigers rarely come together except when courting. During this time the couple may very occasionally hunt as a pair, but are more interested in mating. Other sightings of multiple tigers occur where cubs are still not independent and are learning from their mother. Apart from the couple of exceptions mentioned above, this is a solitary animal which lives and hunts alone.

Myth: Cats don't like water.

Fact: Among the big cats, this is quite true -- except for the tiger and jaguar. These two cat species love water and are fine swimmers. In hotter climates, tigers lie in the water to help reduce the effects of heat and annoying flies. They seem to prefer fresh water and it is thought saltwater may irritate the liver. Note: There are some small cats which are quite at home in the water and in captivity some other big cats, including the lion, may grow to enjoy brief periods in the water.

Myth: Amur tigers are the largest cats in the world.

Fact: This is something of a misnomer. Amur tigers are the largest naturally-breeding cat in the world and this simply means they are the largest cat that breeds in the wild. However, they are not the largest cat in the world. This honour goes to the liger, which is the product of human intervention and arises through lion and tiger matings in captivity. A liger has a lion father and a tiger mother; this leads to gigantism. It also results in a cat which easily exceeds the Amur tiger in size.

Myth: Hybrid ligers and tigons are sterile.

Fact: Surprisingly, this is incorrect. It seems sterility always occurs in male ligers and tigons, however the females are often capable of reproducing. This myth has led to cases of li-ligers and ti-tigons, after hybrid females were placed in with entire males and no contraception was used.

Myth: Lion and tiger habitats overlap in the Gir Forest.

Fact: Though appropriate tiger prey species are located in the Gir Forest no tigers are found here and the area is held exclusively by the lion.

Myth: Tigers used to be found in Tasmania.

Fact: The thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger, was not a relative of the cat. This animal was a marsupial with some striping across the hindquarters. It was hunted, supposedly to extinction, in the 1930's. Recent years have seen a rash of unconfirmed sightings, some from people considered reliable, but dedicated searches for this shy animal have all drawn blanks. Tiger Territory contains a more detailed article on this animal which may be accessed from the Main Menu.

Myth: Sabre-toothed tigers were related to the modern tiger.

Fact: The sabre-tooth (spelling varies between sabre and saber depending upon whether or not you use American or British English) was an example of parallel evolution and is no relation to the modern tiger. Though it is a cat, it is not a tiger and is more correctly referred to as the sabre-toothed cat.

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