Orange is the standard colour for the tiger. All other colours are caused by recessive genes (white), or sometimes by inbreeding (black). It is often considered that breeding facilities should aim only to produce the orange tiger as the colour is true to species and colours such as that of the white tiger only detract from the true beauty of the deep orange. Indeed, there is no doubt visitors to this site display an obvious preference for white.
Tigers are never 'just orange' and depending upon subspecies the hue varies. The Amur tiger is more gold than orange, while the Bengal has reddish tonings. The now extinct Balinese tiger was a particularly dark, deep orange.
Even within subspecies the orange may vary a great deal and in the Sumatran it ranges from reddish-yellow, through to a deep orange, and on into reddish-brown colourings.
Generally-speaking, northern tigers (Russia, northern China) have lighter coats. Southern tigers (Malaysia and Sumatra) are darker.
Stripes also vary in colour. In the Amur tiger they are more brown than black, and the Bengal may have brown, gray, or black striping.
an unusually pale version of the orange tiger may occur. Suggestions have been made that this could be a complication
of the same genes which cause the white tiger. The result is
something which has a colour somewhere between the white and orange tigers.
Erythristic tigers have been reported. Erythrism is abnormal or excessive redness. No photographs are available, but Tiger Territory displays here some very unusual images of a mounted erythristic leopard.
Brown tigers have been reported and claims about their appearance varies. In some it is said the stripes are only a little darker than the normal base colour of the coat. Others apparently have a brown pelage with black stripes.
In four other reports occurring between 1961 and 1988 brown Bengals which possess no stripes were claimed. Like most black tigers these animals were seen around Orissa's Similipal Tiger Reserve. The most recent of these was in July 1988 when a guard saw a non-striped tiger at a salt lick. A pug mark was seen in the area after the tiger departed. It has been suggested that the development of plain brown tigers may be a natural adaptation to assist camouflage in more open and sandy areas. For instance, a plain pelage would be advantageous in large areas of the Sundarbans.
The brown tiger has never been photographed, but then only recently was photographic evidence of the melanistic tiger produced, so the possibility of it occurring should not be ruled out.
It has been established that there are 14 possible colour combinations in the tiger. This site covers nine of these aberrations. Information on the others is presently unavailable, but most still rate as speculation rather than proven instances.