The Burmese have a saying:

"If the tiger had to depend upon its nose it would starve to death."

Sense of smell in canids and felids:

The sense of smell in the tiger is much lower than in the dog and a very small segment of the brain is devoted to interpreting scent.

Dogs have a greater area devoted to olfactory cells and the density of cells around their nasal passages is 125 per square centimetre. Cats only have 13.9 per square centimetre.

Nature has countered this somewhat by giving the cat an increased amount of receptor cells, but still their abilities to interpret scent are a great deal lower than the canine.

Sent detection:

Some disagreement exists over how much the tiger uses its sense of smell in hunting with most experts agreeing that smell plays only a minor part.

Experiments have shown that the tiger is unable to detect human scent, and even rotting meat is often overlooked until it is well and truly high.

Even at this late stage, when the human nose can detect the odour without difficulty, only some tigers will successfully locate the meat, even if it is only a metre above their heads.

However, the ability to discriminate between one odour and another is still very strong as the following examples show:

  • A male is able to read that a female is ready to mate.
    • It is possible for one cat to tell the difference between its own markings and those of another cat -- even if the second cat has overlaid those of the original.
    • A tiger can tell whether a scent belongs to a male or a female, and whether or not the animal is from the local area, or a stranger.
    • Tigers can communicate their territories.

    After smelling a scent mark, a tiger will often grimace in an action called flehmen. This action is explained in another article found here.


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Photography With Thanks To The Tiger Touch (Photos 1,3)
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