White Tigers

Opponents of white tiger breeding:

There are only a small quantity of white tigers in existence and present numbers are put in the region of 500. With the inevitable inbreeding problems a debate continually rages over the wisdom of breeding this animal. White tigers, white lions, white peacocks, none are representative of their wild populations.

The Tiger Species Survival Programme  has actively discouraged breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry. Most of these animals have been hybridised with members of other subspecies -- usually of an unknown lineage.

Other organisations object to white tigers both because of the lack of genetic diversity and because it serves no practical conservation purpose. 

Some opponents state that white tiger breeding only inflates the stud book entries for zoos and provides a popular exhibit which helps increase attendance and revenue.

The US$1,600 per year spent feeding each of these tigers is effectively being outlaid on two hundred or so pretty freaks. However, it must be admitted that there is a plus to this in that the money earned can be put towards saving all tigers and the white specimens earn more than they cost in revenue from the visiting public. 

Hybrid white tigers:

White tigers are simply white-coloured Bengals and not a separate subspecies as many people think.

Occasionally you will hear people referring to white tigers from a subspecies other than the Bengal. These are hybrids and may occur if a zoo chooses to mate a white Bengal with a tiger from another subspecies; this then produces a white hybrid tiger.

The studbook for the purebred white Bengal tiger counts only 43 animals, the rest seen are of unknown heritage, or they are hybrids.

Myths surrounding the white tiger:

A common myth surrounding the white tiger is that they are from Siberia and their coat colour camouflages them in snow. This is incorrect.  

The truth is that white tigers come from India and of the approximately forty purebred white tigers in captivity most remain in that country.

The white tiger is not a separate subspecies; it would perhaps be more accurate to call it an aberrant colouration. Because they are not a separate tiger type they are also not an 'endangered species'.

Perhaps the most common myth is that white tigers are albinos, but without pigment they would also not have stripes, coloured noses and paw pads, and lip mottling. Their skin would be milky and not striped.

A little-known fact is that white tigers do not always have ice blue eyes; they may be green or amber.  Again, this requires pigment in the eyes that an albino would not have.

Some historic myths also surrounded the white tiger:

  • Native princes of northern India considered them as rarities and prize specimens were kept in private zoos.
  • In the kingdom of Assam the belief existed that anyone sighting a white tiger would soon die. It's a myth that remains today.

History of the White Tiger | White Tigers | Albinos | Golden Tabbies | Black Tigers | Maltese (Blue) |
Red, Brown & Orange Tigers | White Lions

Colourations Index | Home

Photography With Thanks To Lisa Purcell
All Rights Reserved. Displayed here with permission, for educational, non-profit purposes.