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Bengal Tiger

The ghost cat of India

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus & Species: Panthera tigris tigris


The Bengal tiger has reddish-gold fur with black stripes that act as camouflage in the wild. The throat, belly, and insides of the legs are white. The males grow 9-10 ft in length from the head to the tip of the tail. The females grow to a length less than 8 ft. The males weigh 400-575 pounds and the females weigh 220-375 pounds. Their shoulder height is 36 in. Unlike most cats, tigers can only purr while breathing out, whereas domestic cats can purr breathing both in and out. Their call is a roar, growl, or purr. They live up to 15 years.


The Bengal tiger is found in the Sundarbans regions of India and Bangladesh. They are also found in central India, Nepal, and Burma. A single male's territory can cover 25-300 square miles and may overlap the territories of 1-2 females.


Bengal tigers are carnivores, meaning they eat meat. They hunt chital, wild boar, monkey, gaur, and buffalo. After killing their prey they always start feeding from the hindquarters first. Bengal tigers are voracious eaters and eat 65 pounds of meat each night, or a yearly equivalent of 30 buffaloes. They are extremely strong and can bring down and drag prey twice their size. Along with lions, tigers are one of the only cats to eat rotting meat as well as live prey.


The Bengal tiger's main enemy is man. Due to illegal poaching for their furs, they are now enlisted as an endangered species. In 1900 they had a population of 40000. Today they have a population of 4000.


Sexual maturity is reached at the age of 3 or 4. Bengal tigers mate in spring. The male will stay with the female for 20-80 days, with the female being fertile only 3-7 days of that period. After they mate the male returns to his territory and does not help in raising the cubs. The tigress gives birth to a litter of 2-4 cubs after a 95-112 day gestation period. After the cubs are born, they are nursed for 8 weeks and feed on meat that the tigress brings them near the end of those weeks. At 11 months the cubs can hunt on their own. The female is ready to mate again 2-3 years later.


The Bengal tiger is a subspecies of Panthera tigris. There are seven other subspecies, including the Siberian, Bali Island, Balinese, and outsized tigers. Of the eight subspecies, three are extinct and the remaining five are all endangered.


1. "Tiger" Funk & Wagnall's Wildlife Encyclopedia, vol 20, 1974, BPC Pub Ltd, USA
2. Wildlife Fact File "Bengal Tiger" IM Pub Ltd, USA