A-z - Animals

White Tiger

White Tiger Facts

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key facts

  • White tigers are not albino because their fur has some degree of pigment.
  • Although they once roamed India and surrounding countries, no one has seen a white tiger for the past 50 years.
  • Due to their mutated genes and lack of genetic diversity due to inbreeding, white tigers are thought to have a shorter lifespan compared to their relatives.
white tiger 1

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Classification and Evolution

The white tiger is the second largest tiger species in the world

© mgnovenia/Shutterstock.com

The white tiger (also known as the white Bengal tiger) is a subspecies of tiger found throughout the Indian subcontinent. Although the white tiger's range has historically been very large, these animals are very rare because their color depends on a defective recessive gene inherited from their parents. White tigers have become rarer in the wild over the past few centuries due to trophy hunting or capture for the exotic pet trade, and there have been no records of these elusive predators in the past 50 years. Today, white tigers can still be found in a handful of zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world, and these big, beautiful felines are often the star attractions. Along with the Bengal tiger, the white tiger is considered the second largest tiger species in the world after the Siberian tiger.


White tigers all belong to a subspecies consisting of five populations

© LRBurdak/Creative Commons

The white tiger is an albino form of any of the following five populations:

  • Bengal Tiger: Found in the Indian subcontinent, it can forage in tropical dry forests, deciduous forests and grasslands.
  • Siberian Tiger: Also known as the Amur tiger or the Manchurian tiger, this big cat has rust-red fur. The largest of all tigers, it roams coniferous forests and may also be found in temperate broadleaf and mixed forests.
  • South China Tiger: Known for its lighter fur and more white facial hair, this tiger is thought to be extinct because there are no such tigers in the wild.
  • Indochinese Tiger: Known for its brown fur and elongated stripes, this predator was found in large numbers in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. However, there are only about 250 left in the wild now.
  • Malayan Tiger: There are currently more than 100 of these big cats roaming the central and southern parts of Peninsular Malaysia. Despite its geographical location, this feline is indistinguishable from the Indochinese tiger.

anatomy and appearance

The white tiger's fur makes it difficult for them to blend into the wild

© bezikus/Shutterstock.com

The white tiger is a huge and powerful animal that can weigh up to 300 kilograms and be more than 3 meters long. Unlike the white variants found in other animal species, white tigers are not albino because they still carry some form of pigment to create their fur color, and some individuals have been known to retain an orange tinge in their white fur. Like other tiger species, the white tiger has black or dark brown vertical stripes on its body, a pattern that is unique to both the species and the individual. Along with the change in fur color, the genes carried by the white tiger parents also mean they have blue eyes, rather than the green or yellow eyes of common Bengal tigers. Although the white tiger's fur is beautiful, it does give these individuals a disadvantage, as they are not easily camouflaged into the surrounding jungle.

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Distribution and Habitat

The Bengal tiger is the most abundant tiger species on Earth

© Robert Broadie/Creative Commons

The white tiger is an animal that was once found in most of India and surrounding countries, but its range has declined dramatically, especially in the last 100 years or so. Today, Bengal tigers are found in small ranges in their natural habitats in India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and although numbers are in severe decline, they remain the most abundant tiger species in the world. They are found in a variety of habitats, including tropical forests, mangrove swamps, and wet jungles, which often support dense vegetation and have a good source of fresh water. While white tigers have once been found in the wild, actual mating of the gene-carrying parents is very rare, and as the number of Bengal tigers in their natural range dwindles rapidly, the chances of producing a white tiger are dwindling every day.

Behavior and Lifestyle

White tigers are born to live alone and have a strong sense of territory

© Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Creative Commons

Like other tiger species, the white tiger is a solitary animal, as this allows the large predator to more effectively sneak up on prey in dense jungle. Although white tigers are not nocturnal, they do most of their hunting at night, as this also helps them hunt more successfully. White tigers have incredible hearing and eyesight, plus their stealth, which helps them hunt in the dark jungle. Each tiger occupies a large territory, leaving urine and paw prints in the trees, covering an area of up to 75 square miles. Although they are solitary animals except during mating season, a male white tiger's territory can overlap with that of many females, especially in areas with high prey. However, male white tigers will fiercely defend their territory from other males trying to take their place.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Both parents must have the recessive gene for their offspring to be white tigers

© Zvi Roger / Creative Commons

In order to produce a white tiger, both of its parents must carry the gene. Male and female white tigers attract each other by roaring and smelling, and once they mate, the male and female go their separate ways. After a gestation period that lasts about 3.5 months, a female white tiger can give birth to up to 5 cubs, which are blind, weigh about 1 kg each, and have white or orange fur. White tiger cubs start eating meat that their mother catches for them when they are 2 months old and are weaned after 4 months. White tiger cubs start out hunting with their mother and eventually leave her when they are about 18 months old and start living alone in the jungle. White tigers have an average lifespan of 12 years, and may live longer in captivity.

diet and prey

Like other tiger species, the white tiger is a carnivore, meaning it only preys on other animals for the nutrients it needs. The white tiger is the top predator in its environment, hunting prey by stalking it furtively in the dark of night. White tigers prey primarily on large herbivores, including deer, wild boar, cattle and goats, which forage in jungle and suburban areas. The white tiger has many adaptations to help it catch and kill prey, including strength, speed, and long, sharp claws and teeth. As human settlements continued to expand, white Bengal tigers became smaller and smaller in some parts of their historical range, and they were also known to hunt livestock, and their entrances into villages became more common.

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Predators and Threats

Two white Bengal tigers at Singapore Zoo
White tigers have been hunted because of humans' fascination with their beauty

©Plastictv/Creative Commons

In the natural environment, the white tiger has no natural enemies, because it is a huge and powerful animal. However, they have been heavily influenced by humans and have existed for hundreds of years as they were hunted and hunted for their beauty and have lost a large part of their historic range to deforestation from growing human settlements and agriculture . As forests shrink, so does the white tiger's prey, so populations are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain. The growing isolation of the few Bengal tigers in the wild means that white tigers are less likely to breed, which, combined with severe population declines, could mean that white tigers are gone forever from the wild.

Interesting Facts and Features

Oddly enough, it is believed that white tigers have a slightly shorter life expectancy than common Bengal tigers. While there is no evidence of this in the wild, captive studies have concluded that this is due to mutated genes in white tigers and the inbreeding required to continue keeping white tigers in captivity. One of the biggest reasons white tigers are becoming increasingly rare in the wild is that they are often captured by wealthy individuals who keep them as very exotic pets. White tigers are one of the most versatile and adaptable carnivores in the Asian jungles, as they are not only fast and agile, but also strong swimmers, able to swim across natural boundaries such as rivers and wetlands.

relationship with humans

Since their first captivity, white tigers have been interbreeding with humans in an ethically questionable and purely profit-based business. Since then, the already rare animal is thought to have completely disappeared, as there have been no confirmed reports of white tigers since the mid-1900s. While it's just a matter of two individuals carrying the gene mating, the fact that humans have already hunted them down and taken over much of their natural habitat means the odds of that happening aren't very high. However, there is a problem, as more and more Bengal tigers actually enter human settlements, which causes problems between the tigers and the villagers. As the tigers become so vulnerable that it is illegal to shoot them, they often return to the same villages night after night.

Protect the status quo and life today

The white tiger is a species of Bengal tiger that is listed as endangered by the IUCN and is therefore seriously threatened in its surroundings. In the early 1900s, an estimated 100,000 tigers were found in the jungles and mangrove swamps of Asia, but today there are thought to be fewer than 8,000 tigers in the wild, of which about 2,000 are only Bengal tigers. No known individual white tigers have been found outside of captivity.

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White Tiger FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Are white tigers herbivores, carnivores or omnivores?

White tigers are carnivores, which means they eat other animals.

Which kingdom does the white tiger belong to?

The white tiger belongs to the animal kingdom.

What class does the white tiger belong to?

White tigers belong to the class Mammalia.

What door does the white tiger belong to?

White tigers belong to the phylum Chordate.

What family does the white tiger belong to?

White tigers belong to the cat family.

What order does the White Tigers belong to?

White tigers belong to the order Carnivora.

What type of mulch do White Tigers have?

The white tiger is covered with fur.

What genus does the white tiger belong to?

White tigers belong to the genus Panthera.

Where does the white tiger live?

White tigers live in the Indian subcontinent.

What type of habitat do white tigers live in?

White tigers live in dense jungles and mangrove swamps.

What natural enemies does the white tiger have?

Natural enemies of the white tiger include humans.

How many children does Baihu have?

The average number of cubs for a white tiger is 3.

What interesting facts about white tigers?

Never seen a white tiger in the wild in 50 years!

What is the scientific name of the white tiger?

The scientific name of the white tiger is Panthera tigris tigris.

What is the lifespan of a white tiger?

White tigers can live 10 to 20 years.

What is the name of the little white tiger?

Little white tigers are called cubs.

How many species of white tigers are there?

There is 1 species of white tiger.

What is the biggest threat to the white tiger?

The biggest threat to white tigers is habitat loss.

What is another name for the white tiger?

The white tiger is also known as the white Bengal tiger.

How fast is the white tiger?

White tigers can travel as fast as 60 miles per hour.

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  1. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2011) Animals, The Definitive Visual Guide to the World's Wildlife
  2. Tom Jackson, Lorenz Books (2007) Encyclopedia of World Animals
  3. David Burney, Kingfisher (2011) The Animal Encyclopedia of Kingfishers
  4. Richard Mackay, University of California Press (2009) Atlas of Threatened Species
  5. David Burnie, Dorling Kindersley (2008) Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia
  6. Dorling Kindersley (2006) Dorling Kindersley Animal Encyclopedia
  7. David W. Macdonald, Oxford University Press (2010) Encyclopedia of Mammals
  8. About the Bengal Tiger, available here: http://www.imponline.com/FactsAndTips/Wild-Life-and-Nature/Bengal-tiger.aspx
  9. White Tiger information, available here: http://www.tigerhomes.org/cam/white_tiger.cfm
  10. About White Tigers, available here: http://www.indiantiger.org/white-tigers/white-tiger-information.html