Name: Siberian Tiger
Trinomial Name: Panthera tigris tigris (Linnaeus, 1758)
Species: P. Tigris
Subspecies: P. t. tigris
Synonyms: P.t. altaica (Temminck, 1884); P. t. coreensis; P. t. mandshurica; P. t. mikadoi
Conservation Status: Endangered species
The Siberian Tiger (also known as Panthera tigris tigris) is a population of tigers that reside in the Far East (Russia and Northeast China). Once thriving throughout China and the Korean peninsula, the Siberian Tiger is now on the endangered species list, as only about 540 are known to currently exist in the wild. The tiger was first described (and named) by Carl Linnaeus during the mid-1700s. In 1844, Coenraad Jacob Temminck provided the tiger with its scientific name, Felis tigris altaicus.
Characteristics of the Siberian Tiger
The Siberian Tiger possesses a reddish yellow coat that is lined with black stripes. Average tigers are approximately seventy-seven inches long, with tails reaching nearly thirty-six inches in length. Of all tiger species, the Siberian Tiger appears to be the largest. A wild Siberian tiger killed in Manchuria during the 1940s was reportedly 140 inches in length, and weighed approximately 660 pounds. Other reports (unconfirmed, and possibly dubious) have alleged that some Siberian Tigers have been spotted that were nearly a thousand pounds, with lengths of nearly eleven feet. However, such claims have never been proven conclusively.
Skulls of the Siberian Tiger are also quite large, and possess many similarities to lions. Average skull sizes range from thirteen to fifteen inches. In addition, their bodies are covered with a moderately thick coat of fur that is relatively coarse and pale, compared to other tigers in the world. Due to the cold winter conditions of their natural habitats, the coats of Siberian Tigers are among the thickest of all tiger species.
Habitat and Distribution of the Siberian Tiger
Scientists believe that the Siberian Tiger once inhabited a large portion of the Korean Peninsula, North Eastern China, as well as Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Manchuria. Unconfirmed sources have also reported Siberian Tigers as far away as Mongolia and the area surrounding Lake Baikal. Due to shrinking populations, poaching, and expanding contact with humans, however, the natural habitat of the Siberian Tiger has shrunk dramatically in recent decades. In more recent years, the tigers are found predominantly in Northern China, as well as the large birch forests of Siberia. Although listed as endangered, attempts by the scientific community have resulted in the Siberian Tiger being listed as endangered, but stable, as numerous programs have been instituted to protect this species from illegal poaching.
"The most magnificent creature in the entire world, the tiger is."— Jack Hanna
Siberian Tigers are well-known for their preference to live alone, as they aggressively scent-mark their territory in order to keep rival tigers away from their hunting grounds. Siberian Tigers are extremely powerful, and capable of hunting nearly any animal; sometimes stalking their prey for several miles before taking them down. Observations of the tiger have indicated that their primary food source includes elk and wild boar, due to their larger size and need for large quantities of meat to survive. Other forms of prey include the Manchurian Wapiti, the Siberian Musk Deer, Moose, and occasionally bears. Current research indicates that Siberian Tigers can consume as much as sixty pounds of meat in one sitting.
Siberian Tigers are known to hunt primarily at night, and use their coat and stripes as a natural form of camouflage; allowing the tigers to creep slowly through brush and forested areas without being seen by their prey. Lying in wait and using ambush tactics to subdue unsuspecting animals, the powerful Siberian Tiger’s razor sharp teeth, coupled with its powerful body are capable of taking down nearly any animal in its path. Although these tigers tend to avoid humans, some have been known to become maneaters throughout their history. Researchers believe that this occurs only when they feel threatened, or when their natural prey populations dwindle from overhunting, or from the destruction of natural habitats by human encroachment.
Before reading this article, how familiar were you with the Siberian Tiger?
Siberian Tigers are known to mate at any time of the year, and have a gestation period of approximately 3.5 months. Average litter sizes are approximately 2 – 4 cubs. Totally dependent on their mother for food (since the cubs are born blind and cannot hunt until they are nearly eighteen months old), the cubs often remain with their mother for two to three years (depending on whether they are male or female). At maturity, the tigers tend to separate, with the males venturing out further from their mother than the females. At approximately thirty-five months, tigers are considered subadults, and reach full maturity at around four to five years of age. Wild Siberian Tigers have an average lifespan of 16 – 18 years, whereas those in captivity have been known to live upwards of twenty-five years.
Siberian Tigers in Popular Culture
In Asia, the Siberian Tiger is considered both a king and deity due to its incredible strength and power. The Tungusic people, for example, often refer to the Siberian Tiger as “Grandfather” or “Old Man.” The Manch, on the other hand, often refer to the tiger as “Hu Lin,” or “the king.” Likewise, the Chinese often describe the Siberian Tiger as the “Great Emperor” due to their forehead marks that resemble the Chinese symbol for “king.” For this reason, one of the elite battalions of the Qing Dynasty’s army were called “Hu Shen Ying,” which translates to “The Tiger God Battalion.”
In closing, the Siberian Tiger remains one of the most fascinating animals of the modern-age due to its incredible strength, symbolism, and natural beauty. Although the tiger’s existence continues to remain threatened, due to poaching, illegal hunting, and the destruction of its natural habitat, conservation efforts are well-underway throughout Asia and Russia, at large, to protect the remaining tigers that exist. With over 500 Siberian Tigers currently known to exist, their population has recently been dubbed stable by many scientists and researchers. As more and more research is done on these extraordinary animals, it will be interesting to see what new forms of information can be learned about this fascinating species.
Books / Articles:
Sartore, Joel. "Siberian Tiger." National Geographic. September 21, 2018. Accessed July 03, 2019. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/s/siberian-tiger/.
Photos / Photographs:
Wikipedia contributors, "Siberian tiger," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Siberian_tiger&oldid=903386417 (accessed July 3, 2019).
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Larry Slawson