The Bengal tiger is one of six living subspecies of tigers. This subspecies lives in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. Like the tiger species as a whole, the IUCN lists the Bengal tiger subspecies as Endangered. Sadly, their population continues to decrease. As with the other tiger subspecies, poaching and habitat loss are the primary reasons for their continued decline. Read on to learn about the Bengal tiger.
Description of the Bengal Tiger
While they are not quite as large as the Siberian tiger subspecies, Bengal tigers are still formidable creatures. They are not quite as heavy as some other subspecies, but are still incredibly large cats. Most individuals are a just under 10 ft. long, and weigh around 550 lbs. or so. Like most tigers, they have reddish-orange fur, white underbellies, and black stripes.
Interesting Facts About the Bengal Tiger
These big cats are the most numerous of all the tiger subspecies. Despite this, the IUCN still lists them as Endangered. Learn more about what makes these cats so unique, and why we should protect them, below.
- A Tiger’s Stripes – Everyone knows that these big cats have a beautiful coat. Sadly, this beautiful coat is also one of the reasons these cats are so heavily poached. Every tiger coat is unique, and no two tigers have the same stripe pattern.
- Stripe Pattern – Those stripes aren’t just for show! When tigers are in tall grasses or dense forests, those stripes make it very difficult for other animals to see them. The stripes look like the shadows cast by vegetation in the dense forests and grasslands that they live in.
- Positive Predators – Because these tigers are at the top of the food chain, they are very important for the ecosystem around them. This creates a trophic cascade, where the top animal impacts all the other animals in the food web. When you remove tigers from an ecosystem, the rest of the plants and animals suffer as well.
- Distant Connections – With no predator to keep their population in check, prey becomes overpopulated. As populations of prey (such as deer) increase, disease increases, and the plants, grasses, and shrubs are all eaten. This leaves less food for other animals that tigers don’t necessarily eat, and the whole food web collapses.
Habitat of the Bengal Tiger
Like most tigers, the Bengal subspecies prefers living in areas without excessive human populations nearby. Unfortunately, undisturbed habitats are few and far between in the range of this subspecies. Because of this, this subspecies’ populations are fragmented and far apart. Within their range, these tigers live in both tropical and dry forests, mangroves, grasslands, and more.
Distribution of the Bengal Tiger
Bengal tigers live in small “islands” of livable habitat, surrounded by large patches of areas where no tigers can survive. Most of these populations live within wildlife refuges or sanctuary areas. There are various patches across India where tigers live, but large expanses of inhospitable areas separate them. These tigers also live in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Diet of the Bengal Tiger
Like all tigers, the Bengal subspecies are carnivores, which means that they eat meat. A particularly large tiger can eat up to 60 lbs. in a single night, but most eat less than this.
Their hunting method is stalk and kill. The cats creep quietly and rely on their camouflage to hide them. They get as close to their prey as possible before leaping on it. Some common prey includes pigs, buffalo, deer, and other hoofed mammals.
Bengal Tiger and Human Interaction
Humans impact these cats in a variety of ways, most of which are detrimental to the cats. This subspecies lives in areas with lots of human population.
The more humans spread and destroy habitats to make room for more people, the more tigers and humans come in contact. Because habitat destruction removes livable areas and scares away prey, tigers in these areas are more likely to attack humans.
Many tiger attacks also happen because poachers were attempting to hunt the tiger. As with any animal, a hurt, injured, or threatened tiger is extremely dangerous. Poachers hunt tigers for their fur, and to sell their parts for Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Humans have not domesticated tigers in any way.
Does the Bengal Tiger Make a Good Pet
No, Bengal tigers do not make good pets. They are wild animals, and apex predators. When threatened, or simply annoyed, they can easily kill a human. Those qualities tend to make poor pets!
Bengal Tiger Care
In zoos, this subspecies requires care similar to any other tiger. They live in large habitats with extensive and heavily reinforced protections to prevent the animal from escaping and potentially injuring itself or others. Many tiger habitats also have large bodies of water for the cat to swim in.
Zookeepers feed the tigers a commercial ground meat product with added vitamins and minerals made specifically for zoo carnivores. They also feed them bones, rabbits, and animal carcasses. The keepers also give these cats large toys, puzzle feeders, ice blocks with meat or bones inside, new scents, and other types of enrichment.
Behavior of the Bengal Tiger
Bengal tigers are solitary creatures, which live alone on a large patch of territory. They regularly patrol and mark the borders of their territory with urine. While searching for food they can travel many miles, which means their territories must be very large.
Male tigers are extremely aggressive towards other males. Males and females are slightly more tolerant of one another, but rarely interact when they are not breeding.
Reproduction of the Bengal Tiger
When a female tiger is receptive to mating, she will use her urine to mark the borders of her territory. Once a suitor arrives, they mate for several days, and the male leaves to return to his own territory. Females take all responsibility for cub rearing.
The female’s gestation period is about 105 days long, and she gives birth to a litter of 2 – 6 cubs. She begins to teach the cubs to hunt when they are about 18 months old, but they will stay with her until they are 2 or 3 years old.
Beliefs, Superstitions, and Phobias About the Bengal Tiger
Bengal tigers are part of many different pieces of folklore, art, and other cultural symbols. Bengal tigers appear on coins, banknotes, seals, and emblems. They are even the national animal of India. These cats are also in a number of different books, and are the mascots of many different sports teams.