Map

Map: Bengal tiger range

Bengal Tiger Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
8 to 10 years
Size:
Head and body, 5 to 6 ft (1.5 to 1.8 m); tail, 2 to 3 ft (0.6 to 0.9 m)
Weight:
240 to 500 lbs (109 to 227 kg)
Protection status:
Endangered
Did you know?
A tiger's roar can be heard as far as 2 mi (3 km) away.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Bengal tiger compared with adult man

Tigers are the largest members of the cat family and are renowned for their power and strength.

There were eight tiger subspecies at one time, but three became extinct during the 20th century. Over the last 100 years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced tiger populations from hundreds of thousands of animals to perhaps fewer than 2,500. Tigers are hunted as trophies, and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. All five remaining tiger subspecies are endangered, and many protection programs are in place.

Bengal tigers live in India and are sometimes called Indian tigers. They are the most common tiger and number about half of all wild tigers. Over many centuries they have become an important part of Indian tradition and lore.

Tigers live alone and aggressively scent-mark large territories to keep their rivals away. They are powerful nocturnal hunters that travel many miles to find buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals. Tigers use their distinctive coats as camouflage (no two have exactly the same stripes). They lie in wait and creep close enough to attack their victims with a quick spring and a fatal pounce. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 pounds (27 kilograms) in one night, though they usually eat less.

Despite their fearsome reputation, most tigers avoid humans; however, a few do become dangerous maneaters. These animals are often sick and unable to hunt normally, or live in an area where their traditional prey has vanished.

Females give birth to litters of two to six cubs, which they raise with little or no help from the male. Cubs cannot hunt until they are 18 months old and remain with their mothers for two to three years, when they disperse to find their own territory.

Big Cats Features

  • lion-photos-blog.jpg

    Lion Numbers Plunge

    The king of the African savannah is in serious trouble because of massive conversion of the continent’s remaining wilderness to human land-use, according to a detailed study.

  • Photo: Captive asiatic cheetah

    Finding the Last Cheetahs of Iran

    Intensely shy and hovering on the edge of extinction, Iranian cheetahs are essentially impossible to see.

  • A snow leopard perched on rocks in Pakistan.

    Some Snow Leopards Wild No More?

    Thinking of snow leopards as domesticated—and thus dependent on people for food—may help save the dwindling species, one conservationist claims.

  • A running cheetah.

    Cheetah Breaks Speed Record

    Beating Usain Bolt's best, Sarah the "polka-dotted missile" clocked the world's fastest recorded time for a 100-meter run.

Learn More About Big Cats »

Photos

  •  Picture of a Malayan tiger

    Pictures: Tiger Subspecies

    Scientists estimate only about 3,000 wild tigers are left in the entire world. Meet the subspecies and see what threats each is facing.

See more animal photos »

From the Magazine

  • Photo of the lions of the Vumbi pride.

    The Surprising Lives of Lions

    In case you missed it: See these breathtaking videos and photos from inside a wild Serengeti pride.

  • Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.