The tiger (Panthera tigris) is found across the Asian continent. These solitary creatures are known for their large body structure, red/orange coat, often striped with black, and their ability to roar. However, compared to many other creatures, these magnificent beasts hunt remarkably differently from their lion and leopard cousins. For these animals, hunting has become an art form, utilizing stealth and ambush to deal swift death to their prey.
Tigers are territorial and solitary hunters. Tigers, while territorial, may sometimes hunt in pairs when prey is abundant. This is extremely rare however, and usually signifies that the pair are courting each other. Tigresses also take their cubs on hunts, teaching her children her tricks. Tigers eat almost anything in their range that they can catch, ranging from rabbits, wild boar, deer, buffalo, young elephants and rhinos, waterfowl, and elk. Because tigers may go for days between their meals, these cats may eat as much as 80 pounds of meat at one time. A particularly hungry tiger can consume as much as one fifth of its own body weight before calling quits.
Tigers stalk their prey, and pounce when they are about 30 feet from their quarry. While tigers may sometimes give chase should their prey catch sight of them, but even with their remarkable speed (up to 35 miles an hour), they will most often return to their more successful concealment and ambush’ style of hunting. Tigers often begin their hunt near watering holes. These places are often visited by the tiger’s prey, and a majority of hunts that start by these areas are successful. Tigers will lie in wait by paths leading to the watering hole and use the element of surprise to catch his prey. When the tiger sights its prey, the hunt begins.
Tigers rely on their sense of sight and hearing rather than on smell when hunting prey. They stalk from downwind the prey in attempt to get as close as possible to their unsuspecting prey. Their movement speed plummets; it is not uncommon for a tiger to take 20 minutes to cover an area that would normally take them only one or two minutes. When they get close enough, they will pounce and tackle their prey, using their muscles to power them though an enormous leap. Tigers have been seen to take a 30 foot leap to get to their prey, and are capable of leaping obstacles over six feet tall. They do not jump over their prey, as is depicted in some representations. More often, they will stay close to the prey, rearing up on their hind legs and slashing and biting at the throat. Then they attempt to take down their prey with a powerful bite to the neck. They kill by a lethal bite to the back of the throat, which often dislocates the backbone and severs the spinal cord. Often, a lethal bite is applied to the throat, which quickly suffocates the hapless prey.
While the tiger is an extremely efficient attacker, that doesn’t mean they are often successful. Tigers may only get their kill once every 20 attacks. This usually poses no problem in areas well stocked with prey, but due to human influence, tigers may find prey rapidly declining. Other things that may hinder tigers are their sensitive footpads. They often decline crossing hot stones or rough passages, which may risk burning the tender paws of these otherwise powerful creatures. They also refuse to maintain a long chase. While some of their feline cousins, like the cheetah, may give long extended chase to their prey, tigers will often give up if they have to go past two or three pounces. Also, in jungle areas, other creatures may help the prey by giving advance warning. Monkeys have been known to alert all other creatures in the vicinity of a tiger approaching, spoiling an otherwise normal hunt. However these hindrances keep the tiger from over-eating the prey population, and ensuring the survival as a species.
After a kill, tigers will take their prey to areas of dense cover. They will go to great lengths to ensure that their prey stays in their hands; one tiger was seen dragging a kill over a mile to a secluded spot. The tiger’s immense strength allows it to carry kills that can exceed their weight. For example, a tiger was seen carrying a whole carcass over a six foot wall to run away. Another tiger pulled a wild ox over ten yards while thirteen men could not do the same job.
Once tigers find a secluded spot, feeding begins. Tigers often begin at the back of the animal, working their way forward, usually leaving the head, hide, and large organs of large kills alone. With small kills a tiger may consume everything except antlers and hooves. Tigers maintain their silence even while feeding; the only sound coming from the crunching of bones. Tigresses will let cubs eat first, and their enthusiasm over the meal is usually quite audible. Tigers keep leftovers’ and usually cover them to protect a hard-earned kill from scavengers. Some tigers may even sleep over the carcass to threaten any potential thief.
After these magnificent creatures have made their kill, they will return to a relaxed state. A single kill may last them at least two days, and they won’t need food again for a while. They will spend their time resting, traveling, drinking, and of course, keeping an eye out for their next meal.