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Facts about the White Bengal Tiger

Kashmira Lad
Also known as Indian tigers, white Bengal tigers were initially hunted down for fun, as a part of sporting activities. Today, most of these are bred in captivity and are very popular due to their unusual skin coloration.

Did You Know?

In 2004, a white tiger cub was born in Alicante, Spain, that completely lacked stripes. The amusing part is that both his parents are normal, orange-colored Bengal tigers! The baby boy was christened 'Artico', meaning Arctic, because of his snow white appearance.
Royal, majestic, and beautiful, white Bengal tigers are slowly depleting in their numbers. Their unusual coloration is what makes them very popular at most zoos. These white tigers are also known to be solitary animals.
Sadly, although there were around 8 subspecies of this kind, today, as a result of poaching, only four exist. Given here are some more facts about these unique animals.


◈ Kingdom - Animalia
◈ Phylum - Chordata
◈ Class - Mammalia
◈ Order - Carnivora
◈ Family - Felidae
◈ Genus - Panthera
◈ Species - Panthera tigris

How the White Color is Obtained

◈ White tigers are actually Siberian tigers and not a separate or albino species as was previously believed. They lack the skin pigments that typically give them the orange color. This is because of a recessive gene. This defective gene has to be present in both the parents for the cubs to be born white. The white tiger is produced with the help of the allele called chinchilla albinistic.
◈ The enzyme tyrosinase is required for the production of melanin. This enzyme is present in white Bengal tigers in the mutated form. Thus, when the temperature drops below 99°F (about 36°C), the tigers appear darker on their face, legs, and such body parts that are directly exposed to the cold weather.
◈ In the wild, the only tiger subspecies that has been observed to carry the white color are the Bengal tigers. Even all the white tigers that have been held captive are partly Bengal in subspecies. It is believed that the rare recessive gene that carries the white color comes from Bengal tigers only. Scientists have not yet been able to delve further into the reason for this.


Stripes: White Bengal tigers have white fur with black or chocolate-brown-colored stripes. The stripes are unique to each tiger.
No two patterns are the same. Like every fingerprint, which is different for humans, the stripes differ in tigers as well. These stripes help them to be camouflaged better in the wild.
◈ Eyes: Their eyes are blue in color, instead of the regular yellow or green. They also have a better night vision due to their retinal adaptation, which reflects light back into the retina.
Size and Weight: White tigers measure between 6 to 10 feet long, which includes the tail, which is 3 to 4 feet long. Males weigh between 400 to 550 pounds (170 to 250 kg), while females weigh between 200 to 350 pounds (100 to 160 kg).
These tigers are larger than their orange-colored counterparts. Apart from the absence of the orange color, some white tigers have very pale stripes, which are hardly visible. Such white tigers without the stripes are called 'snow white' tigers. Like all members of the cat family, white tigers also have retractable claws, and these are used to scratch trees as a way to mark their territorial boundaries.

Distribution and Habitat

In Captivity: White tigers are very rarely seen in the wild. There have been hardly any sightings of them in forests in the last century. However, there are white tigers that are being bred in captivity. They live in a select few zoos across the world.
Their Distribution: White Bengal tigers are found in the wild in the Indian states of Assam, Bihar, Bengal, and the former princely state of Rewa. They are mostly found on the mainland of Southeastern Asia and in the central and southern parts of India. They are also found in other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Their Environment: Their habitat includes swampy areas and tropical forests.

Hunting Technique

White Bengal tigers are known to be a very patient animals whilst stalking their prey. They can wait and watch for hours to make the right move at the appropriate time.
They use their strong jaws to catch the prey by the neck and strangle it to death, or bite a major artery and let the prey bleed out.
As mentioned before, it is their strong sight that helps them to hunt successfully even at night.


Breeding Period: Being solitary animals, their only social interaction is during the courtship period and the association between the mother and the child. Females get their heat cycle all year round in tropical climates, and seasonally in the temperate climate. They do not get this cycle again until their cubs are grownup and independent. The gestation period lasts for about 100 to 103 days.
The Cubs: Tiger cubs are born blind at birth, and they weigh only about 2 to 3 pounds. They require milk for about 6 to 8 weeks.
The mother takes the cubs along for the kills so that they can witness and learn the actual hunting process. Tigresses are extremely protective about their cubs and look after them with great care till they are about 2½ years old.


Flaws: Due to their depleting numbers, breeding white tigers usually end up in interbreeding. It should be avoided because it can cause several physical defects, which include scoliosis, strabismus (crossed eyes), and cleft palates. These tigers, even the healthiest ones, have shorter lives.
Mixing: There have been attempts to breed white tigers to orange ones in order to try to fix the situation. When orange and white tigers interbreed, there is a mixing of subspecies. White tigers were first bred back in the early 19th century. They are only born if both the parent tigers carry the rare gene that results in the white fur.


It is often rumored that white Bengal tigers do not survive in the wild. However, this does not actually hold true. Today, as a result of poaching and other such illegal activities, white tigers are bred in captivity. The body parts of these animals are most sought after for their use in medicine and exotic cuisine. If not a part of cuisine, the white Bengal tigers are unfortunately killed for their coats as well.

Other Amusing Facts

◈ Some believe that the white tiger is more endangered as compared to the species as a whole. This is a common misconception.
◈ It is also wrongfully believed that white tigers are albinos, considering the fact that their scientific name comes with the word albinistic. Their body lacks the pigment pheomelanin (pigment that produces an orange color in normal tigers), but contains dark stripes.
White tigers are among those few wild cats that love water.
They have rounded pupils instead of slits, which give them a better vision.
The white gene is so rare that it occurs only once every 10,000 births.
White tigers hunt at night and generally spend the day in their dens.
A majority of tigers have stripes that are more than 100 in number.