Tigers are recognized by their orange, black, and white stripe pattern. The pattern serves as camouflage in tall grasses or fallen leaves. Each tiger has its very own stripe pattern. Tigers can also be black with tan stripes, all white (albino), or white and tan. The "white tigers" found in some zoos are not albino, but rather the white and tan color variation. All known white tigers are related to each other.
The tiger symbolizes royalty, strength and can also be a manifestation of the Earth Mother. In Chinese symbolism the tiger is King of the Beasts and Lord of the Land. When it is yang, the tiger, in Chinese symbolism, takes the place of the lion in the West and depicts authority, courage, military, prowess and the fierceness needed for protection. When in conflict with the yang celestial dragon, the tiger becomes the yin as the earth, the two together represent the opposing forces of spirit and matter.
There are five varieties of tigers, known as subspecies. The different subspecies are found in areas of Asia, India, and Russia. The largest and palest subspecies is found in snowy Russia. The smallest and darkest subspecies is found farther south, in the jungles of Indonesia. Female tigers are always smaller than males.
Siberian or Amur tiger—Found in eastern Russia, Northeast China, and northern Korea. Males can be over ten feet (three meters) long from head to tail and weigh over 650 pounds (295 kilograms). That's the same length as a station wagon! The largest of the subspecies, the Siberian tiger has the palest orange coat and the fewest stripes.
Bengal tiger—Found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. Males are up to 9-1/2 feet (2.9 meters) long from head to tail and weigh up to 480 pounds (217.7 kilograms). Females are smaller, up to eight feet (2.4 meters) long and 300 pounds (136 kilograms). This is the most common subspecies of tiger.
Indochinese tiger—Found in Thailand, and through Myanmar, southern China, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Malay Peninsula. Males can be up to nine feet (2.74 meters) long and 400 pounds (181.4 kilograms). Females are eight feet (2.4 meters) long and 250 pounds (113.4 kilograms). Indochinese tigers are smaller and darker than Bengal tigers.
South China tiger—Found in central and eastern China. Males are eight feet (2.4 meters) long and 330 pounds (149.7 kilograms); females are 7-1/2 feet (2.3 meters) and 240 pounds (109 kilograms).
In the 1950s, the Chinese government ordered that these tigers be destroyed because they were viewed as pests. Today there are less than 30 South China tigers left in the wild. Thankfully, the Chinese have taken steps toward a plan to protect the remaining South China tigers.
Sumatran tiger—Found only on the island of Sumatra. Males are eight feet (2.4 meters) long and up to 265 pounds (120.2 kilograms). Females are seven feet (2.13 meters), weighing 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms). Even though the Sumatran is the smallest tiger subspecies, it's still a pretty big cat! Imagine a tiger the same length as a school cafeteria table.
Tiger researchers estimate that there are less than 7,000 tigers in the world