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Tigers have been roaming the earth for more than a million years. There are nine subspecies: four are extinct (one in the wild only) and the remaining are endangered. They are the largest member of the Felidae (cat) family and the largest mammal that lives on land whose diet consists only of meat. Below are more interesting and unusual facts about the tiger.
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The tiger is a beautiful creature with orange fur, black, gray, or brown stripes, and sharp teeth (up to 4 inches long). The length (head, body, and tail) ranges from 7 to 12 feet and the weight ranges from about 200 to 600 pounds. Females of all subspecies are smaller than the males.
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Tigers live in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, swamps, and rocky land. They require a large area to live and hunt and are very territorial animals.
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Behavior & Diet
Tigers are generally solitary animals that are most active at night. They will travel up to 20 miles in one night to catch prey. Catching their prey is not an easy job (about 1 in 10 to 20 hunts are successful). Tigers are ambush predators (sit and wait predators) that rely on their stripes to camouflage them. When the moment is right, they will charge after the prey, knock it over with their heavy body, and bite its neck to kill it. On average, they can eat about 30-40 pounds of meat in one night. Because they can eat a large amount, they will not have to eat again for about a week. Tigers are good swimmers and can also kill prey while swimming.
Prey includes water buffalo, deer, antelope, wild pigs, and domestic animals such as cows, goats, and dogs. They are also known to eat monkeys, hares, crocodiles, and pythons.
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A female will meet up with a male for only a brief period to mate. Gestation is about 100 days and litter size is 2 to 4 cubs. The cubs weigh about 2 pounds at birth, will stop nursing at 6 months, and will be independent at about 2 years old.
Approximately half of all cubs do not survive to independence and almost half of those do not live long enough to establish territory and produce young.
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The following are more interesting and unusual tiger facts:
• The lion is the closest relative to the tiger. Without their fur, they would be hard to tell apart.
• Most tigers have over 100 stripes and no two tigers have the identical pattern (like fingerprints).
• Tigers, like house cats, can protect their retractable claws by pulling them into a protective sheath to keep them sharp.
• A tiger's roar can be heard over a mile away.
• Tigers can live up to 15 years in the wild and up to 20 years in captivity.
• In the early 1900s, there were roughly 100,000 tigers. Today, fewer than 5,000 remain. Loss of habitat, loss of prey, and poaching are mainly responsible for their decrease in numbers.
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Smithsonian National Zoological Park: Tiger Facts - http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/GreatCats/tigerfacts.cfm
Defenders of Wildlife: Tiger - http://www.defenders.org/wildlife_and_habitat/wildlife/tiger.php#
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Tiger in water image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/34323424@N00/864254125/
Tiger with cub image courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_tiger_in_Pilibhit_Tiger_Reserve.jpg