Big Cat Week is coming to Nat Geo, and one episode will focus on the largest of all cat species: the tiger. The "Tiger Dynasty" episode follows a dynasty of tigers in India; they are part of the Bengal (also called Indian tiger) subspecies. These powerful and majestic creatures are now better understood, thanks to programming such as Big Cat Week. But there are still a few facts that are not widely known. Here are six amazing facts about tigers.
A dynasty has ruled Ranthambore National Park for many years
Tiger families "rule" one area until they are overthrown. When the ruler of the dynasty ages, they are more likely to be "overthrown" by another tiger or even by their own children. So far, the same family has ruled Ranthambore National Park for decades.
Bengal tigers are now one of only five subspecies
There were eight subspecies of tiger until three of them went extinct during the 20th century. The combination of poaching and loss of habitat due to humans has greatly diminished their numbers. Where once there were hundreds of thousands of tigers roaming free, they now number in the thousands. Bengal tigers are the most common of the remaining subspecies, comprising about half of the wild tiger population.
Tiger stripes are like fingerprints
Tigers are the only big cats with stripes. Each tiger has its own unique stripe design, unlike any fellow tiger. Their coats act as camouflage for catching prey. They wait unseen in the brush, then creep close to their prey until they are ready to spring out, fatally pouncing on their victims with long, sharp, retractable claws.
Tigers can see six times better than humans at night
Tigers are nocturnal animals, so it's no wonder they have great night vision. They can see almost as well as humans during the day, but have highly enhanced vision for low light and movement. They also have binocular vision like humans, which allows them to judge distances when stalking their prey or jumping.
Tigers are great swimmers
Tigers are different from most other cat species in their ability to swim. Of the big cats, only jaguars have a similar affinity for the water. Tigers often bathe and cool off in lakes, ponds, and rivers. They can even capture and carry prey through the water.
Female tigers are single mothers
A female tiger's litter usually ranges from two to six cubs. The male tigers have very little, if any, input in the raising of the cubs. The cubs are a lot of work, as they cannot hunt until they are about 18 months old. They also stick around for two to three years before they take off to find their own territory.