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What Is a Chinese Tiger?

By Christina Edwards
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A Chinese tiger is a big cat native to the remote forests of China. It looks similar to other types of tigers, although it is generally smaller. This tiger is one of the only tigers with a reputation as a man eater. As a result, the Chinese government declared these animals a pest in the mid 20th century, and they are now considered critically endangered.

Known scientifically as Panthera tigris amoyensis, the Chinese tiger is believed to be the ancestor of every other tiger species. It is also sometimes referred to as the Amoy tiger, or South China tiger. It is aptly named, since it is indigenous to China.

Years ago, the Chinese tiger could be found in the temperate forests throughout parts of China, particularly South China. It typically prefers hidden shadowy spots. The markings of this big cat allow it to blend in with the wooded surroundings.

The Chinese tiger has the distinct orange body with black stripes common to most tigers. Compared to other tigers, however, the stripes on this big cat are usually spaced farther apart. The fur on some parts of the body, including the underbelly and the insides of the legs, is usually white. The chest and parts of the face are also white.

Compared to other tiger species, the Chinese tiger is usually much smaller. In fact, it is considered one of the smaller species of tiger. Males are generally larger, often measuring around 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length and weighing in at 350 pounds (160 kilograms). Females are usually about 1 foot 30.5 centimeters) shorter and 100 pounds (45 kilograms) lighter. The smaller size of these types of tigers is usually attributed to the smaller prey available in their native region.

A Chinese tiger will usually prey on smaller animals, including monkeys and fish. It may also hunt larger animals, like deer, as well as livestock, such as goats and pigs. Like many other big cats, this tiger will usually stalk its prey, give chase, and bring it down by clamping its powerful jaws around the animal's neck. While it may break a smaller animal's neck, larger animals will usually die by suffocation.

The Chinese tiger has a reputation as a feared man eater. They have been known to kill and consume humans in their natural habitat. This most likely occurs because humans have quickly encroached into the tiger's habitat. In the middle of the 20th century, the attacks became so bad that the Chinese government decided that this tiger was a serious threat to humans. Citizens were then allowed to hunt and kill these big cats at will.

By the late 1970s, the population of these tigers had seriously declined. Scientists believed that the Chinese tiger was most likely extinct, but in 2007, new evidence suggested that a handful were still surviving in the wild. Today, a few Chinese tigers are alive and well in zoos and preserves, but very few still survive in isolated areas in the wild. Scientists now believe that these tigers are functionally extinct, meaning that they have no discerning impact on their native ecosystem.

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