A captive white tiger

A captive white tiger

The white tiger or bleached tiger is a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger. Such a tiger has the black stripes typical of the Bengal tiger, but carries a white or near-white coat. The white fur caused by a lack of the pigment pheomelanin, which is found in Bengal tigers with orange color fur. When compared to Bengal tigers, the white Bengal tigers tend to grow faster and heavier than the orange Bengal tiger. They also tend to be somewhat bigger at birth, and as fully grown adults.

The existence of white Siberian tigers has not been scientifically documented, despite occasional unsubstantiated reports of sightings of white tigers in the regions where wild Siberian tigers live. It may be that the white mutation does not exist in the wild Siberian tiger population: no white Siberian tigers have been born in captivity.

In 1951, one single white tiger cub was found in the wild and taken by a hunter who killed his mother and normal colored siblings. He was named Mohan and is the progenitor of most white tigers now in captivity. Today, white tigers live only in captivity as the white coat is only produced through severe inbreeding. They have brown stripes and crystal blue eyes, and some specimens in captivity have no stripes at all. According to Indian naturalist and conservationist Kailash Sankhala aka “tiger man” (30 January 1925 – 15 August 1994), the last white tiger ever seen in the wild was shot in 1958. Mohan died in 1970 aged 20.

Photo: Tony Hisgett

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