The tiger is indeed a mammal, and it's a large one. This member of the cat family is one of the most recognizable animals on the planet, both for its distinctive striped fur and its intimidating size. Tigers originate in Asia are seen all over the world in zoos, but their population is endangered.
A Big Cat
Tigers are, in fact, enormous cats. Their impressive size cannot be stressed enough -- these aren't your average house cat, or even your average wild cat. They are the largest species of cat on the planet, and after the polar bear and the brown bear, they are the largest land carnivores. A tiger can be up to 6 feet long and can weigh more than 700 pounds. He's strong enough to take down large prey hunting alone. In a single jump, a tiger can leap more than 30 feet. At full speed he runs just as far in one second.
With their impressive power of seeing in the dark, tigers are nocturnal hunters. They are stealthy hunters who silently approach their prey on large, padded paws. After getting as close to his prey as possible, the swift-moving tiger charges and pounces, taking down his target with his strong jaws. Tigers usually go for the throat and typically snap their prey's neck before chowing down, but they've also been known to bite off their prey's feet first so they can't fend for themselves or escape.
About Those Stripes
A tiger's stripes are like fingerprints -- no two of these cats have the same pattern. The stripe pattern isn't just in the fur, either, as it goes all the way down to the cat's skin. These stripes aren't just a randomly cool design; they're an evolutionary advantage. Tigers are sneaky hunters that get close to their prey by stealthily moving through vegetation such as savannah grass or jungle cover. Their stripes help camouflage them in their environment, making hunting easier.
While nobody knows how many tigers are left in the world, we do know there aren't many. Every species of tiger is on the endangered species list, and experts speculate the worldwide tiger population is as little as 5 percent of what it once was. Most tigers live in India, where it is speculated that less than 2,000 still live. They are victims of destabilized habitats and overhunting.
tiger image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.