The tiger (Panthera tigris) is a mammal of the Felidae family, one of four "big cats" in the Panthera genus. Native to the mainland of southeastern Asia, the tiger is an apex predator and the largest feline species in the world,] comparable in size to the biggest fossil felids. The Bengal Tiger is the most common subspecies of tiger, constituting approximately 80% of the entire tiger population, and is found in India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Nepal. It is the national animal of India. An endangered species, the majority of the world's tigers now live in captivity. The tiger is solitary and territorial, preferring cover in deep forest, but also ranging in open areas. The cat hunts by stalk-and-ambush and may take a variety of mid- and large-sized prey, particularly ungulates. Males are much larger than females and have larger home ranges. Amongst the nine extant tiger subspecies, there is significant size variation.
Reproduction A female is only receptive for a few days and mating is frequent during that time period. A pair will copulate frequently and noisily, like other cats. The gestation period is 103 days and 3–4 cubs of about 1 kg (2 lb) each are born. The females rear them alone. Wandering male tigers may kill cubs to make the female receptive. At 8 weeks, the cubs are ready to follow their mother out of the den. The cubs become independent around 18 months of age, but it is not until they are around 2–2½ years old that they leave their mother. The cubs reach sexual maturity by 3–4 years of age. The female tigers generally own territory near their mother, while males tend to wander in search of territory, which they acquire by fighting and eliminating another male. Over the course of her life, a female tiger will give birth to an approximately equal number of male and female cubs. Tigers breed well in captivity, and the captive population in the United States may rival the wild population of the world.
Habitat Tigers are found in a variety of habitats, from tropical rainforests and boreal forests to dry savannas as they are found in Ranthambore National Park. Compared to the lion, the tiger prefers more dense vegetation, for which its camouflage is ideally suited, and where a single predator is not at a disadvantage compared to a pride. Among the big cats, only the tiger and jaguar are strong swimmers; tigers are often found bathing in ponds, lakes, and rivers.
Hunting methods Tigers hunt alone and prefer medium to large sized herbivores. They ambush their prey as other cats do, overpowering them from any angle, using their body size and strength to knock large prey off balance. Even with their great masses, tigers can reach speeds of about 60 km/h (37 mph). Tigers prefer to bite the throats of large prey and it uses its muscled forelimbs to hold onto the prey, bringing it to the ground. The tiger remains latched onto the neck until its prey dies. With small prey, the tiger bites the nape, often breaking the spinal cord, piercing the windpipe, or severing the jugular vein or carotid artery. The prey is killed instantly. In the wild, tigers can leap as high as 5 m (16 ft) and as far as 9–10 m (30–33 ft), making them one of the highest-jumping mammals (just slightly behind cougars in jumping ability). They have been reported to carry domestic livestock weighing 50 kg (110 lb) while easily jumping over fences 2 m (6 ft 6 in) high. Their heavily muscled forelimbs are used to hold tightly onto the prey and to avoid being dislodged, especially by large prey such as gaurs. Gaurs and water buffalos weighing over a ton have been killed by tigers weighing about a sixth as much. The combination of claws and power behind a tiger's paws enables it to kill an adult human with one swipe.