What do tigers eat? Tigers are one of the biggest cats on the planet. By nature, tigers are carnivores. They eat a good variety of prey depending upon the terrain they live in ranging from termites to baby rhinos and everything in between. In this article, we’ll explore the tiger hunting pattern and exact diet plan for each tiger type.
Table of Contents
- How Do Tigers Hunt?
- How Much Does A Tiger Eat?
- How Often Do Tigers Eat?
- How Do Tigers Kill Its Prey?
- At What Times Do Tigers Hunt?
- What Do Tigers Eat?
- Do Tigers Eat Humans?
- Tiger Food Chain Diagram
- Tiger Diet By Species
How Do Tigers Hunt?
Tigers hunt alone rather than in groups. When the tiger cubs are a few months old, the tiger mother involves them in the hunting process, so they get trained at a very younger age. They get proteins from the animal fat. Here are some tiger facts and information on hunting.
- Tigers rely on their sight rather than the smell of the prey. They use their dark striped skin as an effective camouflage to disguise themselves in the hideouts, especially among the long grass, where they resemble the vertical pattern of light and shade. This allows them to get very close to their prey without being detected before launching an attack.
- Tigers sit for a long time in absolute silence and then pounce on the prey when it is unexpected.
- It is estimated that tigers make at least 20 attempts before killing their prey.
- Tigers furiously run from a complete stand-still position to 50 mph speed in short sprints.
- Hunting sometimes takes its toll on tigers. Tigers could get seriously injured during the process too if the prey attacks them back (such as crocodiles, porcupines or heavy buffaloes).
- Male and female tigers hunt differently. Female tigers hunt only within their territories, while male tigers hunt anywhere and anytime.
How Much Does A Tiger Eat?
The average weight of tigers is about 700 lbs. They consume about an average of 35-110 lbs of meat at a given time. However, this could vary depending upon what they kill (a large hoofed animal vs. rabbit/rodent).
How Often Do Tigers Eat?
Typically tigers eat once every two days after feasting on a large mammal. According to the statistics, a tiger kills about one large animal per week, thus about 50 to 52 animals per year.
How Do Tigers Kill Its Prey?
Tigers use their front claw which has the built-in expand/retract mechanism as needed while grabbing its prey.
- They attack the animal either on the side or from the back so the prey cannot move away quickly. The first powerful bite would be on the neck to break its neck bone and then rip the throat out.
- Once killed, the tiger would drag the dead animal to a secluded area to have a peaceful and quiet meal.
- Tiger prey suffers the quickest and less stressful death.
At What Times Do Tigers Hunt?
If tigers are really hungry and the prey is on the sight, they would hunt right away. Generally, tigers prefer hunting on cool or cloudy days. Also, the sunset would be a good time for tigers to go for a kill when the animals wind down after a long day of grazing. Studies show that a tiger’s night vision is six times better than a human’s.
What Do Tigers Eat?
Being apex predator, what animals do tigers eat? Tigers can eat any moving animals with meat on them. Tiger is not a picky eater. They eat whatever is available.
- It includes all species of deer (sambar, chital (spotted-deer), sika deer, nilgai & more), leopards, gaur, boars, wild pigs, zebras, bears (grizzly or black), tapirs, horses, buffalos, rhino calves, wild dogs, wild cattle, antelopes, young elephants, moose, and goats.
- If a large prey is not available, the tiger will settle for little mammals such as hares, rodents, frogs, snakes, birds, monkeys (such as Langurs), fishes (depending upon location), lizards, or even termites.
- If animals are unavailable, the tiger would eat berries or grass to regulate its digestive system.
Do Tigers Eat Humans?
Of course! They do.
- There were many incidents in the past where these big cats pounced on humans & killed them for meat. Even these days, we hear horror stories on the news from zoos and in villages where tigers invade due to loss of habitats and in search of food.
- In 1903, the city of Calcutta (now Kolkotta) witnessed the monster man-eater in a zoo where it supposedly took more than 200 human lives.
- Even now, the human-tiger conflict continues.
Tiger Food Chain Diagram
- The above diagram shows that the tiger sits at the top of the food chain in the ecosystem with no predators and feeds on the primary carnivores and herbivores directly.
- The second layer represents the primary carnivores, such as foxes and wolfs, which feed on the herbivores.
- The third layer represents the herbivores such as deer, elks, and boars which feed on the producers – vegetations such as trees, berries, and grass.
Tiger Diet By Species
Each type of tiger has a different diet based on the geographical location where they reside in. We have tabulated each known tiger species and what do they eat in the wild below:
Diet of Siberian Tiger
Siberian tigers also referred as Amur tigers, and now they are mainly found in Primorye Province of Russia. Let’s explore what do Siberian tigers eat below.
- In the cold terrain, Siberian tigers eat red deer, wild boar, Manchurian elk, and sika deer. Also, tigers attack and eat grizzly bears and black bears.
- Amur tigers are top of the food chain in the Siberian ecosystem and have no natural predators.
- However, due to their endangered status and declining population, there is a threat of creating a significant imbalance in the ecosystem where the wolf population could triple in its size while deer/elk species count could decline as well to force them into endangered status.
South China Tiger Diet
The South China tiger is also called “Chinese Tiger” or “Amoy Tiger”, and it is considered critically endangered by the IUCN.
Indochinese Tiger Diet
Indochinese tigers are mostly found in Burma, Thailand, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and southern China. They are enlisted as endangered by the IUCN.
- Their main diet includes sambar deer, antelope, wild pigs, buffalos, serow, young gaur, baby rhinos, turtles, fishes and baby elephants.
- When food is scarce, Indochinese tigers even go after porcupines, hog badgers (Arctonyx collaris), macaques monkey and muntjac deer.
Malayan Tiger Diet
Malayan tigers are found in the peninsula of Malay. In 2015, they were officially announced as critically endangered tiger species.
- Malayan tigers’ diet includes deer species (sambar and barking), wild boar, bearded pigs, and serow. Malayan tigers also prey on sun bears (Helarctos malayanus), young elephants, and rhino calves. Due to human encroachment, livestock such as domestic cattle become prey to these tigers.
- Interestingly, Malayan tigers also hunt at night times (Nocturnal) to find their prey. Being the leader of the food chain, no natural enemy other than humans.
Sumatran Tiger Diet
In 2008, the IUCN declared that the Sumatran tigers from Sumatran islands and Indonesia as critically endangered species. What do Sumatran tigers eat?
- Sumatran Tigers eat fishes, monkeys, crocodiles, fowl (bird), wild pigs, and deer.
- They are patient hunters and usually stalk the prey for 1/2 hour before attacking. Sumatran tigers have an interesting habit – once the meal is over, they would cover the carcass with grass using their paws for snacking on the leftovers later!
Bengal Tiger Diet
Being the resident of India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, what do Bengal tigers eat?
- Bengal tigers prefer hunting large mammals such as deer (chital, sambar, gaur, barasingha), water buffalo, nilgai/blue bull, serow (goat-like), and takin (gnu goat).
- On the medium-sized species list, they frequently kill a wild boar and rarely hog deer, muntjac deer, and grey langur (black-faced monkeys).
- When Bengal tigers encounter small prey species such as porcupines, hares, or peafowl, they will kill them for snacks.
- Due to humans invading their habitats, Bengal tigers also prey on domestic cattle and end up getting killed by furious people. We hear this news from India very frequently.
The other three types of tigers, namely the Bali tiger, Javan tiger, and Caspian tiger, are extinct. Their diets were mainly large hoofed mammals.