The Tasmanian tiger, also known as the thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, is not actually a member of the cat family (tiger) or the dog family (wolf) but is a type of marsupial (the female carries her young in a pouch like a kangaroo). Its scientific name is Thylacinus cynocephalus which literally means "pouched dog with wolf's head" or more accurately, "pouched thing with dog's head".
The Tasmanian tiger is a carnivorous (meat-eating) marsupial. Once common in Tasmania, it is now labeled as extinct. During the 1930s, the last thylacine to be killed in the wild was shot and the last known Tamanian tiger died in captivity.
The above picture and all the black and white images on this webpage are courtesy of wikimedia commons.
Tasmanian tiger facts #1
Tasmanian tigers were also known as:thylacineTasmanian wolfmarsupial wolfVan Dieman's land tigerTasmanian dingopouched hyenazebra wolf
What does a Tasmanian tiger look like?
The Tasmanian tiger is a sandy-colored, dog-like marsupial with a rigid tail and 13 to 19 stripes between its shoulder and the base of its tail. The male has a longer, thinner face than the female. The average length for an adult thylacine is about 5 feet but the thylacine can be up to six feet in a straight line measure from its nose to the tip of its tail. Its hindfeet each have four pads and its forefeet, five. The female has a pouch which opens towards the rear, unlike most marsupials, whose pouches open forwards.
Male and Female Tasmanian Tigers
A photo of a male (background) and female (foreground) Tasmanian tigers in the Hobart Zoo. Notice how the male is bigger than the female.
Tasmanian tiger facts #2
The pattern of stripes on the Tasmanian tiger's back is unique like each person's fingerprints.
Where did Tasmanian tigers live? - Here's a map of Australia
The Tasmanian tiger once inhabited most of Tasmania (the southern-most island state of Australia) apart from the southwest. From fossil evidence, bones and rock paintings, sceintists have found that thylacines once lived in places other than Tasmania: mainland Australia and Papua New Guinea. In 1965 a mummified carcass of a Tamanian tiger was found in a cave on the Nullarbor Plains. The cave was relatively cool and dry (like Egyptian tombs) enabling this carcass to be preserved intact for maybe thousands of years.
The aboriginal rock painting shown here was found in the Pilbara region of Western Australia and is possibly of a thylacine and her cub.
Tasmanian tiger facts #3
A Tasmanian tiger could open its mouth unusually wide - up to 120°.
What did the Tasmanian tiger eat?
It is said that the Tasmanian tiger liked only freshly killed meat. Its diet consisted of mainly wallabies and pademelons, although some other birds and mammals were also eaten. It was a predator and with its stripes giving it great camouflage, it would lie in wait for its prey. According to reports, a thylacine would track its prey either singly or in small family groups. It had a good sense of smell and although it moved more slowly than most of its prey, its stamina enabled it to catch even these faster animals.
Historic video (only 8 seconds long) of a thylacine eating in capitivity - 1911.
The sad history of thylacine extinction
- 200-2000 years ago: Thylacine disappeared from Papua New Guinea and mainland Australia (possibly due to climate change or from predators such as the dingo).
- 1803: Europeans first migrated to Tasmania.
- 1808: George Harris, surveyor general of Tasmania published the first scientific description of the thylacine, naming it Thylacinus cynocephalus.
- 1824: sheep grazing begins in eastern Tasmania. The sheep were easy targets for the thylacines.
- 1824: A large pastoral company in north-west Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land Company) paid a reward for every Tasmanian tiger killed on its property. They paid more than 80 bounties.
- 1888 - 1909: The Tasmanian government paid 2072 £1 bounties for thylacine scalps.
- 1910: Tasmanian tiger numbers were critically low and live Tassy tigers were worth much more than dead ones.
- 1928: A proposal by the Tasmanian Advisory Committee for Native Fauna that the Tasmanian tiger be protected was opposed by landowners and was consequently defeated.
- 1930: The last Tasmanian tiger to be shot in the wild was killed.
- 1936: Thylacines were declared a protected / endangered species.
- 1936: The last captive Tasmanian tiger died in the Hobart zoo.
- 1986: The Tasmanian tiger was declared extinct.
Tasmanian tiger facts #5
The last captive Tasmanian tiger died on September the 7th 1936.
The last known Tasmanian tiger - Died in Hobart Zoo
Tasmanian tiger facts #6
The last Tassy tiger in the Hobart zoo was most probably female although there are many stories around saying that it was a male named Benjamin.
The Hobart Zoo - formerly called the Beaumaris Zoo
This is a picture of the restored gates of the zoo where the last Tasmanian Tiger died.
(My own photo)
Tasmanian tiger facts #7
No thylacines were ever bred in captivity.
Tasmanian Coat of Arms
Of course you will recognise the supporters on either side of the shield on the Tasmanian coat of arms - two Tasmanian tigers.
Tasmanian Tiger Coloring Page - Thylacine Colouring Page
My Tassy tiger lineart. Click to enlarge.
More Tasmanian Tiger Activities and Crafts
Student workbook and teacher's guide
Make a printable model Tasmanian tiger (as well as a kangaroo, galah and bilby)
Online interactive cloning activity
Online thylacine jigsaw puzzle
Links checked Apr 2013
Tasmanian tiger sightings
Several searches for the Tasmanian tiger have been funded over the years. But although thousands of dollars have been spent, no conclusive evidence has yet been discovered. Thousands of sightings have been recorded and some of them even filmed. Many of these sightings have been on the Australian mainland rather than in Tasmania. Check out these videos. Do you think any of these could be our elusive Tassy tiger?