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All the colors of the... Tiger?

Updated on February 8, 2012

Rainbow of Fur

the most abundant of the colors in the tiger rainbow.
the most abundant of the colors in the tiger rainbow.

A spectrum of color..

When we think of a tiger, we automatically think of two different colors; orange and white. However, what most people do not realize is that there are in fact five different colors of tigers, and even more shades within those color variations. Some of these colors are not what is considered normal, but rather anomalies or mutations within the genetics. Some of the color variations include: orange, white, gold, blue and black.These animals are special regardless of their coloring, but seeing the beauty and rarity of the different variations makes the experience even more special for anyone lucky enough to behold them.

Orange Tiger

The most common and well known color of tiger.
The most common and well known color of tiger.

Orange

The orange coloring is the most common color of tiger. Every subspecies of tiger can be orange. Whereas some of the more exotic colors are limited to certain subspecies.

White tiger

Second most common coloration
Second most common coloration

White

The white coloration is actually a mutation in the genetics. However, it is the most common mutation within any subspecies of tiger. There are actually three different types of white tigers; white, stripe-less white, and albino. The most common in this sub category is the regular white tigers with black stripes. Though sometimes the mutation of color can also cause a mutation in the physical features of the animal and occasionally cause a handicap. The stripe-less white tigers, also known as Ghost stripe tigers, are solid white and only show a faint outline of stripes when light is refracted off of their coats. These tigers still have the characteristic blue eyes and pink nose of their striped counterparts. Where as an albino white tiger has pink eyes and no skin pigment, often times having to deal with cancer because of sensitivity. These are the rarest of the white tigers, simply because they do not survive long.

Golden Tiger

Gold

The golden tiger (strawberry tiger) was first seen in the wild, in India, in 1932. However, this is a mutation and not a separate species of tiger. The first tigers to be born in captivity with the golden coloring didn't occur until 1987. The golden coloration is a peachy brown colored coat with slightly darker brown stripes and much more white on the extremities. Some have even been known to have no stripes at all. While these creatures are beautiful and highly photogenic, zoos have begun taking the inbreeding necessary to cultivate the gene to a disturbing level.

Blue Tiger

artist rendition of blue (maltese) tiger
artist rendition of blue (maltese) tiger

Blue

Blue tigers are also a mutation. Blue tigers have been reported in the mountains of the Fujian province of China since the early 1900s. They are called Maltese (bluish-grey or slate blue) tigers, and normally have white patches on the extremities and black stripes. There have also been sightings in North Korea and South Korea, but because North Korea does not welcome outsiders it is impossible to investigate sightings. Slate-colored tigers may represent a small population where the color has become fixed in an isolated, inbred group. However, as of this time, they are not considered a separate species of tiger.

Black Tiger

a pseudo-melanistic tiger cub
a pseudo-melanistic tiger cub

Black

One form of black coloring is caused by the non-agouti mutation. Agouti refers to the ticking hair on the background color of a tabby. Certain lights allow for the pattern to still show up because the background color is less dense than that of the markings. There have been numerous unconfirmed reports of pure black, non-striped tigers (true melanistic tigers). Another form of so-called black is pseudo-melanism. These tigers have thick stripes so close together that the tawny pelt beneath is no longer visible. There are reports that black tigers are becoming more common in the wild. This may be due to more inbreeding, caused by loss of habitat. The observation that the black tigers are smaller than normal tigers seems to confirm this suspicion. As humans require more space, the tigers are forced into smaller areas with fewer choices for mates, allowing more inbreeding to occur.

Tigers of the Rainbow

different colored tigers at play
different colored tigers at play

Beautiful but Tragic

While these color variations are considered beautiful and even encouraged as publicity attractions in some zoos, we must remember that these color variations are Mutations, and the animals that have this problem also suffer other health issues. Many conservationists believe that zoos should concentrate on preserving the purebred tigers rather than breeding different color forms. These color variations are massively popular in the entertainment industry and thus people continue to breed them. The pelvic girdle and lumbar vertebrate problems have been directly related to this mass inbreeding and is highly dangerous to the animals.

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    • Dragonrain profile image

      Dragonrain 5 years ago

      They are beautiful animals, but I think it's sad that some breeding projects are being focused on producing animals that we already know can come with a fair share of genetic issues. Especially when we are dealing with an endangered species, I think it's much more important to focus on maintaining a genetically healthy breeding population than worrying about producing special colors. Especially since the tiger is already such a striking animal in it's natural/common form.

    • hildred profile image

      hildred 5 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Very interesting. I knew about the orange and white tigers of course, but the golden and blue ones were totally new to me. Voted up.

    • DIYmyOmy profile image

      DIYmyOmy 5 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Great topic and just wonderful photos! Voted Up and Awesome, thanks for posting it!

    • jamie-uzu-brock profile image
      Author

      jamie-uzu-brock 5 years ago from Bowman, GA USA

      I know. Simply seeing one of the magnificent animals is enough for me. I adore all big cats and hope to one day work closer with the conservation effort.

    • jamie-uzu-brock profile image
      Author

      jamie-uzu-brock 5 years ago from Bowman, GA USA

      Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • jamie-uzu-brock profile image
      Author

      jamie-uzu-brock 5 years ago from Bowman, GA USA

      Thanks. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed typing it. :)

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      What a wonderful hub on these truly beautiful animals. I now look forward to reading many more by you.

      Take care;

      Eddy.

    • profile image

      destiny 4 years ago

      i think there beautiful.

    • profile image

      Bob 4 years ago

      These tigers are so cute!!!!

    • profile image

      cman 4 years ago

      Tigers are my favorite animals

    • profile image

      Joshua 4 years ago

      I LOVE TIGERS

    • profile image

      asilas 4 years ago

      lopai

    • profile image

      Jeff 3 years ago

      I really like this website

    • profile image

      bill sevele 2 years ago

      these tigers suk balls

    • profile image

      Megan ratcliffe 15 months ago

      The Tigers are beautiful as there are

    • profile image

      Khalaf 14 months ago

      From now on i will always enter this website

    • profile image

      carlos 14 months ago

      who olb is bob

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