Showing posts with label mutant tigers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mutant tigers. Show all posts

Friday 26 May 2023

What is a red tiger? A mystery cat.

Throughout history, there have been many mystery cats. These are terrifying creatures often created through superstitions, myths and legends handed down to generations probably for thousands of years. One of these mystery cats is the "Red Tiger". What does it mean? You will not find a lot about the red tiger on the internet. You will have to read the book Mystery Cats of the World by KPM Shuker to find out more.

However, I can rely upon a couple of experts, Dr. Desmond Morris in his book Cat World and Sarah Hartwell on her website messybeasts.com

Dr. Desmond Morris

He states that the plain red tiger was reported in 1936. It is a tiger with the usual background colour but no stripes according to him. This is a uniformly reddish-brown animal which was said to inhabit a region of open sandy tracts hence the colour of the coat which evolved. It provided better camouflage. Dr. Morris said that its existence has never been scientifically verified.

Sarah Hartwell

As usual, she has the best information on this topic as she is very good on weird and wonderful big cats, myths and legends and mutants!

On a webpage about mutant big cats and golden tigers, she has a reference to the red tiger. She refers to naturalist brothers, the Van Ingens. They apparently described the red tiger as a golden tabby tiger containing an excessive amount of red pigmentation. Or it might refer to a dark orange tiger.

The red tiger appears to be a modified variety of the standard Bengal tiger on my understanding. If so, it would have been due to a genetic mutation. She also refers to the 'Red Caspian tiger'. The picture on this page shows one.

The Caspian tiger is extinct. Rewilding the Caspian Tiger.

The stripes of the Caspian tiger are not the normal black colour but a little darker than the background colour. RI Pocock writing in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society believed that this tiger variation from the normal pattern is a partial suppression of the black stripes and white areas which approaches the "uniform tint of the lion and showing that the differences between the two species in this particular and not of fundamental importance".

That's not very clear but it was written a long time ago (1929). Pocock adds that:

"The red tiger, illustrated in our coloured plate….is a unique type with all the black pigment abstracted from the stripes, leaving them reddish-brown and only a little darker than the ground colour…The dressed skin of a tigress ticketed ‘Northern slopes of Mount Elburz’ and presented by Col. R.L. Kennion who told me it was presented to him by a native chief. This tiger, represented in the coloured plate, is of extreme interest. The ground colour and the pattern are as in the Afghan specimen; but there is not a trace of black on the skin, all the stripes being brown and indistinctly defined owing to their approximation to the general hue of the coat.” 

Sarah Hartwell's comment on that is that he might be referring to a golden tabby tiger. She also states that in Assam in 1929, two light-coloured red tigers which would now be called golden tabby tigers were shot. What a shame! Back in the day they thought nothing of it. Hartwell states that "according to the Van Ingen brothers who provided the photograph to the journal:

"The red tigress in the foreground was shot some years ago in Assam by the late Mr W G Forbes. The skin was white with the pale tan background and marked with fine stripes in a darker shade of tan. Curiously the three last stripes at the tip of the tail were black. The white tiger shown in comparison was pure white and marked with chocolate stripes. This tiger was shot by the Ruling Chief of Korea [i.e. Koriya princedom] also some years ago.” “Variation in Colour of Tigers and Panthers” by Van Ingen & Van Ingen, in JBNHS v.42:pt.3-4 (1942). J.C.Daniel provided further information on the skins in his 2001 book “The Tiger in India”: The two light-coloured tigers shot by W.G. Forbes of Hathikuli Tea estate in 1929 were described at the time of curing by Messrs. Van Ingen as ‘red tigers’."

I am grateful to Sarah Hartwell for this information. You can read more if you like by clicking on this link. The conclusion as I understand it, is that the red tiger was a colour morph and not as you might imagine a bright red tiger! It was a variation and the description of "red tiger" is perhaps misleading in this respect.

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