Tigers are iconic symbols of power, courage and strength. They command a unique presence. Today there are six main subspecies of tiger – Bengal, Siberian (or Amur), Malayan, South China, Sumatran and Sunda – and each varies in size and power, with some species of tiger being significantly larger than others.
They are considered to be what’s known as charismatic megafauna – large species of animals with global appeal and symbolic value such as giraffes, elephants, lions, giant pandas, penguins and humpback whales.
How Big are Tigers?
Tigers are the biggest cats in the world and the size of an individual tiger is of course varied. On average though, male tigers range from around 2.5 metres to almost 3.5 metres long and females from two metres to a little under three metres long.
Some scientists suggest that the size of the tiger is correlated to climate and the distribution and size of available prey in their surrounding habitat.
The World’s Biggest Tiger
Of all the extant subspecies, the Siberian or Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) are on average the biggest tigers in the world. Native to the Russian Far East, northeastern China and possibly North Korea, they measure between 2.7 metres and 3.3 metres and weigh between 180 and 300kg.
As with all wild animals on land and in the sea, there are plenty of unconfirmed reports of extraordinarily large specimens. A Russian naturalist spoke of a male that was shot in 1950 that weighed 384kg. Similarly, there was a report of another male killed in Russia that tipped the scales at over 400kg, though scientists believe these were probably exaggerations.
One report which may hold more weight was of a male Bengal tiger shot in Uttar Pradesh in India in 1967 that weighed 389kg. However it was also reported that the tiger in question had killed and eaten a buffalo the night before so was heavier than he would normally have been!
The Biggest Tiger in the World - Ever?
The biggest tiger of which there is irrefutable evidence was a male Siberian tiger called Jaipur, owned by controversial tiger trainer Joan Byron-Marasek at her private, 12-acre compound in New Jersey called Tigers Only Preservation.
Jaipur was measured in 1986 at the age of nine and he was 3.3 metres from nose to tail tip. He stood 1.25 metres at the shoulder and he weighed an incredible 418.2kg, roughly the weight of six Caribbean Reef sharks!
So is Jaipur the biggest tiger ever? Of course it’s hard to know with absolute certainty, given the numbers of tigers in the wild and in captivity, but it would take a colossal cat to beat him!
An Ongoing Threat
Tigers never fail to mesmerise us, whether we’re looking at cute tiger cubs, majestic-looking adults or the beautiful white tigers. It doesn’t matter if it’s the biggest tiger in the world or not, they all make us stop and stare. It seems however that there is good reason to believe that exceptionally big tigers may well soon be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, big game hunters look for the biggest tigers and, over the last century, tiger numbers have reduced by over 95% in the wild. With it, this has brought a reduction in prey meaning we may never see a Jaipur-sized tiger again.