The Cryptid Zoo: Blue and Black Tigers

The 1982 film 'The Beastmaster' used this tiger dyed black as a panther. A real black tiger should look similar to this dyed animal. This screenshot is copyrighted by those who own the copyright to the film.
Both western observers and native folklore have long claimed that tigers came in other colors and patterns than the usual orange with black stripes. For a long time, western scientists treated these ideas with contempt. Everybody knew that reports of things such as white tigers were just mythology.

Today, white tigers have been confirmed and now exist in many zoos, but their cousins blue tigers and black tigers are still sneered at by skeptics. If blue tigers seem impossible to you, remember that "blue" coloration exists in many known animals, such as blue shorthorn cattle and the breed of cats called Russian blues. Blue tigers have been reported from the Fujian Province of China.

Blue tigers and black tigers are of only slight interest in the field of cryptozoology, because it seems most likely that they will simply be a color phase due to a mutant gene, and not worthy of being declared a new subspecies or species. However, as long as we don't know for sure, we ought to keep looking for them. With the vast reduction in the population of tigers that has occurred, it is possible that all specimens have died out. But, if these colorations are due to a recessive gene that may still exist in living tigers, then new examples could arise once again if the right tigers breed with each other.

Very dark tigers have been confirmed from skins and in zoos, but so far, not one of these confirmed animals has been entirely black. Despite this, people sometimes declare that the existence of black tigers has been confirmed by science and cite an animal that still had a few orange stripes on its body.

Entirely black tigers have been reported from the wild in several places, namely India, the island of Java and Myanmar (Burma). These animals are described as closely resembling black panthers (melanistic leopards) except that they are larger than leopards, and witnesses who see the animals from close up can discern black stripes on a solid black background, a background that is just barely a different color of black than the stripes themselves (this kind of feature exists in melanistic leopards also, where the black spots can barely be distinguished, at close range, as existing over a black background).

Some "black tigers" have, in fact, turned out to just be large melanistic leopards when killed, but most reports of black tigers have not resulted in a specimen being delivered to scientists, so the issue is still in doubt.

There is also a brown tiger reported from Thailand. This animal is supposed to have black stripes on a brown background. A different brown tiger, this one a solid brown without any stripes, is reported from India, particularly in the Similipal Tiger Reserve. In Malaysia, there are reports of a tiger called the harimau jalor, which reportedly has a different pattern of stripes altogether, with the dominant directionality being horizontal instead of vertical.

Tigers reported from Africa (where they do not officially exist in the wild) typically have abnormal coloring or other strange features. This would seem to indicate that, if they do exist, they are either a signifigantly altered African subspecies of the tiger, or they are some other species (such as mutant striped leopards) which merely remind people of tigers and so earn that name in local folklore. One example is the tigre de montagne reported from mountainous regions of Chad, Senegal and the Central African Republic. This beast is described as having reddish fur with black stripes and no tail. It sometimes has long teeth that make some researchers in the field of cryptozoology think it might really be a saber-toothed cat. Another possible African subspecies of tiger is the mngwa, a gray lion-sized cat with indistinct, brindled striping.

Reports of "tigers" with unusual colors or patterns also come from South America. However, as far as science knows, there has never been a wild population of tigers there, so these reports are generally classified as unconfirmed color abnormalities of the jaguar (especially since jaguars are often locally called "tigers," a fact that frequently leads to translation mistakes).

You can find out more about Abnormally Colored Tigers from the following sources:

Annabell, Maxine. The C. T. Buckland Black Tiger Story

Annabell, Maxine. Early Evidence of Black Tigers
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Annabell, Maxine. Myth of the Maltese Tiger

Annabell, Maxine. Red, Pale, Brown and Unstriped Tigers

Black Tigers

Caldwell, Harry R. Blue Tiger.

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 45-46

Coleman, Loren. Mysterious America: The Revised Edition. New York: Paraview Press, 2001. Pages 125, 139-141

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 190, 418, 459-461

Shuker, Karl. The Beasts That Hide From Man: Seeking the World's Last Undiscovered Animals. New York: Paraview Press, 2003. Pages 212-214, 267

Wikipedia, The. Maltese "Blue" Tiger

Wikipedia, The. Black Tiger

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