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A golden tiger, golden tabby tiger or strawberry tiger is one with an extremely rare colour variation caused by a recessive gene that is currently only found in captive tigers. Like the white tiger, it is a colour form and not a separate species. In the case of the golden tiger, this is the wide band gene; while the white tiger is due to the colour inhibitor (chinchilla) gene. There are currently believed to be fewer than 30 of these rare tigers in the world, but many more carriers of the gene.
While no official name has been designated for the colour, it is sometimes referred to as the strawberry tiger due to the strawberry blonde colouration. The golden tiger's white coat and gold patches make it stand out from the norm. Their striping is much paler than usual and may fade into spots or large prominent patches. Golden tigers also tend to be larger and, due to the effect of the gene on the hair shaft, have softer fur than their orange relatives.
Like their white cousins, all golden tabby tigers have mainly Bengal parentage, but are genetically polluted with the genes of the Amur tiger via a part-Amur white tiger called Tony, who is a common ancestor of almost all white tigers in North America. The suggestion that this colouration is caused through the deliberate breeding of Amur tigers with Bengal tigers is a popular myth founded on this fact. All golden tigers appear traceable to one of Tony's male descendants, Bhim.
India has records of wild golden tigers which date back as far as the early 1900s. There have been suggestions that the tendency for this coloration gradually developed in a small group of tigers living in an area of heavy clay concentration. The unusual colour would provide these tigers with extra camouflage. The theory remains unproven, however, inbreeding of a small isolated group of tigers could cause the recessive golden tiger gene to emerge if at least one of those tigers carried the recessive gene for the golden colour and bred with its own offspring Golden tigers may occur in the same litter as stripeless or nearly stripeless tigers. This is due to the effect of the wide-band gene on the normal orange colour and the white colour respectively. The wide band mutation is not found solely in white tigers and may also be carried by normal coloured tigers, however carriers of the wide band gene are probably no longer found in the wild. Wild-born golden tigers might be disadvantaged as they are less well camouflaged than normal orange tigers. The last known wild Golden tigers were shot outside of Mysore Pradesh, India in the early 20th century.
Today, there are less than 30 of these animals in the world, showing how rare these tigers really are. However there are confirmed tigers that carry the Golden Tiger Gene, improving their chances of breeding. Because the Golden Tabby is not an individual subspecies of tiger, biologists and scientists have stated that they're not going to spend a significant amount of time, money and effort to protect this gene. However, the wildlife conservations and zoos they are found in greatly appreciate these rare creatures for their "beauty and intelligence." 
Golden tigers in zoos
Few zoos have bred or exhibited golden tigers and many have no knowledge of the colour or its mode of inheritance. It therefore usually appears by accident when breeding orange and white tigers together rather than through planning. As white tigers and heterozygous normal coloured tigers are traded and loaned between zoos and circuses for breeding, if they also carry the wide band gene, that gene becomes widespread. When their descendants are mated together, the golden tiger colour is passed on to the offspring if both parents are gene carriers. Unless golden tabby cubs are born, the zoos may have no idea that the parents carry that gene.
The first golden tiger cub born in captivity was in 1983 and this came from standard-colored Bengal tigers, both of whom carried the recessive genes for both the golden tiger and white colours. It was born at Dr. Josip Marcan's Adriatic Animal Attractions in Deland, Florida.
An example of a Golden tiger is in Dream World in Australia from India. Samara, a normal orange tigress, had been mated with nearly-stripeless white male tiger, Mohan. Her litter included one normal orange cub (Sultan), the first white tiger born in Australia (Taj, also nearly stripeless), and the first two tabby-colored tigers (male Rama and female Sita) born in Australia. The cubs weighed around 1.5 kilograms and measured approximately 30 centimetres in length. They were removed from their mother soon after birth and hand raised. The births and hand-raising process were filmed and presented in an hour long documentary. Golden tabby Sita will be mated to an unrelated normal orange tiger called Kato.
Diamond, a male golden tiger, is housed at the Isle of Wight Zoo in the UK. Because he is inseparable from his normal coloured sister, who also carries the golden gene, Diamond was castrated to prevent inbreeding. Glasgow Zoo's golden tiger, Butu, obtained from Longleat, went to Germany when Glasgow Zoo closed. Longleat in the UK previously had an elderly golden tiger named Sonar, but he died in 2006. Autumn 2010, a golden tabby tiger, Shami, was born in a zoo in ZOOPARK  in Næstved, Denmark. It's the first of its kind to be born in Scandinavia, and only the third in Europe. May 2012, two more golden tabby tigers were born in ZOOPARK in næstved, Denmark.
A young, female Golden Tabby named "Sitarra" is owned by the St. Augustine Wild Reserve, a big cat sanctuary in North Florida (www.staugustinewildreserve.org). Two Golden Tabbies are also found at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey: A male, Kingda Ka, who has a roller coaster named after him, and his half-sister Raina who are part of the family that appears in daily educational award-winning shows about these specific tigers. T.I.G.E.R.S., which performs at King Richard's Faire in Carver M.A and elsewhere, also has Golden Tabby Tigers. One of T.I.G.E.R.S.'s golden tabby tigers, Ramu, is on loan to the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota. Taj, another golden tabby resides at the Cougar Zoological Park in Issaquah, WA. Another Golden Tabby can be found at the Buffalo Zoo. Topaz is a permanent resident at the Catty Shack ranch, a wildlife sanctuary, in Jacksonville, FL and another Golden Tabby, a female named Shammi, can be found at Safari's Wildlife Sanctuary in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. There are three Tabby Tigers found at Miami's Jungle , Mahesh, Orobella and . There are three Tabbys, Arula, Kumari, & Kahil, at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in Tyler, Texas. The Exotic Feline Center in Center Point, IN, also has a golden tabby tiger named Sahib. Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary in Punta Gorda, FL has a Golden Tabby named Kashmire. Wisconsin's Valley of the King's animal sanctuary is home to two named Assam (passed away in 2013) and Jasmine. Zoo of Acadiana in Broussard, LA also has two golden Bengal tiger cubs named Filé and Gumbo. There is also a 3 month old Golden Tabby tiger cub at T.I.G.E.R.S Preserve, Myrtle Beach, SC.(May 2013)
Though golden tabby tigers are not deliberately bred for by conservation-minded zoos, they have joined the white tiger in becoming popular for use in stage shows and similar events. A few private breeders are attempting to produce golden tabby tigers alongside white tigers to meet . The golden tabby tiger and the white tiger could therefore be regarded as human-perpetuated "breeds", however, some zoos and wildlife parks refer to both golden tigers and white tigers as endangered.
Golden tiger genetics
Litters of different coloured cubs are not unusual because the white and golden tabby colours are caused by combinations of hidden recessive genes carried by the parents. White tigers, such as Dreamworld's Mohan (named after the white tiger captured in India in the 1950s), are highly inbred. Inbreeding reduces genetic variability and may cause hidden genes to manifest as there is a greater probability that two recessive genes will meet up.
Analysis of golden tiger family trees shows that golden tigers are genetically normal orange coloured tigers with the addition of a recessive modifiying gene, probably the wide band gene. This same wide band gene also gives rise to stripeless white tigers. A white tiger that inherits two copies of the recessive wide band gene will be a stripeless white. A normal orange tiger that inherits two copies of the recessive wide band gene will be a golden tabby. The wide band gene is carried independently of the white gene.
All golden tabby tigers seem traceable to a white tiger called Bhim, a white son of Tony. Bhim was a carrier of the wide band gene and transmitted this to some of his offspring. Bhim was bred to his sister Sumita (also a carrier of the wide band gene), giving rise to stripeless white tigers (i.e. having two copies of the wide band gene). Bhim was also bred to a normal orange tigress called Kimanthi, and then to his own orange daughter Indira from that mating. The mating of Bhim and Indira resulted in striped white, stripeless white, normal orange, and golden tabby offspring indicating that both Bhim and his daughter carried the wide band gene. When the golden tabby male offspring was mated to the normal orange female offspring, both golden tabby tigers and white tigers resulted.
At Dreamworld, Australia, it was demonstrated that the mating of a nearly stripeless white tiger to an orange tigress that carried both white and wide band genes would result in golden tiger offspring alongside nearly stripeless white and normal orange cubs. Although there are about only 30 in existence, all in captivity, many are carriers of the gene.
- A Study of Tigers. "Golden Tabby Tigers". Retrieved 8 October 2012.
- Exotic Feline Center. "November 2010 Cat Tales Newsletter". Exotic Feline Center. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
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