Tiger versus lion
Historically, the comparative merits of the tiger versus the lion have been a popular topic of discussion by hunters, naturalists, artists and poets, and it continues to inspire the popular imagination in the present day. Lions and tigers have competed in the wild where their ranges have overlapped. They have also been pitted against each other in captivity, either as deliberate contests or as a result of accidental encounters.
In the circuses of Ancient Rome, exotic beasts were commonly pitted against each other. The contest of the Asiatic Lions, the smaller version of the African Lion, against the tiger was a classic pairing and the betting usually favoured the tiger. A mosaic in the House of the Faun in Pompeii shows a fight between a lion and a tiger. At the end of the 19th century, the Gaekwad of Baroda arranged a fight between a lion and tiger before an audience of thousands. The Gaekwad favoured the lion, and as a result had to pay 37,000 rupees as the lion was mauled by the tiger.
Competition in the wild
Lions and tigers coexisted in central India until the late 19th century and some accounts of contests were recorded. The University of Minnesota's Lion Research Project describes the resulting findings as unclear: the lions were hunted more than tigers due to them preferring plain land in consequence of which they now only live in Gir Forest where no tiger is to be found. The possibility of conflicts between the two has been raised in relation to the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, which would introduce Gir Lions (Asiatic lions) from Gir Forest National Park to another preserve, the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, that contains tigers. Concerns were raised that the co-presence of lions and tigers would "trigger frequent clashes". One argument against the lions shifting is that Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary also houses tigers. The tigers, being stronger and larger than the lions, are a potential threat for survival of lions.
The Amur or Siberian tiger is the largest subspecies of the Panthera genus, known to weigh up to 360 kilograms (800 lb), while large African lions weigh up to 250 kilograms (550 lb). The average weight of males is 175 kilograms (390 lb) for the Asiatic lion, 200 kilograms (440 lb) for the African lion, 221.2 kilograms (488 lb) for the Bengal tiger and 230 kilograms (510 lb) for the Siberian tiger.
The tiger is a solitary hunter while the lion is a social animal, living and hunting in groups called prides. Though lions cooperate in hunting, the pride is very competitive during feeding. Weaker animals are pushed aside or chased off. The competitive nature of this social structure makes the lion more prone to fighting, especially males whose very lives depend (since the male isn't as specialised in hunting on the open plains) on getting a pride of their own. The tiger is very quick so keepers of captive tigers must take care to avoid a sudden attack.
Accidental fights in captivity
The most recent account of a fight in captivity is from in March 2011, where a tiger at the Ankara Zoo attacked a lion through its enclosure and killed the lion with a single paw swipe. "The tiger severed the lion's jugular vein in a single stroke with its paw, leaving the animal dying in a pool of blood", officials said. In december 2008 a lion killed a Siberian tiger in a Korean zoo by biting it in the neck. In 1951 an African lion killed a Bengal tiger at a circus. The lion attacked the tiger and sank its jaws into the tiger's back. The tiger died an hour after the fight because of the injuries sustained. At the Coney Island Zoo in 1909, a male tiger killed a male lion. In 1857, a tiger at the Bromwich Zoo broke into the cage of a lion and a fearful scene ensued: the lion's mane saved his head and neck from being injured, but the tiger succeeded in ripping up his stomach, and within a few minutes he was dead.
|Some or all of this article's listed sources may not be reliable. (November 2012)|
John Varty, owner of the Londolozi Reserve in South Africa, said, "People always ask me which one is bigger? If a tiger and a lion had a fight, which one would win? Well, I've seen tigers crunch up a full-grown leopard tortoise like it was nothing. And lions try, but they just don't get it right. If there's a fight, the tiger will win, every time."
The animal rescue organisation Big Cat Rescue of Tampa, Florida answered, "While we would much prefer that people focus their thoughts on saving these magnificent animals than on who would win if a lion and tiger fight, the power of these two largest cats seems to raise this question in people's minds. While it would depend on the size, age and aggressiveness of the specific animals involved, generally tigers have a significant advantage."
The conservation charity Save China's Tigers stated, "Recent research indicates that the tiger is indeed stronger than the lion in terms of physical strength. Lions hunt in prides, so it would be in a group and the tigers as a solitary creature so it would be on its own. A tiger is generally physically larger than a lion. Most Experts would favour a Siberian and Bengal tiger over an African lion."
Mythical character comparison
18th-century naturalists and authors were wont to compare the species' characters, generally in favour of the lion. Oliver Goldsmith ranked the lion first among carnivorous mammals, followed by the tiger, which in his view "...seems to partake of all the noxious qualities of the lion, without sharing any of his good ones. To pride, courage and strength, the lion joins greatness, clemency and generosity; but the tiger is fierce without provocation, and cruel without necessity." Charles Knight, writing in The English Cyclopaedia, disparages the opinions of naturalists Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon and Thomas Pennant in this context, stating that "...the general herd of authors who eulogise the 'courage, greatness, clemency and generosity' of the lion, contrasting it with the unprovoked ferocity, unnecessary cruelty and poltroonery of the tiger, becomes ridiculous, though led by such names as Buffon and Pennant." Knight goes on to write that "The lion has owed a good deal to his mane and his noble and dignified aspect; but appearances are not always to be trusted." In fact, a study was done by scientists Craig Packer and Peyton West which has claimed that the mane of the lion is strictly for mating purposes. Darker-maned lions were more often picked by females to breed, while light-maned lions weren't so lucky. This may prove that a lion's mane does not purposely help in a fight, and might even hinder the male lion, slowing it down when it attacks.
Arts and literature
Battles between the two were painted in the 18th and 19th centuries by Eugène Delacroix, George Stubbs and James Ward. Ward's paintings, which portrayed lion victories in accordance with the lion's symbolic value in Great Britain, have been described as less realistic than Stubbs'. The British Seringapatam medal shows a lion defeating a tiger in battle; an Arabic language banner on the medal displays the words "ASAD ALLAH AL-GHALIB" (the lion of God is the conqueror). The medal commemorated the British victory at the 1799 Battle of Seringapatam (in the town now known as Srirangapatna) over Tipu Sultan—who used tigers as emblems, as opposed to the British emblematic use of lions.
English literature compared their battle strengths. The poets Edmund Spenser, Allan Ramsey, and Robert Southey described lion victories. In the view of a 19th-century literary critic, these contests established "sovereignty of the animal world".
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- "Lion against tiger". The Baltimore Sun. Jan 26, 1899. p. 3.
- Thomas, Isabel (2006). Lion vs. Tiger. Raintree. ISBN 978-1-4109-2398-1.
- Roland Auguet (1994). Cruelty and civilization: the Roman games. ISBN 978-0-415-10453-1.
- William Bridges (Aug 22, 1959). "Lion vs. tiger: who'd win?". The Spokesman-Review.
- Anthony King (2002). The natural history of Pompeii. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-80054-9.
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- "MP not fit for Asiatic lions, Gujarat tells PM". Times of India. June 19, 2006. Retrieved 2011-06-28. "At a two-hour meeting of National Board of Wildlife presided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here, Govind Patel said the "presence of tigers in the Kuno Palpur sanctuary would trigger frequent clashes between the two carnivores over territories – tiger and lions—which can never co-exist in the same place.""
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- "Lion Kills Tiger in Jeonju Zoo". Retrieved 9 december 2013.
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- The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Charles Darwin
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- Oliver Goldsmith; Georges Léopold C.F.D. Cuvier (baron de.) (1847). A history of the earth and animated nature, with an intr. view of the animal kingdom tr. from the Fr. of Baron Cuvier, notes and a life of the author by W. Irving. p. 367. Retrieved 30 June 2011.
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- Frank McLynn (2006). 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. Canongate Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-8021-4228-3. "George Stubbs, the most famous and original animal painter of his time who was just reaching his peak in 1759, liked to display combats of lion versus tiger, though he did not commit the egregious mistake made in James Ward's animal pictures painted later in the century where the lion symbolises Britain and the tiger India; in reality, as we know very clearly from the obscene animal fights staged by the Ancient Romans in the arena, the tiger would win every time."
- Maya Jasanoff (2007). Edge of Empire: Lives, Culture, and Conquest in the East, 1750–1850. Random House. ISBN 978-0-307-42571-3.
- Charles Francis Richardson (1883). Good literature: a literary eclectic weekly, Volume 5. AbeBooks. p. 114.
- Isabel Thomas (2006). Lion vs. Tiger. Raintree. ISBN 978-1-4109-2398-1.
- Jerry Pallotta, Rob Bolster (2009). Lion vs. tiger. Scholastic. ISBN 978-0-545-17571-5.