Tiger bone wine

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Tiger Bone Wine or Hu Gu Jiu
Tiger bone wine.jpg
Bone strengthening wine for sale in Qinhuangdao, China
Country of originChina
Alcohol by volume58%
IngredientsRice wine or white wine, tiger bones, ginger, sage

Tiger bone wine (Chinese: 虎骨酒; pinyin: Hǔ gǔ jiǔ) is an alcoholic beverage originally produced in China using osseous parts removed from tigers as main ingredient. The production process takes approximately eight years and results in a high alcohol concentration. According to traditional Chinese medicine, the specific use of certain body parts is capable of healing diseases according to the characteristics of the animal used to obtain the product, that is believed to be connected with the disease of the person.[1]


In the Chinese culture, it was a tradition to use wines as a cure for diseases: this practice dates back to the Han dynasty's period of domination.[2] The first reference to the specific involvement of tigers in the creation of the wine is around 500 AD.[3] The demand for products containing animal body parts accelerated in the 1980s, during the process of industrialisation and the related population increase: in this way, the booming of the middle class has led to more affordability to the purchase of these. The decreasing availability of tiger parts resulted in substantially higher prices, with bottles sold for hundreds of dollars each. In the 1990s, biologists and other researchers identified that the number of tigers used to make tiger bone wine (which were mainly from South China) had severely decreased. The excessive demand of the animal products is claimed to be a major factor in the tiger's current state of functionally extinction.[4]

Tiger being fed in Thailand's Tiger Temple

Tiger wine production and commercialisation continued, although the ingredient of the animal has been omitted from the labels since then: the production of the tonic wine went on despite the ban on trading the animal components due to the existence of tiger farms together with legal shortcomings and few government regulations.[5]

In 1986, the first tiger farm was created in South China. This type of facility was considered as a zoo, until it was discovered that its actual function was to breed tigers like livestock. These facilities are managed so that tigers reproduce quickly, and newborns are removed from their mothers soon after birth so that the females can more quickly produce another cob. Tiger farms are located in China,South East Asia and South Africa.[6] In February 2018, these facilities were estimated to host more than 8,000 tigers, double the number in the wild. An investigation in Thailand led to the discovery of a disguised tiger farm with an income of about 3 million dollars a year. In a raid in 2016, Thai authorities seized the 137 tigers in a temple that lead to the discovery of tiger parts and 40 dead tiger cubs which were about to be used for wines and medical purposes.[7] The consumption of tiger bone wine is believed to be limited mostly to the elder part of the population, since traditional medicine is being replaced by more modern, evidence-based medicine among younger people.


The use of the tigers' body parts to produce the wine embed its roots in China, specifically in the capital city of Beijing, but its use has soon spread throughout Asia and worldwide. Despite the tigers used to make wine were traded from various places, most of the operations of importation and exportation were occulted by the countries of interest, such as Cambodia. From 1992 China has continued to export tigers’ bones to South Korea, as well as India and Malaysia.[8] Also European countries, such as Czech Republic, are believed to have contributed to the commerce of various parts of the animal in interest to Asia. The tigers used to make Tiger Bone Wine are taken from the farms. The farms are mostly allocated in China, Thailand, Laos and Viet Nam.[9] Even if the trade of tigers to make health tonics is said to be furnished by indigenous tigers, many safari and wildlife parks used to promote that the Tiger bone wine was produced by captive tigers. Examples of this are the Badaling Safari Park in Beijing (October, 2005) and a park in Shanghai, which also sold the wine. In 2007 the Tiger breeding centre in Heilongjiang was defined as another place where the wine was commercialised. In 2004, it was established a new factory, the Xiongsen Wine Producing Ltd. Co, in the Guilin-based Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, where the wine was produced and sold.[2]

Typical ingredients[edit]

The main component of tiger bone wine is tiger bones, which are crushed and then left to macerate for several years in a liqueur made from rice. For each 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of bones about 15 litres (3.3 imp gal) of wine are obtained. Their price increases according to the period of ageing.[10]

Tiger bones and parts extract sold in Möng La, Shan State, Myanmar

The active ingredient per unit volume is fixed and, therefore, it may be used to control the therapeutic dose. In addition to the bones of the animal, other ingredients are:

Two kinds of tiger bone wine are sold: the true one, made with the bones of tigers and other felines and the common tiger bone wine, containing bones obtained from various other species, such as dogs, pigs, bears and horses. The cost of "Common" tiger bone wine is significantly cheaper than a "True" one.[11]


The healing effects coming from the use of the feline parts have not been proven: that is why the original ingredients are often commonly substituted with herbs, similarly as in the case of the liniment Dit Da Jow: even in those cases, its distinctive name isn't altered and remains the same. There are more than 200 kinds of variants, produced with angelica, licorice, scutellaria, ligusticum striatum (known as Chuanxiong), which generally generate the same effects and reactions in those who use them. Goat blood, python meat, psoralen, as well as a variety of fine materials such as cockroach, Bezoar, moss, rhinoceros horns, Cordyceps sinensis are unusual elements that sometimes are implemented in the beverage.[12]


The production has not changed over the past centuries, using the following steps:

Step.1 - After the skin and muscles are peeled off, bones and even entire skeletons arrive at the distillery where they are soaked several times in alcohol.
Step.2 - The bones are then removed and the remaining liquid is put into phials.
Step.3 - The phials are stored in batches to mature for a minimum of three years, before they are ready to be distributed.[13]
Tiger bone wine is easier to preserve in its bottle form and, because it has certain bactericidal and antiseptic properties, it may be stored for a long time.[14]

Product quality[edit]

The quality of the source material, the tiger, is considered important in the production of the wine: strong bones, strong waist and feet are positive features. Renal weakness, weak abdominal pain, gait weakness, pain in the shoulders and arms are negative peculiarities which can cause problems in the production and the commerce of the wine.
Also considered important are farming methods, soil, water and microclimate to which attention must be paid.
There are laws that govern counterfeit and poor quality materials. Studies have shown that when an environment of biological growth and a food structure changes, the intended effect is no longer achieved (this is also the reason why China should strictly control genetically modified species).
There is also the fact that if the tiger is not of the desired quality, it is impossible to sell the wine at the market price. Biodiversity refers to a complex interaction between all living beings on the planet: plants, animals and micro-organisms and their living environment.
It includes three components: ecosystem diversity, species diversity and genetic diversity. [15]
Artificially bred tigers tends to have more problems then the ones that are free and wild: more and more studies have shown that when an environment of biological growth and the structure of food changes the quality changes too. Therefore, if the tigers are not of the same quality, it is not allowed to release them in wild nature and consequently to macerate their bones.

Medical purposes[edit]

In China, in accordance with the field of medical research, tiger bone can not be legally used for testing after government authorization.[16]
It can be used as a beauty emollient. Easy to be absorbed, it releases its effects immediately. The calcium and protein found in tiger bones are said to have healing properties, and they are often used as an anti-inflammatory drug to treat:

Apart from stimulating blood flow, the popular belief is that it is also considered to have properties that boost intelligence quotient and that increase virility in men.[18][19] The "Compendium of Materia Medica " is a catalogue that was written over four hundreds years ago by the Chinese physician-scientist Li Shizhen. It mentioned that the tiger bones are in charge of evil spirits, killing ghosts and poisoning, stopping convulsions, and treating acne. [20]

Controversy and conservation issues[edit]

The product was contained in tiger-shaped bottles, in order to omit the main ingredient.

Examinations conducted by different NGOs, such as the Environmental Investigation Agency, have reported that several 'farms' are closely linked to the production and distribution of the liquor on the black markets.[21]
Around 1.800 tigers are kept in the tiger farms of Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village, in Guilin, in southwest China, in order to be used to produce as many as 200,000 bottles every year.[22] In 2008, the U.K.-based Sunday Telegraph reported that undercover investigators had been offered the chance to buy wine made from the crushed bones of tigers at the Qinhuangdao Wildlife Park rescue centre in north China's Hebei Province, as well as at the Badaling safari park in Beijing.[23]

Starting from January 2017, as suggested by the former Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs of South Africa Edna Molewa, a dispatch of approximately 800 skeleton of lions coming from Captive Lion Breeding will be sent in Asia in order to be used as a substitute of the traditional local tiger ingredients used.[24] The trade of the parts of endangered species has been subject to international ban since 1987, and has been prohibited by the government starting from 1993, after the country has entered into the Convention on Biological Diversity, previously opened for signature for the Earth Summit in 1992. From 29 October 2018, the commerce of both rhino horns and tiger bones has been legalised for scientific research and traditional medicine.[25] According to the announcement, tiger parts have to be taken from farmed species, and can be used only in 'recognised structures by qualified doctors recognised by the State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine'. This unpredictable decision has yet to be explained to the public, but experts believe that it can be considered as an economic move, due to the high value that the commerce of traditional Chinese medicine has on Asian markets.[26][27]

Other pictures[edit]

On December 2011, an auction house based in Beijing auctioned about 400 bottles, occulted as health tonics and liquors. The auction was interrupted due to the intervention of IFAW. Eventually, the Chinese government agreed to stop the sale of hundreds of bottles that were exposed at the auction.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guynup, Sharon (29 April 2014). "Tigers in Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Universal Apothecary". National Geographic.
  2. ^ a b Nowell, Kristin; Ling, Xu (2 March 2007). "Taming the tiger trade" (PDF). Traffic.
  3. ^ Michler, Ian (22 February 2009). "Tiger-Bone Wine". Blood Lions.
  4. ^ a b Rothman, Lauren (4 January 2015). "China Can't Get Enough of Black Market Tiger Bone Wine". Munchies. Vice Media. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  5. ^ Stoner, Sarah; Krishnasamy, Kanitha (September 2016). "REDUCED TO SKIN AND BONES" (PDF). Traffic Briefing.
  6. ^ "Tiger Farming". Environmental Investigation Agency.
  7. ^ Vidal, John (4 June 2016). "Tiger temple scandal exposes the shadowy billion-dollar Asian trade". The Guardian. The Guardian.
  8. ^ Mills, Judy; Jackson, Peter (August 1994). "Killed for a Cure: a review of the worldwide trade in Tiger Bone" (PDF). TRAFFIC International. TRAFFIC International.
  9. ^ Unknown. "WWF position and recommendations on tiger farming" (PDF). WWF Global. World Wide Fund For Nature.
  10. ^ Sottile, Loredana (28 February 2013). "Il vino di tigre: dalle ossa dei felini in estinzione un vino medicinale. In Cina è un pregiato elisir". Gambero Rosso (in italian).
  11. ^ O'Flanagan, Deby (29 July 2014). "What is tiger bone wine?". The tiger club blog.
  12. ^ Unknown (22 August 2018). "即將消失在歷史長河中的一款藥酒——虎骨酒鑒賞". PTT News (in Chinese). Retrieved 6 December 2018.
  13. ^ Tepper, Rachel (28 February 2013). "Tiger Bone Wine Trade Reveals China's Two-Faced Approach To Conservancy". Huffington Post.
  14. ^ Multiple Authors (14 August 2018). "虎骨酒". Baike.com (in Chinese).
  15. ^ Yijian, Xiao (26 November 2015). "虎骨酒的制作方法 制作虎骨酒的必要条件". Sohu.com (in Chinese). Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  16. ^ Kasnoff, Craig. "Traditional Chinese medicine and tigers". Tigers in crisis.
  17. ^ Fine Maron, Dina (29 October 2018). "China legalizes rhino horn and tiger bone for medical purposes". National Geographic.
  18. ^ Brendon Hong (22 July 2014). "China Is Brewing Wine From Tiger Bones".
  19. ^ Knowles, George (18 March 2016). "EXCLUSIVE - Tigers BOILED UP to make wine: Animals starve to death in rusty cages in China for aphrodisiac alcohol that 'boosts sex drive'". Daily Mail Online.
  20. ^ 科佳, 张 (25 August 2006). "國家禁令擋不住虎骨酒熱銷 一年收入幾千萬". People's Daily (in Chinese).
  21. ^ EIA (19 April 2018). "Chinese court issues a five-year jail term for selling tiger bone wine". Environmental Investigation Agency.
  22. ^ Knowles, George (21 April 2016). "Why 1,800 tigers are in a rundown China park: to be made into wine". Post Magazine. Incisive Media. Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  23. ^ Harrison, David (7 Jun 2008). "Tiger sanctuaries selling bone for Chinese medicine against international law". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 8 November 2018.
  24. ^ "Born Free Lion Breeding Report, 2018" (PDF). Born Free Foundation. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 9 November 2018.
  25. ^ Unknown (30 October 2018). "Rhino horn:Alarm as China eases 25-year ban on rhino and tiger parts". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  26. ^ Hernández, Javier C. (29 October 2018). "China Reverses Ban on Rhino and Tiger Parts in Medicine, Worrying Activists". The New York Times.
  27. ^ Unknown (12 November 2018). "In a blow to wildlife, China lifts a ban on the use of tiger and rhino parts". WWF.
  28. ^ Ge Gabriel, Grace (2 December 2011). "Illegal tiger bone wine auction in Beijing must be stopped". International Fund for Animal Welfare. Retrieved 6 December 2018.