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Tiger versus lion

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Lions and tiger in a cage at the 1904 World's Fair

Historically, a comparison of the tiger (Panthera tigris) versus the lion (Panthera leo)[1][2] has been a popular topic of discussion by hunters,[3] naturalists,[4] artists and poets, and has inspired the popular imagination.[5][6] In the past, lions and tigers reportedly competed in the wilderness,[7] where their ranges overlapped in Eurasia.[1][8] The most common reported circumstance of their meeting is in captivity,[9] either deliberately[10] or by accident.[7]

Opinions

In general, the lion is a social animal, while the tiger is solitary,[2] though at times, male lions are separate from the females,[11][12] and tigers socialise, usually for mating, and rarely for hunts.[13] There are differing scenarios regarding whether tigers would beat lions in fights, or vice-versa:[7][14]

Favoring the tiger

  • Craig Saffoe, a biologist and the curator of great cats at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., said that the outcome of a given fight totally depended on the individuals, with their fighting style, physiology and history, but that he would bet on the tiger winning. He also reckoned that in a fight, the biggest catstigers, jaguars and lionswould come out on top against the likes of cougars, snow leopards, leopards, and cheetahs. Saffoe added that the most interesting match-up in his opinion might be between good-sized Bengal tigers and male jaguars, as both had roughly the same speed, temperament, size and strength.[15]

Favoring the lion

  • Dave Hoover, the animal trainer for Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus, mentions that he lost many tigers to male lions: "I have to keep the male lions from killing each other. I have to keep them from killing the tigers [...]. I have lost tigers."[16] Hoover had lions ganging up on his tigers: "Two lions killed one of his tigers during training in Ojus, Fla., in 1966",[17] and in another newspaper Hoover states he has trouble "keeping the lion from attacking the lone tiger".[18]
  • Renowned Indian naturalist and conservationist Kailash Sankhala wrote in his 1978 book Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger that the tiger would be unable to get close to the lion's vital joints because of his thick mane, and that the tiger would be vulnerable to the lion. He mentioned that once an Indian prince organized a fight in which the lion killed the tiger, and opined that "a tiger is no match for even a single lion of equal strength".[14]

Coexistence in the Eurasian wilderness

T-12 the male Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests' ecoregion, Rajasthan, India
An Asiatic lion in Gir Forest, Khathiar-Gir dry deciduous forests' ecoregion, Gujarat, India

As of 2021, India is the only country to have both wild lions and tigers, specifically Asiatic lions and Bengal tigers.[2][19] Though they do not share the same territory, they did in the past,[7][13][20] and there is a project mentioned below that could lead to their meeting in the wild.[21][22]

Before the end of the 20th century, Asiatic lions[23] and Caspian tigers[24][25] had occurred in other Asian[26] or Eurasian nations, including Iran.[2][8][19][13] As such, there is a word for 'Lion',[1][2][8] which can also mean 'Tiger',[13][27] and is used in Iran, South Asia and other areas, that is 'Sher' or 'Shir' (Persian: شیر),[28] and its significance is discussed below. Not only did Heptner and Sludskiy had talk about the lion and tiger both occurring in places like Iran, Anatolia and Transcaucasia, they also mentioned that the ranges of the lion and tiger often overlapped.[1]

According to Colin Tudge (2011), given that both cats hunt large herbivores, it is likely that they had been in competition in Asia. Despite their social nature, lions might have competed with tigers one-against-one, as they would with each other.[26] Apart from the possibility of competition, there are legends of Asiatic lions and tigers breeding to produce hybrid offspring, which would be ligers or tigons.[29] From the fossil record, besides genetics,[2][25][30] it would appear that the modern lion and tiger were present in Eurasia since the Pleistocene, when now-extinct relatives also existed there.[1][23][24] Additionally, in the days before Indian Independence, the Maharaja of Gwalior introduced African lions into his area, which is a habitat for Bengal tigers.[31]

A Caspian tiger killed in northern Iran, early 1940s
Men with a chained lion in Iran, by Antoin Sevruguin, c. 1880[32]

The possibility of conflict between lions and tigers had been raised in relation to India's Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project, which was meant to introduce the Gir Forest's lions to another reserve which is considered to be within the former range of the lion, that is Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh,[21] before December 2017.[33][34] Kuno was reported to contain some tigers that came from Ranthambore Park, including one called 'T-38'.[7][22] Concerns were raised that the co-presence of lions and tigers would "trigger frequent clashes".[35] At the same, the American biologist Craig Packer and his students at the University of Minnesota considered that a group of lions (two to three males) would have a clear advantage over a tiger and a pack of lionesses (two to four females) would have a similar advantage over a tigress, despite the general advantage of the latter in weight or height. Coalitions of male lions usually fight as a group against territorial rivals, so he mentions that a tiger may have an advantage in a one-on-one encounter, but they also considered that the additional fighting experience and mane perhaps confer an advantage to a lone male lion since the tiger's fighting style evolved in the absence of a mane. Despite all of this, Craig Packer is of the opinion that for Asiatic lions to survive in an area with Bengal tigers, the lions would have to be moved there as intact groups rather than as individuals.[7] Although the habitats of Indian lions and tigers are similar means that they both live in conditions that favour solitary hunters of prey,[14] these lions are social like their African relatives,[36] and may form fighting groups, whereas tigers are usually solitary.[7]

Reginald Innes Pocock (1939) mentioned that some people had the opinion that the tiger played a role in the near-extinction of the Indian lion, but he dismissed this view as 'fanciful'. According to him, there was evidence that tigers inhabited the Indian Subcontinent before lions. The tigers likely entered Northern India from the eastern end of the Himalayas, through Burma, and started spreading throughout the area, before the lions likely entered Northern India from Balochistan or Persia, and spread to places like the Bengal and the Nerbudda River. Because of that, before the presence of man could limit the spread of lions, tigers reached parts of India that lions did not reach. However, the presence of tigers throughout India did not stop the spread of lions there, in the first place, so Pocock said that it is unlikely that Bengal tigers played a role, significant or subordinate, in the near-extinction of the Indian lion, rather, that man was responsible for it,[13] as was the case with the decline in tigers' numbers.[1][2][24][13][20] As such, Pocock thought that it was unlikely that serious competition between them regularly occurred, and that even if Indian lions and tigers met, the chance that they would fight for survival was as good as the chance that they would choose to avoid each other, and that their chances of success, if they were to clash, were as good as each other's.[13]

Observed fights

In the circuses of ancient Rome, exotic beasts were commonly pitted against each other,[10] including Barbary lions[2] and tigers.[37] A mosaic in the House of the Faun in Pompeii shows a fight between a lion and a tiger.[38] There are different accounts of which of these animals gained the victory. Although lions and tigers can be kept together in harmony in captivity,[39] fatal conflicts have also been recorded.[40]

In addition to historical recordings, clashes between lions and tigers were reported or even caught on camera[41] in the 19th and 20th centuries. It was not always clear which species regularly beat the other, according to Craig Packer (2015).[7]

In captivity

  • In 1830, a tiger attacked a lion at a menagerie in Turin, Rome. Despite having been caught by surprise, the lion maneuvered the tiger onto its back and clamped fatal jaws on its throat.[42]
  • In 1911, Frank Bostock gave an account of a lion killing a tiger.[43]
  • In 1932 a male and female tiger, separated from a male lion and lioness in an Indian zoo ,managed to meet as one of the doors on the steel partition separating them was accidentally unlocked. In under a minute, both lions had been killed by the tigers.[44]
  • In 1934, a fully grown African lion killed a mature Bengal tiger a short time after these circus animals were unloaded from the train and before trainers could separate them.[45]
  • In 1937 a vigorous lion and tiger fought in a German zoo, the lion died as a result.[46]
  • 3 June (1949), in Fitchburg when the Biller Brothers circus moved on to its next stop, it left behind the remains of a 1000 pound tiger. The tiger was killed the night before in a savage battle with a lion.[47]
  • At the South Perth Zoo in 1949, in a three-minute fight between a lion and a tiger, the lion killed the tiger. The fight occurred when the tiger put his head through a connecting slide. The lion caught the tiger by the throat, and, dragging it through the opening, killed it before the keepers arrived.[48]
  • In 1956, Roman Proske's black maned lion, Achmed jumped onto the back of a tiger though one of the trainers intervened by a fork hitting the lion, the tiger ended up killing the lion by a single bite.[49][50]
  • In 1959 the Maharaja of Gwalior experimented if lions could thrive in India despite their decline, the lions used were African specimens and defined as fine. After a single day the male lion was killed from a fight of one of the tigers, the previous pair of lions having already left the area by the time of the lion's death[51]
  • In September 2010, a Bengal tiger at the Ankara Zoo passed through a gap, between its cage and that of a lion, and killed it 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. The tiger was also said to previously injured the lion a year before. However, despite being reported in local news at the time, the incident was reported in international media only in March 2011.[52]
  • In 2018 during the Zapashny brother's act[clarification needed] a tiger attacked a lion by knocking him down and biting the neck. One of the trainers stated the tiger would have strangled the lion if they had not intervened.[53][54]

Arts and literature

Art

Battles between the two were painted in the 18th and 19th centuries by Eugène Delacroix,[citation needed] George Stubbs[55] and James Ward. James Ward's paintings portrayed lion victories in accordance with the lion's symbolic value in Britain, and have been described as less realistic than Stubbs.[55]

The British Seringapatam medal shows a lion defeating a tiger in battle; an Arabic language banner on the medal displays the words Asad Allāh al-Ghālib (Arabic: أَسَد الله الْغَالِب, "Lion of God 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.[56]

Literature

18th-century naturalists and authors compared the species' characters, generally in favor of the lion.[citation needed]

In the Hindu epic Mahabharata, Narada told Srinjaya that tigers were fiercer and more ruthless than lions.[57] This is in contrast with other literature from ancient India, which prefers the lion to the tiger. For example, Vedic literature depicted the lion, rather than the tiger, as the "king of the forest".[58]

The lion and tiger rival each other in Iranian literature. For example, Humphreys and Kahrom, in their 1999 book Lion and Gazelle: The Mammals and Birds of Iran, treated them as the "two greatest and most beautiful" of Iranian carnivores, albeit being extinct there.[citation needed] As with the lion,[1] the tiger's Persian name was used for people and places.[8]

See also

References

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  54. ^ a b Frank McLynn (2006). 1759: The Year Britain Became Master of the World. Canongate Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-8021-4228-3. Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 26 September 2016. 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
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Further reading