Tigers Social Structure

Regardless of their subspecies or distribution, tigers are not familial creatures like humans are. They do not form families consisting of a father, mother and offspring; neither do they form packs of family members of a certain gender (as elephants form herds of female relatives, for example). Rather, the tiger is a solitary creature.

This does not mean that they will not socialise with other tigers when they come into contact with them, though. Females have specific territories, but males tend to leave their own territory and traverse the territories of various females as they hunt and look for mates.

This means that, sometimes, these animals come into contact with one another. During these times, they may purr or growl at one another invitingly, especially when it is for the purposes of mating.

Tigers that are somehow related or that have mated on previous occasions are also known to be sociable with one another; perhaps even sharing their kill.

Usually, though, the male will only be present during mating and, occasionally, the birth of the cubs. The mating process usually takes several days, during which time they will copulate often to ensure fertilisation. Then, the male will move onto another territory to mate elsewhere.

The pregnant female will carry on as usual for the period of her pregnancy, and will generally give birth to three or four live cubs on her own.

Wild tigress with three young cubs in Ranthambore national park.

The mother will keep the cubs safe in their secluded den and feed them there for the first eight weeks of their brand new lives. Then, they will be able to leave the den to play, explore and learn the art of hunting. There is usually a dominant cub in each litter, which is most commonly a male. This strong cub will dictate to his siblings when they should eat, play and rest.

Male tigers dominate females and smaller males. They can defend their mating partner quite viciously; sometimes even killing her existing cubs so they can mate with her. A female may also become very defensive when her cubs are threatened; showing her strength and power against any animal or human that may harm her young. Interestingly, female tigers are more tolerant of one another than males are of other males. For this reason, the territorial areas of the females are somewhat smaller than those of the males.

In general, tigers will try to avoid fighting, unless they deem it absolutely necessary. This is usually thought to be essential only within the sphere of mating. Males will fight over one female, and the strongest male, the winner, will have the privilege of mating with her. Still, tigers prefer to part ways and pursue a more peaceful lifestyle elsewhere than to fight.

Because tigers are such reclusive, private animals, their social structure and family structure is not always easy to define within strict parameters, since human beings are not easily allowed access into their lives. They may differ slightly from one area to another. Observing tigers in the wild is already a rare privilege. Without urgent conservation efforts in place, it may, one day, be an impossibility.