1. History of White Tigers in the Wild

Locations of White Tigers recorded in the wild. Click to enlarge. Please refer to table for details.

Locations of White Tigers recorded in the wild. Click to enlarge. Please refer to table for details.

White Tigers occurred regularly in the wild – they grew to adulthood, survived, and bred in the wild. They were rarer than orange tigers, yet there are literally dozens of reputable records of white tigers in the wilds of India over the last 200 years.

Most of these records have a high degree of certainty, as the tiger was either shot (usually) or captured (occasionally).  Most were shot for trophies, so there was a skin to prove it. Most were adult animals, often described as a “magnificent specimen” and “in the prime of their life”. Some were females with cubs or unborn cubs. A very few were captured, and a few were even photographed.

The last known wild white tiger was shot in 1958, but there are indications that they existed for 400 years – or even much longer.

The following table summarizes the records of white tigers in the wild. After combining possible duplicates, there are over 50 unique white tigers noted from 1807-1958. These are plotted on the map by their “Tiger Nbr” (1-52).

The records from China and Siberia, and pre-1800 are not easily validated, but are included as an indication of possible, or probable, occurrences.

All sources (RH table column) and links are listed at the end of this article.

 

Extract from Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society

Extract from Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society

This is not a complete list of all white tigers in the wild. These are only those that were recorded, and where those records are still available today. There were possibly many more, however these 50 alone are ample proof that the white tiger occurred naturally – and survived and bred – in the wild.

The records do not always specify whether the tiger was stripe-less (ie all white “w”) or striped (“s”). There does appear to be a general trend: earlier records from 1807-1907 are mostly stripe-less and from the North East of India, (Refer to The Snow White Tigers of Assam) while the later sightings are mainly striped and from further South-west, towards central India (article available soon).

The table can also be read and downloaded on Scribd here.

Table of Historic Records of White Tigers in the Wild  –  (Location is in India unless otherwise stated)
Location Year Tiger Nbr Details Source
SE CHINA: Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan & Guangdong AD48-1000 Gazetteer records: 8 tigers, 7 of these white. Author suggests possibility that the sightings may have been “political” or cosmological, but also states that incidents involving tigers were taken very seriously by the govt – even a sighting near a country seat was sufficient to warrant recording Coggins pg56
SE CHINA: Fujian, Jiangxi, Hunan & Guangdong AD1000-2000 2 sightings of white tigers, as above Coggins pg56
Near Gwalior, India 1561 2 striped white tigers depicted in the Akbar Nama – a chronicle of actual events. 24
CHINA, Kinshan 1659 Miscellanies of Sunkiang: From 1516 to 1768 8 tiger attacks recorded including one white in 1659. 5
Sadiya, Tinsukia district, Assam 1795-1811 1 White tiger captured during reign of Ahom King Kamaleswar Singha 2
India, district unknown 1807 2 w White tiger skull & paintings by Robert Home 3
India, district unknown 1808 3 w Milk-white, stripes faintly visible. Tame male tiger taken to England by Sir Edward Pellew, gifted to the King and kept in London Tower Menagerie. 1
India, district unknown 1809 =2? “Second white tiger known in India” 1
District unknown, Exhibited at London Exeter Exchange Menagerie 1820 Approx =3? White, stripes visible only in certain light. Lyd1893 Pocock29 Gee59 Griff1827 Wood1870
Dibrugarh Assam 1851 4 w Completely white tiger killed March 1851 2
SIBERIA 1871 “Have been rumours of white tigers in northern Siberia for a long time” 10
Mirzapore 1871 5 s White tiger skin displayed at meeting of ZSL by Edwin Ward. 10, 23
Mirzapur Before 1872 =5? White tiger with brown stripes shot, Major W M Stewart 4
India, district unknown Before 1891 =5? Skin displayed at meeting of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Major Godwin-Austen 9
District unknown 1857-1878 =5? “a magnificent white in Edward Ward’s taxidermy shop”. Faint reddish stripes. Pollok1900
Jynteah Hills Assam/Meghalaya 1879 6 w

7 w

The Assistant Commissioner, Mr Shadwell, had “2 skins quite white, just showing stripes in the light” Gee59 Pollok1879 Pollok1900
Khasia Hills Assam/Meghalaya Before 1891 =6? Major Godwin Austen killed an all-white tiger, (speaking at a meeting of ZSL) 9
District unknown Before 1893 =6? Major Godwin-Austen knows of a 3rd white tiger example. Lyd1893
Northern India (Poona?) 1891 8 s At ZSL, Howard Saunders exhibited the skin of a male white tiger in prime of life, from Northern India. Whitish-grey with faint brown stripes. 9, 6, Lyd1893 Pocock29 Gee59
Dibrugarh Assam 1899 9 w White tiger shot by WH Greenish, manager of Nabarkutia Estate, skin sent to Mr Newing, Calcutta taxidermist. Stripes hard to see. 11, 12, 13, Lyd1907 (pic) Gee59
Boga Bagh Assam 1900 approx 10 w  11 w 2 white tigers at Boga Bagh Tea Estate, one with a lemon patch on neck, otherwise quite white with faint stripes. Gee59 Gee64
Mysore 1902 12 White tiger seen in jungles between Nanjanud & Gundalpet. Efforts made to capture it. 14, 15
Assam 1908 13 w White tiger killed, will be placed in Museum at Calcutta 16
Cooch-Behar Before 1907 14 Maharajah of Kuch-Behar possesses a white tiger skin Lyd1907 JBNHS19
Bilaspur, North 1906 =16? White tiger shot by a villager about 1906 JBNHS27
Orissa, Dhenkanal 1909 15 s Tigress, pure white with deep reddish black stripes, in perfect health and condition. Shot in Mulin subdivision Forest. Mr Bavis Singh, Forest Officer in “The Forester” JBNHS19 Pocock29 Gee59
Bilaspur, Pendra Zamindara 1910 16 s Cream with chocolate brown stripes, long soft fur. Skin of tiger killed about 1910. Sent to Nagpur Central Museum. JBNHS24 Pocock29 Gee59
Rewa Approx 1910 =17? White tiger shot a few years after the Bilaspur tiger (16s) but before 1921 JBNHS27
Rewa, Sohagpur 1911 17 White tiger killed by a Sardar about 1909-11. JBNHS27
Rewa, Sohagpur 1915 18 s 1yr old white tiger captured by Maharajah, kept alive in his gardens. Pure white with light black stripes. Photographed. JBNHS27 Pocock29 Gee59
Rewa, Annupur & Shahdol 1915 19   20 2 more white tigers related to 18s seen at the same time as the capture. Mother believed to be not white. JBNHS27
Bilaspur 1919 21 Large heavy white tiger seen often, hunted but not killed JBNHS27
Amarkantak 1921 White tigers have been known for years in this area and thought to be living in the Maikal Hills. A ‘regular breed” in Amarkantak, including a white female with cubs JBNHS27   7
Sirguja (near Amarkantak) 1924 22 s White tiger shot by Maharaja of Sirguja, almost pure white except for a few dark stripings. Camouflaged amongst cattle. Skin displayed in Calcutta. 22
Rewa 1925approx 23 s Skin given to King George V in 1925 by Maharajah of Rewa Pocock29
Cooch-Behar 1922 Albino 2 young albino tigers – note: not “white tigers” but the only true albinos known. JBNHS28 Gee59
Baghalpur, Bihar 1926 24 s White tigress shot by F B Robinson. Pure white with black stripes. JBNHS32 with photo
Baghalpur, Bihar 1926 25 s White tigress shot by Mrs Murphy, white with black stripes JBNHS32
Baghalpur, Bihar before 1928 =24 &25? 2 white tigresses from Baghalpur in Rowland Ward’s records 1928 edition. Pocock29 Singh82
District unknown 1926 26 s  27 s The taxidermist had 2 other white skins when Mr Robinson took his in, more creamy than white. JBNHS32 Gee59
Rewa 1926 28 s Maharajah of Rewa shot a white tiger similar to the one presented to the king last year. 17
Rewa 1927 =28 or 18? White skin presented to Bombay Natural History Society by Maharajah. JBNHS31
Koriya (Korea) Central Provinces, India 1928 29 s Tiger shot, pure white with chocolate stripes, in Rowland Ward’s records 1928 Ed, p478. Shot by ruling chief of Corea. Photo of skin in JBNHS. Pocock29 JBNHS42 p654
Central Provinces, India 1928 30 White tiger shot, RW records 1928 p478 Pocock29
Mirzapore Before 1929 =5? Skin presented to museum by Mrs Craigie Halkett. White with tan stripes. Pocock29
Comilla, E Bengal (Bangladesh) 1932 31 White tiger terrorising the district, said to have killed 6 people. 21
Bihar, Gidhaur 1932 32 Maharajah Chandra Mauleshwar Singh of Gidhaur shot a 9’8in white tiger, “a fine specimen”, on 2 Feb 1932 at Lachwar jungles of Gidhaur Raj. Full mounted, presented to Calcutta Museum, still displayed there in 1982. 18   Singh82
Bihar 1938 =32? Male shot in Lechua Jungles, placed in Indian Museum in Calcutta. Gee59
Rewa 1937 33 Tigress shot by Maharajah Gee59
India, district unknown Before 1938 34 White tiger shot by Lois Tietjen, Maharajah had it stuffed and sent to her in New York. 19
Kumaon 1938 35 White tigress filmed by Jim Corbett Corbett
SIBERIA 1938 w “Dead-white” tiger shot in Siberia. No stripes. Examined by naturalists. 20
Nepal 1939 36 White tiger shot by Prime Minister of Nepal at Barda camp in Terai 8
Bihar 1920-1939 15 white tigers shot in Bihar between 1920-1939 8
Rewa 1946 37 White tigress shot by administrator, had 6 unborn white cubs. Gee59
Rewa 1947 38 White tiger shot by Maharajah Gee59
Rewa 1951 39 White tiger cub Mohan captured Gee59
Hazaribagh, Bihar 1958 40 Last known wild white tiger shot – tigress shot in Satgangwe Forest Range. Trophy is kept at Tisri wit the Agarwalla family. Gee59  Singh82
Rewa 1900-1959 Gee counted records of 8 white tigers from Rewa Gee59
Bihar “Records of Big Game indicate that in past 40 years more than 20 white tigers were shot in the various jungles of Bihar” 16 of these itemised, details not given for other 4. Singh82
Bihar, Monghyr before 1933 41 Arthur Musselwhite mentioned shooting of a white tiger in Lachwar Jungle by Maharaja of Gidhaur Singh82
Hazaribagh, Bihar 1930 42 white tiger shot by JG Wakefield, Manager, Tikari Raj near Hazaribagh. Singh82
Bihar, Itkhori Jungle 1930 43 White tiger shot by Raja Bahadur of Ramgarh Singh82
Bihar, Mashnodih Forest 1930 44 White tiger shot by Sri Kartik Singh in his own forest. Singh82
Bihar, Gawan 1930 45 White tiger shot by Tikait of Gawan, Krishna Prasad Singh at Bhaiya Bahini Prahar, Gawan. Singh82
Bihar, Searkorni Jungles 1936 46 Kumar Fateh Narayan Singh of Tikari shot 10ft white tiger Singh82
Bihar, Satgawan 1936 47 White tiger shot by Mr Tirky, SI Police Singh82
Baghalpur, Bihar 48 Kumar Krishnanand of Sultanganj shot a white tiger Singh82
Bihar, Purnea 1907 49 Mr Shlingfored shot a white tiger. Singh82
Bihar, Gurpa forest, Gaya 50 White tiger shot by the Third Raj Kumar of Amwan Raj of Gaya district. Singh82
Bihar, Gaya 1926 51 White tiger shot by Maharaja capt Gopal Saran Singh of Tikari Raj (Gaya) in his own forest. Singh82
Bihar, Gaya 1933 52 White tiger shot by Maharaja capt Gopal Saran Singh of Tikari Raj (Gaya) in his own forest. Singh82

 

Sources: 

White Tiger skin, from "The Game Animals of India, Burma, Malaya and Tibet" by R Lydekker, 1907.

White Tiger skin, from “The Game Animals of India, Burma, Malaya and Tibet” by R Lydekker, 1907.

We have records from the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London; from the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society; hunting records, and writings from prominent naturalists and zoologists of the times. There were photographs and skins.

Most of the documents listed below were written pre-1960, and some do not exist online, or are in archives that require membership or subscription to view (eg Newspaper Archives). I have provided links to free-to-view documents wherever possible.

  1. L Drummond, 2015 – “Pellew’s Tiger 1809 – The First White Tiger in England”
  2. “White tiger in Assam: earliest authentic record of killing in India” by Tikendrajit Gogoi, in Current Science, V 100, No 2, 25 Jan 2011 
  3. Catalogue of the Contents of the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, Volume 8, by R. Taylor, 1831
  4. Fraser’s Magazine, Vol 13, 1876 quoting “Rambles in the Mirzapore District” by Major W M Stewart, and “Machan Shooting” by Sir J Weymyss 1872 
  5. On the Cosmical Phenomena Observed in the Neighborhood of Shanghai, during the past 13 centuries. By DJ MacGowan. 1858. in Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland North China Branch,  Kelly & Walsh, 1860
  6. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, June 1891
  7. A A Dunbar Brander 1923 – Wild Animals in Central India (Book)
  8. Kailash Sankhala, “Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger”, 1978. (Book)
  9. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 1891 July 9 
  10. Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1871 Mar 3 
  11. Dover Express, 1899 Apr 21 
  12. Dundee Evening Telegraph, 1899 Apr 6 
  13. Lincolnshire Chronicle, 1899 Apr 7 
  14. Cheltenham Chronicle 1902 May 24 
  15. Dundee Evening Post 1902 June 2 
  16. Aberdeen Journal 1908 August 28 
  17. Yorkshire Evening Post 1926 June 11
  18. Hartlepool Mail 1932 Feb 26 
  19. Essex Newsman 1938 Aug 7 
  20. Hastings and St Leonards Observer 1938 Sept 10 
  21. The Daily News, Perth, 1932 Mar 18 
  22. The Evening Independent, 1924 Jun 9 
  23. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1871 p102 
  24. “The Earliest Record of a White Tiger” by Divyabhanusinh 1986 in JBNHS vol 83 

Coggins, Chris – “The Tiger and the Pangolin”. 2003. p56 (Book)

Corbett, Jim – “Maneaters of Kumaon” (Book)

Gee59  – “Albinism and Partial Albinism in Tigers” by E P Gee,  in JBNHS 1959 Vol 56

Gee64 – E.P. Gee, “The Wild Life of India”  Ch 8 “The White Tigers of Rewa”. 1964 (Book)

Griffith1827 – Griffith’s Animal Kingdom (Cuvier) vol2 With illustration.

JBNHS – Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, various volumes and years

Lyd 1893 – R Lydekker, The Royal Natural History, 1893

Lyd 1907 – R Lydekker, “The Game Animals of India, Burma, Malaya and Tibet” 1907 With Illustration

Pocock 29 – “Tigers” by R I Pocock in JBNHS vol 33 1929

Pollok 1879 – Sport in British Burmah, Assam, and the Cassyah and Jyntiah Hills

Pollok 1900 – Wild Sports of Burma and Assam

Singh82 – “White Tiger Records” by Kumar Surendra Singh, in Hornbill, 1982.

Woods1870 – JG Woods “Animal Kingdom” , 1870. (Book)

 

From Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1891

From Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1891

White Tiger JBNHS v31

White Tiger Extract from JBNHS vol 31

2 thoughts on “1. History of White Tigers in the Wild

  1. Pingback: More Snow White Tigers in NE India c1800 | White Tigers – The Truth

  2. Sad history on Tigers in general. As storys say… “White Tiger Specimen.”
    Man will kill anything for a thrill..
    This behavior itself must be outlawed..be it Lions..Tigers..Bears…and Elephants…etc..
    The behavior man exhibits puts all Predatory ,and Non Predatory animals into extinction…
    From the Wooly Mammoth to all wild Cats.Bears.

    Like

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