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LION vs TIGER CLUB - junglebook

hybreed slide show - LION vs TIGER CLUB Animated Animals/Nature



By far the most frequently asked question this site receives is: "In a fight between a lion and a tiger, who would win?"

*In the 1930s the Maharajah of Gwalior carried out an interesting experiment.
He believed that lions had once inhabited the local forests and chose to import three pairs of African Lions as breeding stock.

The selected release area was the Shivpuri-Sheopur forest which covered over 1,000 square-miles. A walled enclosure allowed for acclimatization.

As was typical of the day, live food was provided in the form of buffalos. Baiting of this type is now illegal in India.

In four years within the enclosure the Lions thrived and bred. They were then released into the surrounding area in pairs. Of the original six, one pair were shot as they turned to attacking local livestock; had these lions not been killed it is likely they may have turned man-eater, or been poisoned by the villagers.

The other lions spread out in the forest, but were apparently mauled and killed by the local tigers.

Though the lions were killed there are a lot of holes the story:
The lions were out of their natural habitat.
They had been all but hand fed for four years and must have lost some of their hunting skills during that time.
Wild male lions face competition from challengers on a frequent basis. These males wouldn't have needed to defend pride females within the acclimatization period.
They were released in pairs. Lions hunt as a group and this lack of a pride would have been a significant disadvantage. Males rarely hunt and are not good at this.
We are also only assuming the lions were wild caught and not actually captive bred.
There is little on the tiger mauling claim other than the brief comment recorded here. It seems equally likely a combination of circumstances could have led to the deaths. Perhaps the lions were already in a weakened state when attacked, or perhaps they died and the tigers ate the carcasses afterwards; tigers are opportunistic and will eat carrion.

As a consequence, I have spent a great deal of time researching this and talking with people whose careers studying Carnivora extend back some 25 years. Together we have searched for historically documented evidence from which this article has been drawn.

It should be understood that the question is exceedingly difficult to answer as historic records on this type of event are few and far between. Some conclusions can be drawn from studying the various animals, their conformation and habits. Limited historic film and documentation does exist of lion, tiger, and other predator fights. But comparisons of the modern lion and tiger, which are sometimes vastly different animals from their historic, (often extinct) cousins, must be based almost entirely upon a combination of sensible evaluation and assumption.

The likelihood of an encounter:
It is often stated that lion and tiger habitats overlap at the Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in India. The rare Asiatic lion is to be found here in very low numbers (only a few hundred remain), but this is not tiger country. The lion holds it as an exclusive range.

*There has been some suggestion that the tiger forced the retreat of the lion into the Gir Forest area, however history does not support this.

The tiger was in India by 4500 BC; records exist that prove this beyond the shadow of a doubt. There is no evidence dating back this far for the Asiatic lion. It is believed they may once have ranged across Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran, and large areas of India, but were hunted nearly to extinction after they started to raid cattle. Later the remnant population was introduced into the Gir Forest. There are no tigers here and probably none with 160 kilometres.

The furtherest the Gir lions have ever been recorded as straying from their forest habitat is 40 kilometres; this was back in 1966 when a group of 21 went on the move. Despite travelling such a distance, they were still nowhere near tiger territory.

Gir Forest is also hotter, drier and more arid than the northeast wet forest areas preferred by the tiger, though it does contain appropriate prey species. This all means that the opportunity for a lion and tiger to meet in the wild is practically non-existent.

What about in captivity? How likely are lion/tiger fights there? Disagreements do happen, the most likely time for this is when introducing new animals to a group, but most places keep the different species apart and generally speaking introductions are so controlled there is little more than a few surface scratches inflicted


There are two films recording early lion and tiger fights, one in captivity and the other in the wild.

*The first documents an event set up to entertain a prince. The fight took place in the pit of a palace compound with the entire encounter being recorded.

The film showed that the tiger was at an immediate disadvantage. Tigers use a throat grip as their primary means of killing and the lion's thick protective mane prevented the tiger gaining a hold on the throat joint. On the other hand, the tiger had no special protection, so was vulnerable to attack.

In this fight, the tiger was killed.

*The second piece of film dates back to the 1930s and is still under investigation.The documentary owner has yet to view more than a few portions of it and until the film can be converted to a more easily viewed format little more progress can be made on reviewing this piece.

As far as can be ascertained, the film was taken during an expedition to capture some tigers in the Gir region of India. Again, the tiger was the loser.

These films back up current expert opinion, including some from Leeds University, regarding the potential result of conflict between these two animals. It is considered that exactly the same outcome would occur given a modern battle between the lion and the tiger.

Korean pit fight film:
Widely rumoured to exist is a piece of film showing a Korean pit fight between a lion and tiger. This site had spoken to many people who had heard of the film, but, until recently, no one who had seen it. Since second-hand information and rumour is of little use for this article the film is not yet considered evidential. The best information available so far is due to exhaustive work on the part of a viewer. He has managed to track down someone who sighted the film three-years-ago and the information below is courtesy of this gentleman. Attempts are still being made to locate the current whereabouts of the film so as to clarify the information.

The tape was North Korean in origin and presented as a propaganda recording designed to show how strong their animal 'symbols' were against those from other 'forces'. The audio was Korean and there were no subtitles. The holder of the tape had obtained it from a South Korean who provided the propaganda explanation. Assuming it is correct, then the tape was probably either smuggled out of North Korea, or captured, then copied.

*Despite extensive rumours to the contrary the film was not about lions and tigers specifically. It covered a wide variety of animals including the mongoose, snakes, wolves, dogs, and finally, a lion and tiger.

The fight was staged in a caged arena and the tiger is said to have injured the lion's hind leg. This disabled the animal enough for the tiger to apply a hold to the neck, shake the lion, and perhaps break the spine. The tiger suffered some claw and bite marks, but had seemingly gained the advantage from having administered the leg injury.

Further information on this film will be posted as it comes to hand. At this stage the information is still to be confirmed and nothing is known regarding details like the relative size of the animals, or the various subspecies

Korean lion and tiger pit fighting:

*There was a great deal of lion and tiger pit fighting held in Korea until 1960. Historic reports say the lion was found very difficult to beat, again due to the head protection afforded by the mane. The film mentioned on the previous page has the tiger as the winner, but this fight would seem to be only one of many that were carried out, and all other reports found, to date, say the lion usually won.

*At this stage the Koreans were using Amur (Siberian) tigers. Being unhappy with the performance of this big cat, and its unwillingness to fight, they extended their search for a tiger which was more vicious.

After trying a number of options they settled for a Bengal from the extreme northern range of the subspecies (the Nepal Valley). These tigers almost matched the Amur subspecies in size and were up to 600 lbs in weight.

Within this Bengal the Koreans are said to have found an almost disturbing ferocity. It is claimed these tigers attacked violently and relentlessly, most often winning in any fight against the lion.

The Koreans also discovered this tendency towards extreme aggressiveness was confined entirely to the tigers of the one area. The great puzzle is why this should be so.
Modern theories suggest the high level of aggression developed after vast numbers of tigers became cut off in a relatively small forest. A dense tiger population in a small area would greatly increase the frequency of territorial confrontation. Competition over the small amount of prey and the available females of breeding age would accelerate the process of natural selection.

Today, as many as 250 tigers are still found in this forest, however there is no current record of a particularly high level of aggression.

The makers of the film Gladiator discovered an interesting thing. Their famous tiger fight scenes had to be extensively computer manipulated after the animal actors simply sat down and licked their paws. They were uninterested in attacking humans, even in the name of fame. Of course, these are well-fed and well cared for animals. But what about genuine gladiatorial events? How did this big cat really fair?

* Despite the final appearance given by the movie, tigers were largely unsuccessful in the gladiatorial area. Lions were more popular as they put on an excellent fight display, whereas tigers were surprisingly reluctant to enter into battle. Placed in with lions, the tigers would often simply retreaT


*The following report comes from the London Ancestor. Its original date of publication was the 5th December, 1830.

The Fight between two Tigers and a Lion in the Tower.

Between 11 and 12 o'clock on Friday morning, as the man whose duty it is to clean the cages of the wild beasts at the Tower was in the execution of that office, he inadvertently raised a door in the upper tier of cells, which separated the den of a huge lion from one in which there were a Bengal Royal tiger and tigress.

At sight of each other the eyes of the animals sparkled with rage. The lion instantly erected his mane, and, with a tremendous roar, sprang at the tiger. The tiger was equally eager for the combat, and, in a paroxysm of fury, flew at his assailant, whilst the tigress fiercely seconded her mate. The roaring and yelling of the combatants resounded through the yards, and excited in all the various animals the most lively demonstrations of fear or rage. The timid tribes shivered with dread, and ran round their cages shrieking with terror, whilst the other lions and tigers with the bears, leopards, panthers, wolves, and hyenas, flew around their dens, shaking the bars with their utmost strength, and uttering the most terrific cries.

The lion fought most bravely, but was evidently over-matched, having to contend with two adversaries not more than a year from the woods, whilst he had been upwards of seven years in confinement. Still the battle raged with doubtful success, until the tiger seized the lion by the throat, and flung him on the back, when, after rolling over each other several times, the exasperated tigress pinned her enemy against the veranda. In that situation the prostrate lord of the forest still straggled with indomitable spirit, roaring with agony and rage.

By this time, however, some iron rods had been heated, the red-hot ends of which were now applied to the mouths and nostrils of the infuriated tigers, who were by this means forced to relinquish their grasp; but no sooner was the separation effected than the lion and the tiger seized in their mouths—the one the upper, the other the lower jaw of his antagonist, biting and tugging at each other with deadly fury. So excited was their animosity that it was with the greatest difficulty, by the insertion into their nostrils of the growing iron, they could be disengaged, and the lion driven back to his cell, the door of which was instantly closed upon him. The tiger in the last onset lost one of his tusks, but the poor lion was very severely punished. The battle lasted full half an hour.

Further information has now come to hand on this article. The lion in question was named 'George'; he was an Asiatic lion aged about 7-years; being of that subspecies he was relatively small. The main tiger combatant in the report was, at only 4-years-old, already larger than the lion. The tigress is thought to have had little effect on the outcome; she was about 2.5-years-old at the time.

It is uncertain what the outcome of this fight would have been had the menagerie's black-maned Cape Lion been involved. This cat was as large as George even when far from fully grown (2 1/2 years old). However, that individual had been traded with another institution on the continent in late 1828, before this events noted in this report occurred.


Fights between lions and tigers used to be considered a good form of entertainment. In the 13th century Henry III of England set up a zoo in the Tower of London. He sponsored fights between lions and tigers and these were billed as contests for the title of "King of the Beasts". The outcomes are unrecorded.



*Expert opinion is that the modern male lion has no equal in the cat world when it comes to his fighting ability.

Lions evolved as fighters. Among the pride, their primary job is to protect their females from marauding males who would assume control of the pride and kill any cubs. As a result, the male lion spends the great majority of his time in combat situations. Nature has supported the lion in this, with the evolution of a thick heavy mane for added protection and to intimidate.

Moreover, in any fight with a tiger, the lion would have the backing of the entire pride, though it should be noted that pride defence is almost entirely the job of the male lion, and not often assisted by the lionesses.

Tamer Dave Hoover once commented: "Lions are the troublemakers, the most dangerous. When the public sees the cats, they always think the tiger is the worst, because a tiger looks bad. He looks sneaky. But, the male lion of the big cats is the worst. The male lion has a pride. He's in charge of a group of females until another male lion runs him off. It could be its own son. But the female lion is under domination. She may make the kill. The male lion comes down to eat, and then the females can eat. It doesn't work that way in humans, but it does work that way in animals."


Tigers, historically, are extremely wary of the male lion and this has created problems for some zoos and circuses.

*Famous tamer Clyde Beatty made his name for working alone in a cage surrounded by forty wild lions and tigers. He is quoted as saying:

"I can cite a few instances of male tigers whipping male lions, but I can't think of one such case where the tiger didn't have a distinct advantage. I also recall a case where a tiger had a marked advantage and lost the fight. The lion seems to have no fear of the tiger.

* Seated next to a tiger, the lion is composed. The tiger, on the other hand, is usually nervous and apprehensive.

The tiger does not seem to have the lion's capacity for calm analysis and appraisal. This puts him at a disadvantage in a fight with a lion."

Beatty recalled his experience with a lion named "Sultan the First" who once took on every tiger in his act and defeated them one after another.

"It was an amazing performance since my entire entourage consisted of big, young powerful animals. So these were not pushovers that Sultan defeated. This remarkable lion, feinting like a clever boxer and making his opponents miss, would then send the off-balance enemy sprawling across the arena with a tremendous clout."

The well-known Clyde Beatty film, "The Big Cage", documents a circus on the verge of bankruptcy. Beatty's attempted performance erupted into a shocking fight which was recorded on film.

In the story, Beatty tames the cats and continues in the tradition of 'the show must go on'. Privately Beatty admitted even he had no possible hope of separating the big cats and the lion went on to maul the tiger to death.

For over 50 years the scene was thought by viewers to be a well-staged dramatic scene, but is now recognised as a documentary showing an actual killing.

The tiger has no rival as a pure predator, but hates the idea of a fight. As a lone predator, fighting for the tiger is an extremely bad idea and injury from a fight could spell starvation.

Predation for food should not be confused with ability in battle. It is a common misapprehension that being the better solitary hunter automatically means the tiger will also be the better fighter. This is incorrect as the techniques used and experiences involved are quite different.

*In the case of a lion killing another maned male many have learnt to attack beyond the mane, usually at the back of the front leg.

This happens particularly in southern areas where the lions have very thick manes. It is a purely learnt behaviour and the tiger would not know this technique, having never needed to use it.


Quite frequently the lion versus tiger question focuses on the Amur (Siberian) tiger. People mistakenly believe that the large size of the Amur tiger means a more aggressive animal and therefore a better fighter.

The fact is, that when it comes to aggression, the Amur tiger lacks the ferocity of its cousin from the Asian sub-continent, which, in turn, lacks the ferocity of the lion by a significant margin. For most people it is easier to understand this by comparing dogs. I own Great Danes which weigh in at 60-70 kgs each, yet the significantly smaller and lighter Doberman down the road attacked and injured my Dane. The difference is one of ferocity.

Also worth noting is that though the Amur tiger is slightly longer and somewhat heavier than the Bengal, the difference is less than popularly thought. Much of the Amur tiger's extra bulk is fat for warmth, and a false impression is also given by their thicker longer coat. The fights such as noted here are mostly historic ones. In the 1870s, the Purnea district of India (now north Bihar) was famed for its enormous tigers. Two shot during that period measured 11' 5" and 12' 4" respectively. To compare them accurately to modern Bengals it is necessary to subtract 7-8 inches as they were measured using a different system than is practiced today. Despite this they were massive animals, by any standard.

Compared to the lion, the tiger is longer and usually heavier, but it does not stand as tall at the shoulder. This can be seen in the above scale image which shows the relative size of a Bengal tiger to an African lion. Size comparisons can also be made between the adult male Bengal tiger and adult African lioness in the images on this page.

It is difficult to find good comparative images of these cats standing in close proximity, however these show the relative sizes reasonably well. Tiger Territory continues to seek better comparative images. When comparing the lioness to the tiger, remember that the female of a species is smaller than the male, so a male lion would normally be a little taller at the shoulder.


*The tiger has a longer body, and is usually more powerful in the back legs, having evolved this way for great speed and unmatched leaping power. The lion evolved primarily for fighting, with a larger head and more power in the forequarters. Paradoxically this has made him a poor predator.

It seems obvious that there are a small number of tigers out there which are superior fighters to the lion, but across the majority of the animals, the lion would probably indeed be the King of the Beasts. The ultimate conclusion is up to the reader, and this article seeks not to give you a definite answer, only something to ponder on. Perhaps the final comment should come from animal trainer Louis Roth, who once said he had "seen enough fights to conclude that none of the theories is accurate; sometimes a lion would win, sometimes a tiger".

The name 'King of the Beasts' can be traced back to the first century of the Christian era. Lions featured strongly on coats-of-arms, and were on the crests of various royal families, including the English, Scottish and Norwegian. In Asia and China the lion symbolised strength and power. Richard the Lion-Hearted received his name for showing particular bravery in battle.

{my sincere
thanks 2 THE RESEARCHERS OF 4 their presentation of this article in their own words}

As for the matter of lions against tigers, I support neither. I rather like the Jaguar. But from my personal experiences while filming and observing, I would put my money on the lion.
A myth that must be cleared is that the Siberian tiger is the largest tiger but the Bengal tiger is the strongest and most ferocious.

Lets put the strongest of each animal against each other, namely the African Lion and the Bengal Tiger. (Both males)
-The tiger is heavier, longer, faster, more agile with stronger back leg muscles and a MUCH better swimmer.
-The lion is taller, stronger at the front legs and shoulder muscles, more ferocious, aggressive, stubborn and a better fighter than the tiger. Its mane almost totally eliminates a tigers ability to choke hold it.

NOW, in battle, speed is not even a factor. It is only useful in escaping the fight. Agility, however, is important. The tigers hind legs will allow it to move about faster than the lion. However, the swipe force of a lion is MUCH stronger than that of the tiger. In a clawing or swiping contest, the lion would always land the killer blow. Now, remember, the lion is more lazy and inactive than the tiger which is more fit. Their stamina and bite force is roughly equal. But here is where the fight comes to an end. The most dangerous and special move of both cats is the choke hold. The tiger is at extreme disadvantage here. It would swallow a mouthful of mane in its choke hold attempt whereas the Lion with impressive bite force would only have to grip the tiger tightly on the neck to kill it. It is important to understand that the lion is stronger than the tiger where it matters most, in the font legs that are used in clawing.

My personal observations of each animal separately and together support this.
-In a large circular cage in Mexico city I have seen an African male lion maul a larger Siberian tiger and an adolescent male Siberian tiger to death. The adolescent was a year old. It is extremely sad that these fights are used for entertainment but at the same time I was awed to see one lion defeat two large tigers with all 3 animals in the cage at the same time.
-My teammates and I were transporting a male African Lion into a cage neighboring a Bengal Tigers cage in Kenya. There was a small opening in between the two cages for intermingling of neighboring animals. It was supposed to be closed at the time but someone forgot to close it. The lion sprang from the transportation container through the opening and mauled the tiger of similar size. We tranquilized the lion but it was too late. Two days later, the tiger died due to fatal wounds. It was a very one sided fight where the lion spent much time chasing the tiger.

Please, do not believe any videos you see on the internet. They are all altered to favor either the tiger or the lion. And please, do not get so worked up on things such as tigers vs lions. I am not saying a lion will always beat a tiger. Tigers have been seen defeating lions. Individuals are different. But all other conditions being constant, the lion, according to observed statistics would win 7/10 of the time.


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