3 male tigers fight over a tigress

You might want to know whether male tigers sometimes fight over access to a tigress to mate. Well, they do sometimes depending on the circumstances. A male tiger will keep track of the reproductive condition of the females living within various parts of his territory. Males may be notified of a female tiger’s impending receptivity by her roaring.

Tiger brothers fight hard in Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan
Tiger brothers fight hard in Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. Photo: Harsha Narasimha.murthy
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Tiger bites during mating
Tiger bites during mating. Photo in public domain. Here you see tigers together in captivity but temporarily. Picture in public domain.

These calls are known to attract several male tigers who may end up fighting for the right to mate with the tigress. One expert on tigers, P Hanley, wrote about such an encounter in his work Tiger Trails in Assam, published in 1961, and I can quote verbatim, I hope. He describes three males fighting over a tigress. He watched the action from a tree as a tigress called and was answered by three males. The first emerged from a forest and walked towards the female. She crouched in front of him and then:

“But he did not get far. Quite suddenly from a thicket near him, I saw a flash of black and red flying through the air, as a huge tiger, nearly as large as he was, almost landed on top of him.

The first tiger sprang nimbly aside to avoid his attacker and, snarling and growling with rage, crouched low to face his adversary, which quickly sprang around. Both animals were now crouching low, their eyes narrowed to slits, their ears turned back flat on their heads, their tails lashing furiously from side to side.

In a moment they came to grips, and the jungle resounded with the noise of growls and roars; and while they continued the sleek young tigress sat placidly watching the fight, cleaning her fur with her tongue.”

During the fight between these two tigers, Hanley saw a third male sitting in the bushes nearby. When one of the fighting tigers opened up a large wound in the neck of the other, the wounded tiger broke off from the fight and fled.

The tiger who had one that battle was also injured and limping. He approached the tigress at which point he was attacked by the third male who was successful in seeing off this injured tiger because he had been exhausted and harmed by the vicious fight that he had just endured.

The victor of this threesome proceeded to commence his courtship of the tigress.

Social organisation of male and female tigers showing schematic of male tiger range
Social organisation of male and female tigers showing schematic of male tiger range. Click the image to be taken to a page on the social organisation and ecology of the tiger. Image: MikeB.

These sort of fights depend upon the density of tigers in one area and whether the social system in that area is in flux or stable and also it depends upon the age and condition of the resident male. If the resident male has a well established home range the chances are probably low and the turnover rate would also be lower because social disruption from intruders would be minimal.

If the resident male is deposed or dies then new incoming males will fight to take control. These are times of social flux which can result in fights and they can also occur between females

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