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The larger tigers are the largest of the cats and are perfect killing machines with a superior combination of strength, cunning and agility. On the other hand, a lion is a fearsome warrior with an appearance to frighten even the mightiest of animals. There is now no possibility of these creatures meeting in the wild. Even when they might have shared prey population there might not have been many fights since the big cats adjust their hunting area and habits naturally (doesn’t mean voluntarily) to allow everyone a share. But there have been some real fights between the two kings of the forest, both in and out of an arena.

While debating about animals, one must keep in mind that they are not programmed robots, and so each individual will have its own characteristics within a certain range. The stereotypes, with which the animals are often characterized, may prove wrong more often than not. Also, generalizing certain observations may only lead to wrong conclusions. One pack of hunting dogs killing one lion doesn’t make the dogs killers of lions. And, some brown bears being hunted by some Amur tigers don’t prove that tigers are natural bear-killers and wins against bears in any situation.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

There have been tiger versus lion fights staged by different people. Also, some animal experts have worked closely with both lions and tigers and have made careful observations. So, what do the evidences and experts (and common sense) say about who stands a better chance of winning a fight between the two?

LION vs. TIGER: What We Have Covered Here

1      THE LION

  1. 1.1       THE CHOSEN ONE
  3. 1.2.1        Size
  4. 1.2.2        Weaponry
  5. 1.2.3        Bite Force
  6. 1.2.4        Anatomy
  8. 1.3.1        Interactions with Other Animals
  9. 1.3.2        Fights with Other Lions

2      THE TIGER

  1. 2.1       THE CHOSEN ONE
  3. 2.2.1        Size
  4. 2.2.2        Weaponry
  5. 2.2.3        Bite Force
  6. 2.2.4        Anatomy
  8. 2.3.1        Interactions with Other Animals
  9. 2.3.2        Fights with Other Tigers


  1. 3.1       COMPARISON
  2. 3.1.1        Lion’s Relative Advantages
  3. 3.1.2        Tiger’s Relative Advantages
  4. 3.1.3        Cultural Influence
  5. 3.1.4        Common Misconceptions
  6. 3.1.5        The More Likely Winner
  7. 3.2       EXPERT OPINION
  8. 3.2.1        Clyde Beatty
  9. 3.2.2        Other Experts
  10. 3.3       DOCUMENTED FIGHTS
  11. 3.3.1        Tiger(s) killing Lion(s) (No specific data)
  12. 3.3.2        Lion wins against tiger (A possible fair fight)
  13. 3.3.3        Tiger wins against lion (A possible fair fight)
  14. 3.3.4        Tiger kills lion (Captive animals)
  15. 3.3.5        The “Lion Killer” Ben, and other tigers (Circus Animals)
  16. 3.3.6        The Roman Arena fights (Tigers were most likely victors)
  17. 3.3.7        A collection of other results
  18. 3.3.8        Clyde Beatty’s accounts (Tigers seem better fighters)


  1. 4.1       BOOKS
  2. 4.2       MOVIES
  3. Ring of Fear
  4. Jungle Jim
  5. Africa Screams
  6. 4.3       WEBSITES


  1. 5.1       Lairweb
  2. 5.2       Animal Face-Off/ Discovery Channel
  3. 5.3       Some related online stuff
  4. 5.4       More Opinions and Documented Fights

1         THE LION

img_01763“Lions are not animals alone: they are symbols and totems and legend; they have impressed themselves so deeply on the human mind, if not its blood, it is as though the psyche were emblazoned with their crest.” (Page 65, Ref. 13)



Whenever ‘lion’ is mentioned here, it applies to African lions in general since there is not a huge variation among the lions in Africa from one part to the other. The Tsavo lions lack mane. But other than that there is no established variation in size or nature of the lions across Africa (Page 114-115, Ref. 22).


Let’s try to see, behind myths, what a lion is all about.

1.2.1      Size

The size of wild lions (and tigers) varies widely, and it is difficult to strictly determine a relationship between the size of a specimen and the region it inhabits. The sizes mentioned by the big cat experts often include either the most extreme measurements or just the average measures. Though these data are extremely helpful, it would make more sense to mention an approximate shape of the distribution, since the average value alone can not give a good idea of the overall population. However, from all the data presented by the experts, it seems that the average plus/minus 10% may be the range where most specimens may lie.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]       Average Weight

There is a great deal of data available on the weights of lions – both captive and wild. While the weights reported by the lion trainers may be debatable, the weights of wild specimen, as reported by field studies, seem to agree with each other.

Craig Packer has indicated that “350 pounds, fairly average for a Serengeti male.” (Page 41, Ref. 5)
Schaller has mentioned “14 males from 150 to 189 kg (mean 172 kg) ….. total length … from 246 to 284 cm (97 – 112 in).” Another male “weighed 196 kg, including 2.8 kg of stomach content.” (Page 30, Ref. 6). Elsewhere, he has again mentioned a similar average weight for Serengeti lions (“An adult lioness averages about 120 kg in weight and a male about 170 kg” Page 210, Ref. 6).
Alan Turner has mentioned a greater average weight for the lions from the Southern Africa than that found from the Eastern parts of Africa. He has mentioned that “Males in Eastern Africa may average about 170 kg, while females average about 120 kg; in Southern Africa an average of about 190 kg for males has been recorded, with a maximum of 225 kg.” (Page 73, Ref. 14)
Guggisberg has reported that “….. shot in Kenya. Fourteen males varied in weight from 148.23 to 190.96 kg (avg. 383 lb); in total length from 2.47 to 2.84 m (avg. 9 ft); in shoulder height from 81 to 106 cm (avg. 37 in). …… Selous came to the conclusion that a wild lion weighing more than 181 kg (407 lb) must be considered as exceptional.” (Page 142-143, Ref. 17).
National Geographic puts the weight range as 265 to 420 lbs (120 to 191 kg). Nature (BBC) states the weight range for males as 150 – 225 kg, which is in sync with Turner and Sunquists (145 to 225 kg, Page 288, Ref 28. Up to 215 kg according to the figure on page 7, Ref. 28. A table on page 300 has weights from 142.7 to 193.3 kg for male lions).
Hanak and Mazak found “total length of males 280 – 300 cm, weight 180 – 220 kg).” (Page 208, Ref. 24).
The IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group quotes an average weight of 181 kg for adult male lions in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

From these studies of different experts, it seems that the lions found in the Southern parts of Africa, with an average weight 185 kg (408 lb), and weighing up to a usual maximum of 225 kg (496 lb), may be a little larger than those from the Eastern Africa, where the average weight is around 170 kg (~ 375 lb)       Average Height at Shoulder

From the data from various sources mentioned, lions seem to have a shoulder height of 81 – 106 cm (32 – 42 in) with an average height of 94 cm (37 in). But Sunquists put the height as 123 cm (Page 288, Ref. 28 ).       Average Length

Schaller and Guggisberg have reported exact same range, 246 to 284 cm (97 – 112 in) with an average of 274 cm (9 ft). Bruce Patterson is of the opinion that “Adult male lions seldom exceed nine feet in length” (Page 32, Ref. 22). Sunquists mention a head and body length of up to 2.2 m (Page 7, Ref. 28 ).  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]       Maximum Recorded Measurements

Length: 3.33 m (10’11”). one shot in Uganda and another in Sudan.
Weight: 313 kg (690 lb) shot in Transvaal 1936
(Page 45, Ref. 19)

375 kg (826 lb), 3.2 m (10’6”) and 112 cm (44’) tall Simba. This enormous size was most probably caused by some disorder. (Page 46, Ref. 19)

1.2.2      Weaponry

The term weaponry has been used loosely to mean anything that a lion may use to attack another predator or to defend itself.       Teeth

The upper canine teeth are 60 mm long on an average.       Paw & Claw

The claws of an adult African lion can vary from 6 cm to 8 cm. The front paw size generally varies from 11.5 to 12.5 cm. Some exceptionally large ones may be up to 13.5 cm. (almost square).       Mane

Though the mane may offer the lion a little bit of protection, it is now widely considered to serve as an indicator of a lion’s health, age etc. Bruce Patterson dedicated a whole chapter in his book (Chapter 7, Ref. 22) discussing why the mane can not be a protection for a lion. A study published on ScienceDirect also concludes that “the protective benefits of the mane are minimal.”

1.2.3      Bite Force

The Bite Force adjusted for body mass allometry (BFQ) for lion is 112 (The body mass of the lion used for the experiment was 294.6 kg that had a bite force of 1768 N). Ruth Padel reported higher tooth strength for tigers (Page 77, Ref. 48 ) than that of lions. Valkenburgh and Ruff has reported a canine tooth strength of tiger as being almost one and half times that of lion (Page 382, Ref. 51)

1.2.4      Anatomy

Without going into much detail, we can have an overview of the build of a lion.       Skull

Guggisberg suggests that “the skulls of tiger and lion are very similar, and no two authorities seem to be able to agree fully on how to differentiate between the two without going into highly sophisticated osteological and dental comparisons, ….. Pocock found the facial part of the tiger less massive and narrower than the lion’s. Vratislav Mazak, however, describes it as more massive and broader. There obviously is so much variation within each of the two species that many of the characteristics tend to overlap.” (Page 182-83, Ref. 17). Sunquists agree that “the lion’s skull differs little from that of the tiger” (Page 288, Ref. 28 ).  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

However, some zoologists say that it is not all that difficult to tell apart a lion’s skull from a tiger’s (Ref 46, Page 476). Overall, it seems that, at similar specimen sizes, a tiger’s skull is slightly broader but shorter than a lion’s.

Typical length of skull for an African lion generally varies from 32 to 37 cm (12.5 to 14 inches). Typical width generally varies from 23.5 to 26.5 cm (9.5 to 10.5 inches).       Skeleton

Alan Turner, writing about lions and tigers, has mentioned that “their skeletons are very similar in size and overall appearance.” (Page 80, Ref. 14). However, lions have slightly longer limbs than tigers. Both the cats have more strong and dense bone structure in the front legs than in the hind legs. It would be pointless to go for in-depth comparison of skeletons of these cats since there is little skeletal difference.       Muscle Development

The development of muscles around the neck and shoulder of a lion is very obvious. Lions have massively built forequarters. The hindquarters look relatively less massive. More often than not, a lion is unable to free both of its front paws in a combat because of the weaker hind legs and a not-so-agile body. A comparative study of strengths of lions and tigers has been presented by Haughton (Page 392, Ref 75). It shows that a lion’s strength at the hip joint is around 66% of that of a tiger while the lion’s strength at the shoulder joint is around 70% of that of a tiger. The study had been conducted using an “adult African lion (magnificent specimen)” and a “Bengal tiger (magnificent specimen)”.
Later on, Haughton also mentioned that “five men can easily hold down a lion but it requires nine men to control a tiger. Martial also states that the Tigers always killed the Lions in the amphitheatre. The lion is, in truth, a pretentious humbug and owes his reputation to his imposing mane, and he will run away like a whipped cur, under circumstances in which the tiger will boldly attack and kill” (Page 495, Ref 76)


1.3.1      Interactions with Other Animals

Living in prides and/or coalitions, lions almost never face any challenge from single predators. But they do face challenges from hyenas and wild dogs. “Wild dogs have been reported to kill lions in the Kruger National Park …… as well as in the Kafue National Park. ‘7.1.63. Eight wild dogs were worrying an adult maned lion near the camp. The lion chased the dogs, but they kept coming back. Later they crossed the Kasompe and were heard fighting till late in the night. The next day it was found that the dogs have killed and eaten the lion’.” (Page 188, Ref. 6).

Lions and hyenas are known to steal preys from each other. “A group of twenty five hyenas had their wildebeest taken away by two male lions” (Page 291, Ref. 28 ).

Lions are ‘fortunate’ in a way that there are no bears in their habitat, and so they never have to face another predator that is equal in size or even larger. But several instances have been mentioned by experts where a lion has been gored and/or killed by a large prey animal (Ref 6). On the other hand, large animals, like the cape buffalos are routinely taken down by the lions. “I observed 7 attacks on buffalo, one of which was successful.” (p. 260). The one that was successful involved 4 male lions” (Page 261, Ref. 6). A single lion taking on a large prey like an adult buffalo or rhino or elephant is improbable. One single lioness may take down an adult buffalo cow in the presence of other pride members, though.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

Crocodiles can be formidable enemy, and even a predator, for the lions. “Crocodiles may pull a lion into water” (Page 190) and “Being up to 4 m long, crocodiles may capture prey ranging in size from steenbuck and impala to wildebeest and buffalo as well as such miscellaneous items as vervet monkey and lion” (Page 350, Ref. 6)

1.3.2      Fights with Other Lions

Lion as a fighter is somewhat exaggerated by a lot of people and some so-called experts. From the play-wrestling of lion cubs to territorial fights of adult males, these people see a glorified ‘fighter’ attitude. It should suffice to say that every single wild cat has such ‘fighter’ attitude, and grow up and survive in similar conditions. A lion’s pride offers it an added protection. Even nomads mostly form coalitions. Solitary nomads don’t fight each other (Ref 34). They may help each other in a hunt, have a meal together, and either part or stick together to form a coalition. Lions don’t generally fight over mating rights. “Pride males rarely fight each other over estrous females” and even ‘share’ a female (Page 295, Ref. 28 ). “Males in a coalition seldom fight for coupulating rights with females. …… Commonly, the interloper takes his trun with the female during rests by the mated male” (Page 132, Ref. 22).

But lions do fight over territory/pride. In a few cases these fights may last till death of one or more members of the pride/coalition. But “since a fight usually hurts both the attacker and defender, they mostly use other methods of dissuasion – particularly bluffing. …… the male may stand broadside to a stranger displaying his mane and making himself appear large and impressive. Such bluffs usually succeed” (Page 60, Ref 34). “These violent exchanges of male ownership of a pride take place every two to four years” (“Lion,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007. http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved).

2         THE TIGER

img_02153“Mammals do not get more fearful than the tiger. The champion of all cats, the champion of all carnivores.” (Page 9, Ref. 7). “Never in my life had I seen such a picture. Elephants by moonlight, lions at dawn, gorillas at blazing noon I had seen, but nothing was ever so beautiful and so glorious to me as that tiger walking out of his jungle. He was everything that was wild and savage, lordly and sinister” (Page 1, Ref. 15)


Amur or Bengal (from Tarai/Terai). Either one.

Tigers vary in size as not only across different sub-species but also depending on the region they inhabit. Bengal tigers found in Nepal, Bhutan, and in Assam, Uttaranchal & West Bengal (Northern part) states in India (collectively, the tigers of the Terai/Tarai and Duars) are larger than Bengal tigers found in the Sundarban Tiger Reserve. The Bengal tigers found Nagarahole National Park in Southern India and in the National Parks across the state of Madhya Pradesh are also pretty impressive in size. The Sumatran tigers are supposedly the fiercest (!) but they are the smallest sub-species of tigers. The Amur (Siberian) tiger is commonly believed to be the biggest tiger subspecies. The Bengal tigers are most well-studied among all tigers and widely touted as the most skillful fighters (!). Whenever ‘tiger’ is mentioned here without any region indicated, it would mean a Bengal tiger.


Behind the mystic aura, the tiger is a just a big cat similar to the lion in size.

2.2.1      Size

Tigers vary in size much more than the lions do.       Average Weight

Even though it is extremely difficult to study tigers in the wild, Schaller, Singh, Brander, Champion, Karanth, Thapar etc have done a tremendous job in their research about tigers, and supplied authentic data about these elusive animals.

Arjan Singh mentions that “The average male tiger, however, weighs 400 to 500 pounds, stand thirty-six to thirty-nine inches at the shoulder, and has a forearm measurement of eighteen to nineteen inches…. its girth of body and limbs …. is extraordinary.” (Page 97, Ref. 10)
Schaller quotes a lower number. He said, “They (tigers) weigh about four hundred pounds.” (Page 15, Ref. 12)
Karanth reports a large range of tiger weights, 175 – 260 kg (385 – 570 lb) (Page 131, Ref. 18 ).
Guggisberg provides data based on a large sample. “the average of all the tigers (around 200) measured worked out at 2.819 m (9.2 ft) for males ….. the weights at 190 kg (428 lb)” The Bengal tigers from the Terai/Tarai region may be slightly bigger, since Guggisberg mentions that “Dunber Brander came to the conclusion that the tigers of the ‘Terai’ tended to be bigger than that of Central India, with 3.05 m (10 ft) tigers ….. being somewhat more common.”
National Geographic states the range of possible weight as 240 to 500 lb (109 to 227 kg) for Bengal tigers and 660 lb (300 kg) for Amur tigers. Nature (BBC) has the tiger weight range as 180 to 280 kg. The TigerHomes website estimates adult Amur tigers to be up to 1000 lb with the norm being 650 lb.
Hanak and Mazak mention that Amur tigers can “attain a total length of 310 – 325 cm …… stand 105 cm at the shoulder, and may weigh more than 250 kg.” (Page 213, Ref. 24). Mazak’s paper also mentions of a great deal of data about it.
AnimalInfo mentions fairly big numbers of 200 to 270 kg for Bengal tigers and up to 360 kg for Amur tigers.
Sunquists mention weight up to 325 kg (Page 7, Ref. 28 ). Karanth mentions of several Bengal tigers in Nagarahole National Park in India that were measured from 230 to 260 kg (Ref. 33).
Dunber Brander (Ref 74) has mentioned a much lower average weight for tigers in Central India. For male tigers, he estimates that 420 lbs (with stomach content) can be the average. He has measured up to 500 lb tigers and believed that he had seen a tiger that could weigh up to 600 lb (Pages 44 – 48). He also has mentioned that Tigers in the foothills of the Himalayas are larger than the tigers in the Central India.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

It seems that a lot of variation exists in the data presented by different scholars about the size of tigers. A Bengal tiger from Terai/Tarai may average around 490 lb (222 kg) with the usual maximum weight being around 570 lb (260 kg). Though the range of weight for Siberian tigers remains a matter of debate, it seems that, provided a stable supply of prey in the wild, they are generally at least as big and heavy as the Bengal tigers, if not heavier.       Average Height at Shoulder

Arjan Singh’s data of 36 to 39 in (91 to 99 cm. Avg. 37’, 95 cm) are mostly supported by other sources of data.       Average Length

The wide variation of tail-length renders the nose-to-tail measurements quite useless. The average length (tail included) for the Terai Bengals is around 3 m (9’10”). Sunquists mention a head and body length of up to 3.2 m (Page 7, Ref. 28 ).       Maximum Recorded Measurements

Length: 3.22 m (10’7”) one shot in the Duars, Bengal, and another shot in Uttaranchal.
Weight: 388 kg (857 lb) shot in Uttaranchal
(page 44, Ref. 19)
Wild Amur tigers measuring up to 13’ and weighing up to 900 lbs have been mentioned in studies as being fairly common. But few accurate data have been collected. Mazak and Hanak mention that, ”verified maximum dimensions of a male Ussurian Tiger are: 335.5 cm total length and 110 cm shoulder height. The greatest recorded weight is 306.5 kg.” (Page 213, Ref. 24)

The largest tiger ever held in captivity, and the heaviest ‘natural big cat’ on record, is a nine-year-old male Siberian named ‘Jaipur’, owned by animal trainer Joan Byron-Marasek of Clarksburg, New Jersey, USA. This tiger measured 3.32 m 10 ft 11in in total length and weighed 423 kg 932 lb in October 1986.

2.2.2      Weaponry

Again, the term has been loosely used to mean anything that a tiger may use in a fight. Of course, the cunningness, agility etc are used, but can not be quantified.       Jaws & Teeth

The Bengal tigers have the longest canines of all cats. They measure between 6.4 to 7.6 centimeters (2.5 to 3 inches) (Ref: Tiger Canyons). Tigers possess much larger upper canine teeth than the lions (Page 40, Ref. 53).       Paw & Claw

The claws of adult Bengal and Siberian tigers vary from 8 to 10.5 cm. The front paw size generally varies from 15 to 17.5 cm. (almost square)       Strength

A tiger’s strength is almost phenomenal. It’s easier to quote from people who have witnessed it rather than trying to explain why and how. Here are just a few. Numerous more such accounts can be found in literatures by famous hunters, scholars and animal trainers.

“The Royal Bengal Tiger of Sundarbans. The people of this area must come to terms with tigers that have the traction power of 30 men.” (Page 76, Ref. 7)  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

“Corbett’s idiosynchratic Temple tiger, after fighting over a kill with a very large black bear, then picked up the cow, weighing six or seven hundred pounds, and dragged it for some two miles up a densely wooded hill, negotiating dense undergrowths, fallen trees and great masses of rock” (Page 120, Ref. 16)

“Corbett has put it on record that he saw a tiger carry a full-grown cow for four miles …… a four hunderd-pound bullock was carried clear of the ground for three hundred yards through very dense thickets, and one of Marshall’s tigers removed by some means a one thousand four hundred-pound buffalo to a distance of a quarter of a mile.” There are also mentions of tigers leaping and swimming great distances with full-grown bullocks in jaws. “Pocock witnessed a similar instance in Burma of a very large gaur – which would not be likely to weigh less than 1,700 pounds – being dragged fifteen yards by an exceptionally large tiger, though thirteen men could not move it one yard, and it was eventually hauled out by his transport elephants.” (Page 121, Ref. 16).

2.2.3      Bite Force

The Bite Force adjusted for body mass allometry (BFQ) for tiger is 127 (The body mass of the tiger used for the experiment was 186.9 kg that had a bite force of 1525 N).
In the same manner, the bite force quotients of the other big cats have been found out. Jaguar and Clouded Leopard have 137, Cheetah has 119, Lion has 112 and Leopard has 94.

2.2.4      Anatomy       Skull

As has already been mentioned for the Skull section of the lion, the two cats have very similar skull. The tiger’s skull is built more like that of a jaguar, shorter and broader, as compared to a lion’s, which is built more like that of a leopard even though lions, jaguars and leopards are more closely related to each other than they are to the tiger (Page 40, Ref. 53). “The tiger has a more arched and convex profile of the skull. ….. besides the three lobes of the blade of this tooth, there is a tubercle on the inner side. This tubercle is larger and better developed in the upper carnassial of the tiger than it is in the lion. The tiger’s skull is also wider and more massive than the lion’s” (Page 178, Ref. 47).

Typical length of skull for Bengal or Siberian tigers generally varies from 31 to 39 cm (12 to 15.5 inches). Typical width generally varies from 24.5 to 30.5 cm (9.5 to 12 inches).

In spite of the differences pointed out, it seems that lions and tigers have fairly similar structure of the skull, and the size of the skull is similar at similar size of the specimens. However, the stout, rounded and broader skull of a tiger gives it more power at the jaws.       Skeleton

As has been mentioned before, the skeletons of these two cats differ little. About tigers, Ruth Padel mentions that “The skeleton’s pretty much the same as the lion. Only a little larger.” (Page 77, Ref. 48 ). A small difference between a lion’s and a tiger’s skeleton is that a tiger has a slightly longer neck (Page 42, Ref 53). Tigers in general have more developed bones and muscles than lions (searching for reliable source).       Muscle Development

Legends have been made of “the phenomenal muscular development of a tiger’s neck and shoulders” (Page 120, Ref. 16) and about how it can kill monstrous preys with just one swipe of the paw. A tiger has massive shoulder and tremendous strength in its forelimbs. The backlimbs look lean compared to its forelimbs (Ref 28 ) even though the backlimbs are also very powerfully built and allow the tiger to free the two front paws in combats.


2.3.1      Interactions with Other Animals

A tiger’s habitat and solitary lifestyle mean that it faces a lot more of other predators in serious confrontations than a lion has to. It has to face challenges from bears (of several kinds), wolves, hyenas and wild dogs. Sub-adult tigers may even face competition from leopards.

Wild dogs and tigers try to avoid each other and have different durations of activity. But they do meet sometimes. While tigers have been reported to steal prey from small packs of wild dogs, large packs of wild dogs can tree or even kill a tiger. Perry has mentioned two accounts (Page 149-152, Ref. 16) of wild dogs killing and eating tigers. In the first one, a tigress killed six dogs before the twenty three other finished her off. In the second, twelve dogs were killed and the rest around ten were left to eat the tiger.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

Even though formidable predators themselves, “bears figure quite prominently among the tiger’s prey, not only the rather smallish – though highly aggressive – sloth bears of India, but Himalayan black bears and Siberian brown bears as well.” (Page 203, Ref. 17). “Sloth bears must often be killed by tigers, and Senderson knew of one tiger who was an habitual bear-killer …… According to Baikov brown bears are also frequently attacked. ‘Large tigers,’ he writes, ‘handle bears of almost their own weight’.” (Page 157, Ref. 16)

“The Temple tiger fought over a kill with the largest black bear that Corbett had ever seen.” The tiger had left the kill but mauled the bear – “Blood from a number of deep cuts was seeping through the thick fur on his (bear’s) neck and in several places his scalp was torn right down to the bone, his nose being torn in half.” (Page 158, Ref. 16).

“In Nagarahole National Park, the average weight of eighty-three tiger kills was 401 kilograms. This sample included several gaurs weighing 1000 kilograms” (Page 350, Ref. 28 ). Karanth mentions that gaur falls into regular prey category of the tigers in Nagarahole National Park in India. There are numerous mentions in expert’s works about gaurs killed by tigers. Vivek Sinha has mentioned about a gaur killed by a tiger (Page 100, Ref. 45). There are reports that “tigers killed adult gaurs that weighed 1100 to 2200 lb” (Page 59, Ref. 18 ). Jim Corbett said, “I once saw an entire herd of five buffaloes wiped out in a titanic fight with an enraged tiger. The tiger killed one of their number and the other four big-hearted animals attacked him and fought on until the last of them had been killed. The tiger evidently suffered severely in the fight, for when he left the battleground he left a trail of blood.” (Page 96, Ref. 9). Schaller wrote about a tigress killing a bull gaur. “One day I found a tigress with four small cubs. She had killed a bull gaur, a remarkable feat considering she weighed about three hundred pounds and he two thousand.” (Page 169, Ref. 8 ). “It has been stated that a tiger will never tackle a full-grown male gaur ….. but R C Morris knew of six solitary bulls killed by them.” (Page 208, Ref. 17). “Although gaur may be less aggressively formidable than wild buffalo the scent of a tiger maddens them, and a herd of gaur will pack and advance threateningly towards any object bearing some resemblance to a tiger.” (Page 105, Ref. 16).

Valmik Thapar described many instances where a tiger (Genghis, Kublai) or a tigress (Noon) took away sambar stag from a group of crocodiles in Padam Talao (lake), and swimming at least 45 metres back to shore unharmed. These crocs were also up to 4 m long. “..very seldom in India have they (the crocs) managed to cope successfully with an adult tiger.” (p. 174-187, [3]). In 1921 on the shores of the Chambal River “Kesri Singh discovered that while crossing the river a tiger had fought off and killed a crocodile-losing part of his tail in the process!” (Page 187, Ref. 23).

“Attacks on full-grown elephants are, of course, rare, but they do occur, ….. two attacks on female elephants and one on a tusker, which was so dreadfully mauled along the whole length of its back that it died a few days later.” (Page 203-04, Ref. 17). “Sitting at a water-hole, by imitating the call of a tiger: whereupon the elephants at the pool, if in a herd, usually trumpeted shrilly and dashed away” and “(a tiger) being surrounded by a ring of thirty wild elephants ….. though their tracks reached to within a few feet of the tiger, they had not touched it. On another ocaasion, when a herd of fifty elephants had surrounded a trapped tiger, they made off when other tigers arrived, attracted by the roaring of the trapped beast.” (Page 162, Ref. 16). “In the morning the tusker was found dead with terrible wounds, and the tiger had disappeared.” (Page 163, Ref. 16). Perry has mentioned (Page 163, Ref.16) an account by Jim Corbett where a pair of mating tigers had killed a large tusker (bull) elephant that had disturbed them. In India, tests have been conducted to scare away wild elephants from farmlands using recorded tiger-roars, and it has been entirely successful.

Since male rhinos wander alone, tigers sometimes find it easier to prey on male rhinos than on buffalos that live in groups. Mother rhinos may also get killed by tiger.

2.3.2      Fights with Other Tigers

Beatty has mentioned about some tiger vs tiger fights. In a fight between a Bengal tigress and a Sumatran tigress, “Queenie (Bengal) was larger than Ma’am (Sumatran), but the difference in size was not as great as usual ….. Ma’am was unusually large for a Sumatran. When these Sumatrans are tough, they are mighty tough. Ma’am was like that….. Queenie came out of the battle with only a few unimportant nips and scratches, whereas the ever-beaten ma’am emerged with a bad limp. Her left hind leg was chewed and torn” (Page 250, Ref. 3)

Fights occur often in the wild. Unlike lions, tigers often fight over mating rights. Jim Corbett has mentioned of a fight where two tigers fought savagely resulting in the death of one tiger and severe injuries to the other, while a third tiger mated the tigress! Other than for mating, tigers fight, sometimes to death, over territory. Fights may also occur over a kill.



3.1.1      Lion’s Relative Advantages

On an average, lions stand a bit taller at the shoulder than the tigers. There is not a significant difference in height, though, and has been mentioned in the Size sections for both the cats. The lion appears to be much taller than it really is not only because of the mane but also because of its struts (walking or standing in a dominating posture with straightened limbs and head held high). On the other hand, a tiger looks shorter than it really is, because of its bent-limb and head-down walking. Still, lions do stand a little taller than tigers. This may be of advantage for paw-swipes, and disadvantage for attacking the throat.

In captivity, lions sometimes tend to grow as big as tigers, even bigger sometimes, and this also results in the few lion-victories in fights between captivity-bred and/or captivity-raised lions and tigers. As mentioned in the documented fights here, in captivity, lions have won some battles against the tigers. The weight of captive cats depends on various factors, though. BigCatRescue has data on a variety of captive animals and one may see that a tiger can get to a monstrous size, much bigger than any captive lions, given sufficient food.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

No animal is “born to fight”, but, living in prides, a lion tends to develop an attitude to dominate other members of his pride.  This does not seem like a big advantage, though. How an animal behaves in a social living and how he reacts to a formidable opponent in a fight can be entirely different. But, we may assume that a lion will charge first in a battle with a tiger and this may give him some advantage.

Even though the main functionality of the mane of a male lion is still a matter of debate, it does give a lion some protection against attacks on the neck and throat. But that’s not a huge advantage for two reasons. One, big cats don’t generally attack the neck straightaway in fights against other cats (see section The Method of Attacking/Killing). Two, even though the mane can be a good protection against the canines of smaller animals, it may not be effective against the long canines of a tiger.

Beatty mentions that a lion is a more determined than the tiger – “This is typical of the tiger. If he doesn’t achieve his purpose in the early stages of one of those bouts, he retreats. The lion is different. Once he commits himself to an attack he is far more determined and much harder to shake off.” (Page 207, Ref. 3). But this seems to be in contrast to what is mentioned later – “but they (lions, when Beatty would stare at them) all withdraw in approximately the same manner and trot off to a pedestal or leave the arena …… Tigers, on the other hand, do not seem to mind my staring at them. They stare right back.” (Page 243, Ref. 3). Anyway, this is not very relevant for fights.

3.1.2      Tiger’s Relative Advantages

Tigers (Siberian and Bengal) are generally larger than lions. A large tiger may be more than 100 lb heavier than a large lion. Wood (Page 45, Ref. 19) mentions that tigers cross the weight of 500 lb more often and that lions are very rarely found to cross 500 lb in the wild. This augurs well with the data from other experts. This weight comparison chart is a good way to visualize that. “An African lion, of course, would stand virtually no chance against a huge Siberian tiger in a straight fight, but it could easily handle the much smaller Sumatran and Javan tigers” (Page 78, Ref. 19). But size alone can not be a decisive factor in a fight.
Here is a size comparison from National Geographic, comparing a lion, a Bengal tiger and a Siberian tiger with a 6’ man (even though it is from NatGeo, one may say that the size of the Siberian tiger has been grossly exeggerated here!) (copyright of the images remain with National Geographic):

Lion-tiger size comparison (From National Geographic website). A lion, a Bengal tiger and and Amur tiger compared to a 6' man.

Lion-tiger size comparison (From National Geographic website). A lion, a Bengal tiger and an Amur tiger compared to a 6 man.

Tigers are more active in the wild. “Of all the felids, lions are the least active” (Page 289, Ref. 28 ). Also, tigers are far more agile than the lions. Superior agility may give a tiger an important advantage over a lion. “Certainly the striped cat is a faster-moving, more powerful and agile animal than the lion, and has a superior fighting technique” (Page 77, Ref. 19). Not just agility, “a tiger is a better fighter than a lion” (Page 27, Ref 36). Cooper mentions of a lion being harassed by a tiger. “Although the lion may be the king of beasts in looks, actions, and honor, he is far from it in fighting ability. The clash between the lion and the tiger invariably ends in a victory for the striped beast, and in several encounters between King Edward, a big black-maned Nubian, and Dan, a Royal Bengal tiger, the “king of beasts” had moved out second best” (Page 68, Ref. 38 ).  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

A probable advantage for the tiger, which is seldom mentioned in debates, is that it may be more intelligent than the lion. A tiger has around 16% larger brain (by volume) than an equal sized lion (from Telegraph, UK). See the section on Clyde Beatty’s accounts (3.2.1) for some apparent proofs of this.

One of the most important advantages a tiger has over lion is that it can stand, for some time, on its hind legs only, making the front paws free to make swipes. A lion can seldom do that. In the documented fights, in most of the cases where there are details of the fight, the tiger seemed to gain advantage for this reason. Both-paws swipe is way more effective than single-paw swipe. It not only theoretically doubles the number of swipes, it increases the reach, increases the force, and allows a tiger to defend/block a swipe and make an offensive swipe at nearly the same time. Moreover, the relatively stronger hind-quarters allow a tiger to keep balance while making swipes with both the front paws. It is interesting to note that a tiger actually implements a ‘footwork’ with the hind legs to keep balance and to move quickly for both defence and offence. A lion, in comparison, has minimal use of the hindlegs in a fight.

Tigers are not only stronger (see section than lions, they have much better weaponry than lions do. Tigers have longer upper canine teeth, greater bite force quotient, much larger paws and claws, and more massively built forelimbs & backlimbs.

3.1.3      Cultural Influence

Lion is known to be the King of Beasts across most cultures of the world. This is mostly because of a lion’s appearance and partly because of the social structure of a pride and the lion’s role in the pride. A lion does possess a royal look and attitude. Add to that a tremendous roar that can be heard over miles across the Savannah. Also, living in a pride, a lion doesn’t need to hide itself or avoid any other animals including human beings. A lion lives in the open and controls its territory like a true king, sporting a ‘kingly’ mane and heading a pride that feeds him.

In China the tiger is known to have ‘Wang’ or ‘king’ written on its forehead. The Chinese zodiac has one sign named after the tiger. The Shaolin form of martial art has a ‘tiger’ variation of attack, supposedly developed from the way a tiger fights another predator. Sunquists pointed out that “More than any other predator, the tiger has become a symbol of power, strength, and untamed wildness. For centuries tigers have inspired art, legend and literature, and great meta physical powers have been attributed to various parts of their bodies. …… The tiger has generated a mystique quite unlike that surrounding other large cats. Even lions do not evoke quite the same feelings of terror and awe.” (Page 69, Ref. 26). Mongolians believe that “so inimical are they also to each other, and so unlikely to herd together, that it has been supposed that the tiger has exterminated the lion wherever they have met” (Page 369, Ref 58).

How an animal is accepted in the popular culture may not always convey much information. A horse is the symbol of speed in various emblems and sayings. Even in religious texts comparative phrases like “as fast as a horse” can be found in abundance. But that does not make the horse the fastest animal. It merely means that the horse is a fairly fast runner. Would we all change those notions/emblems/sayings now after getting to know that there are faster animals out there? No. As long as we do not take a belief in popular culture as the absolute truth, we are good.       Influence of religion

The lions, being much more visible to human beings than have been the tigers, got entry into myths in a hugely greater proportion than did the tigers. The Bible of the Christians and the Geeta (it is debatable, though, since Geeta doesn’t mention ‘lion’, it just says ‘mrigendra’, ‘the king of the beasts’ that may mean either lion or tiger) of the Hindus both mention the lion as the mightiest of the wild beasts or the king of beasts. So it has got accepted as a sign of royalty. Even outside the realm of Geeta and Bible and as early as the age of the ancient Egyptian Civilization, lions had religious significance. A perfect example of such Christian ‘propaganda’ can be found here. “Certainly this was the most dangerous of the enemies recorded here, for a lion is the most powerful of beasts, the most ferocious of adversaries. There are several things said about it which we want to note. We read that Benaiah slew a lion — a lion, not a leopard, not a wild hyena or a boar or a buffalo, but a lion.” The author couldn’t talk about tigers in the same breath for obvious reasons and so tells a story about how he saw an ‘accidentally shot’ fight between a lion and a tiger!       Pronounced sexual dimorphism

Pronounced sexual dimorphism has given male lions an added aura of strength, so much so that countries like England and Sri Lanka, where people have never seen a lion in native wilderness, have lion on their national emblem and/or coat of arms.       Lifestyle

Living largely secretive life and attacking preys using stealth, cunning and agility, a tiger is mostly considered a villain (like Sher Khan in Kipling’s Jungle Book). Moreover, the man-eaters in India have further maligned the image of a tiger. Since the chance of encountering a tiger in the wild is way less than the chance of encountering a wild lion, a lot of data about tigers reflect either only a small population of them, or are based on indirect studies, or both. Also, a tiger’s unwillingness to fight without necessity has often been seen as lack of courage and aggression.       Sculptures

As a subject of sculpture, lions dominate the tigers. A sculpture seeks more three-dimensional surface features, and a lion has plenty of them – the mane, the visible muscle build-up because of thinner skin and shorter body-hair, the curved belly portion enhancing the chest-girth, and even the tufted tail. But mostly it is the mane that makes lions so ‘sculpturable’. No wonder that lion sculptures have been placed on royal thrones to the gates of shrines. A monochrome sculpture wouldn’t do any justice to the stripes of the tiger.       Familiarity to Europeans

From the ancient Greeks (“lions’ reputation for kindness and magnanimity was extended by Pliny and Aristotle”, Page 286, Ref. 28 ) to the present day Europeans and inhabitants of New World, the lion is a more familiar animal than the tiger. Being confined within the limits of Asia didn’t do the tiger any favor in spreading its word out whereas the lion gained familiarity to far-off places through the colonial powers. Also, a wildlife tourist paying a fortune for a tour would rather prefer to see a whole pride of wild cats that can be spotted easily and observed for a long a time, than catching a glimpse of an elusive cat for half a minute after waiting for two days!

South African lion in Kruger National Park

South African lion in Kruger National Park

Bruce Patterson correctly points out that “Maned lions are practically ubiquitous in European heraldry, which is remarkable in view of the fact that lions have not lived in Europe for ten millennia.” (Page 139, Ref. 22). On the other hand, the tiger has mostly been hated. A tiger’s lips were sewed together and all the claws yanked out by royal order of a prince just before he was put into battle against six dogs “of tremendous size and great ferocity. They were a cross between a mastiff and an Irish wolf-hound. Almost invariably the result of this combination is a huge vicious animal.” “With claws in his toes and no catgut binding his lips, he could have routed a dozen such dogs and left half of them stretched out on their backs with their entrails hanging out.” The outcome would have been predictable for the poor tiger. Yet as luck had it, one of the dogs struck at the tiger’s mouth, “bit deep into the lips on the right side, breaking the catgut and enabling the tiger to get one of his big teeth free”. And like a can-opener the tiger ripped open the canine’s guts. “The other dogs scattered in terror.” (Page 44-46, Ref. 52). There are several similar examples of cruelty to the tiger.

The Europeans’ over-fascination with the lion is evident in the fact that some European countries have chosen lion, and not any native animal, as their national animal. Countries like Albania, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, United Kingdom etc are some examples. To a rational mind this may seem unbelievable but that’s the way it is.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

(More on the influence of tiger and lion on popular culture: Page 286 and 344 of Ref. 28 )       Indian psyche

The people who most closely associate themselves with the lion may be the Indians, with many Indians having the middle or last name Singh/Sinha/Singha meaning ‘lion’. This isn’t very antient practice, though. No South Asian ruler has been known with such lastname till the fifteenth century Rajput rulers. However, using the lasname Singh/Sinha/Singha may have began from the seventh century deviating from the traditional honorific title ‘Varman’. Having the title of Singh/Sinha/Singha, because of the pride’s social structure and the lion’s dominating presence in the pride, signified a more dominating presence for the Kshatriyas. But, overall, both the cats find importance in Indian mythology and culture. Of course nothing much can be inferred from a lion being identified as part of a deity (‘Nrisimha’) or a tiger (or lion, sometimes) being considered the ‘vehicle’ of another deity (‘Durga’, ‘Amba’) since a lot of other animals find such mentions (Fish, Tortoise, Boar, Rat, Ox, Monkey etc). But in Indian mythology, a lot of mentions can be found of words like ‘naravyaghra’ or ‘purushasimha’ (a man like a tiger/lion). Kings have been addressed in the myths as ‘narashrestha’ (‘the greatest man’) and ‘naravyaghra’ (‘tiger of a man’ or ‘a man like a tiger’) (Ref. taken on 22 February 2008: Duryodhan, Raavan, Bhishm, Raam etc being mentioned as being like the tiger. These are some of the greatest characters from Hindu mythology). It may, however, be noted that ‘lion’ and ‘tiger’ (in several languages) have been used loosely to identify either cat (Ref. 15), but Indian literatures had separate words for both these cats – with lions appearing as early as in the Rigveda, arguably the first religious book known. Tigers made an appearance from the Atharvaveda that had been written much later (Ref 59, page 147-148). The power of the lion was further imprinted on Indian minds by the British rulers who, ironically, chose the lion to represent themselves even though lions didn’t prefer to call Britain their home! There have been numerous mentions in words, engravings, paintings etc about the victory of British lion over the Indian tiger(s). It had started with fifty thousand medals being presented to the soldiers who had fought for the British army against Tipu Sultan. The medals had a design of the British lion triumphing over the Tiger of Mysore. Ref 58 (pages 369-370) has more on this topic.

3.1.4      Common Misconceptions

Being branded as the villain, the tiger’s image suffers more from misconceptions than does the lion’s.       Hunter vs. Fighter analogy

There is a popular notion that a lion is meant for fighting whereas a tiger is meant for hunting and hence a lion will win in a tiger-lion fight. Some people mention that, like an American Pit Bull Terrier (pit bull) can own larger dogs, a lion can defeat a tiger since, like the pit-bull, the lion is meant to be a fighter. This is a senseless comparison for various reasons.

Amur Tiger

Amur Tiger

First, the fact that a tiger is a good hunter does not make it a bad fighter, and the fact that a lion in a pride doesn’t have to hunt much does not make the lion a good fighter. A tiger predates AND fights. Even a nomadic lion faces less challenge from other lions, than a tiger does from other tigers, since nomadic lions do not fight with each other often (Ref 34). Most cat fights end after a demonstration and may be a few swipes and bites. Schaller mentions about lions that, “Since a fight usually hurts both the attacker and defender, they mostly use other methods of dissuasion – particularly bluffing. …… the male may stand broadside to a stranger displaying his mane and making himself appear large and impressive. Such bluffs usually succeed” (Page 60, Ref 34).
Living almost always in prides or nomad coalitions, a lion rarely has to face other single animals. Hunting dogs and hyenas are the ones that lions have to fight with. A tiger, on the other hand, fights with leopards, wolves, hunting dogs, black bears and brown bears (and other bears) over food/territory. Lions never have to compete with another carnivore equal in size or larger, but tigers have to tackle bears. A lion may not get readily attacked by hyenas or wild dogs since the hyenas/dogs know that a lion has a high probability of being either in a pride or in a coalition and so there may be other lions around. A tiger can be compared with a solitary nomadic lion, but with greater number of adversaries.

Second, the ability of a specific human-helped breed of dog against another dog can not reflect the natural world of the cats.

Third, if at all a tiger is to be compared with a dog (and lion with another, the pit-bull), the tiger should be compared with the Dogo Argentino that was developed mainly for hunting (wild boars), but is apparently tremendously popular among dog-fighting rings.

Fourth, as mentioned in the Documented Fights section, it is the tigers that won most of the tiger-lion fights.

Fifth, a lion doesn’t really have to fight so often with other lions as is generally believed. “These violent exchanges of male ownership of a pride take place every two to four years” (“Lion,” Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007. http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2007 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved). This may be well less than a tiger fighting another tiger over mating/territory.

Finally, one can not fail to notice the characteristics of the breeds of dogs specifically developed for fights: low-slung, heavy, powerfully built, with a strongly developed head, powerful biting apparatus and short ears. These characteristics are found more in a tiger than in a lion, with the development of headquarters (both skull and muscles) being similar for both the cats. The tiger has a slightly lower-slung body and more bite force.
Gerald Wood puts it as, “Certainly the striped cat is a faster-moving, more powerful and agile animal than the lion, and has a superior fighting technique” (Page 77, Ref. 19). Breland mentioned that, “more biologists who have dared to express their opinions on the subject also consider the tiger a better fighter than the lion” (Page 7, Ref. 30).       The more aggressive animal

It is another common senseless and baseless claim put forward by some people, either for the tiger or for the lion. A tiger’s solitary social life doesn’t automatically make it aggressive in a fight. Similarly, a lion’s struts and dominating postures don’t mean that it will be aggressive when fighting a formidable opponent. Some people mistake a male cat’s sexual appetite for its aggressiveness. But, as Schaller mentions, it has more to do with the females: “Female cats are unusual in that, repeated copulation is necessary to stimulate the release of eggs from the ovary” (Page 89, Ref. 13).
Beatty has mentioned that “Lions are temperamentally geared for combat” (Page 124, Ref. 3). Indeed, since a lion generally doesn’t have to worry about supply of food, it may concentrate on fights. A tiger generally avoids a fight unless it is a necessity. But these initial traits of dominance and reluctance are not equivalent to aggressiveness.
Several big cat experts have expressed that tigers are more aggressive than lions. Beatty said, “But the tiger frequently possesses more genuine fury” (Page 187, Ref. 4) as well as, “The tiger is normally at his best when fighting one other animal; and usually that one other animal is doomed” (Page 74, Ref. 27). Perry has mentioned that “Tigers are undoubtedly more aggressive than lions, and intolerant of rivals in their territories; and in hybrids between the two the tiger parent is dominant” (Page 165, Ref. 16). [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]
But in a fight, it should really depend on the individual specimen which one will be more aggressive.       The method of attacking/killing

A pretty common idea about the big cats is that the tigers kill only by a throat grip and the lions kill by ‘overpowering’ the opponent (!), always attacking the hind legs and not going for the neck or throat. While the lions’ attacking the hind legs is true at certain circumstances, the other notions are chiefly incorrect.

For killing a prey, both the cats use the same technique. “The type of killing bite usually depends on the size of the prey, with throat bites typically being used to kill larger animals” (referring to lions. Page 291, Ref. 28 ) and “small animals …… are typically killed with a bite to the back of the neck, while larger animals are suffocated with a throat bite” (Page 351, Ref. 28 ). Also, the use of hamstringing, nape/nose bite etc are used by both the cats for different sizes of preys. It would be foolish to incorporate throat-bite with the tiger only!

Big cat fights often end after a display of power and dominance since no one wants to get injured if both sides ‘agree’ on an inevitable outcome. Some fights may escalate to paw swipes on the head/face, or even to a form of wrestling, before one side is chased away by the other. When there is an opportunity for attacking from behind, both the cats would attack the hind legs. This opportunity may arise when one side is busy feeding on a kill and/or one side is outnumbered by the other. For the tigers, the second situation may never occur. Even the first situation may seldom occur for tigers. That’s why attacking the hind legs has often been thought of as a lion’s technique even though it is purely situational. For one-on-one fights and when one opponent is not busy otherwise, trying to attack the hind parts is not clever and may even be fatal for the attacker. If two fairly evenly matched opponents fight for a serious prize (most commonly a pride for a lion and mating opportunity or food for a tiger), one side or both sides may get seriously injured or even killed. In a fight-to-death situation, a lion or tiger mostly succumbs to its injuries, or on some very rare occasions, gets killed by a direct throat bite. This holds largely true for both the cats.

Some National Geographic and other documentaries may help get the idea. Contrary to the popular belief that a lion avoids attacking the maned portions and always attacks first at the hind legs, these male lions go for the throat first, and settle the fight after a brief battle. This also is a good evidence to illustrate that the mane is not really a good protection. Another fight shows that the lions ‘face’ each other on one-on-one, don’t go for the hind legs. But this outnumbered lion gets attacked at hind parts, as mentioned above. In another instance, a nomad fights with two others. But one nomad preferred to guard the kill instead of taking an active part in fighting. So, the actual fight was one-on-one and the lions went for a throat grip or wrestling instead of attacking the hind legs. The defeated lion had gotten the front right leg injured. Fight for mating between two resident males may not be so serious. A one-on-one brawl is settled after a few paw swipes (notice again, no attack on hind legs).       Other misconceptions

Some people get over-enthusiastic about the so-called ‘preservation of superior genes’ in lions. But there is nothing really special about lions in this department. A lion at its prime gets the mating right over a young or an old lion. For two lions at their prime, either they fight for mating right or share a female (Page 295, Ref. 28 ). But this is true for any other animal in the world.

There are stories about the sexual prowess of these big cats. Tigers, like lions, copulate frequently. Sunquists mention a pair of tigers mating 8 times in 88 minutes and another mating 57 times a day. They also mention about a pair of lions mating 157 times in 55 hours. Both these cats, and cats in general, need to mate several times when the female is in estrous before she finally conceives. There is nothing extra-ordinary about this.

There is a popular notion that the brown bears (including the Grizzly) and polar bears are way too strong for the big cats. There can be several example put forward when a bear has made short work of a big cat in a fight. Similarly, there can be a lot of examples put forward where the reverse has happened. Since this post is not about bears vs. cats, I am not going to mention any example here other than just a few. Alfred Court has mentioned of two tigers, even with lassos around, had attacked two polar bears, killing one and making one escape. Another polar bear was killed by a lion. Beatty mentioned that berars had learned not to mess with tigers, after being clawed a few times (Page 97-98, Ref. 14). I lion called ‘Brutus’ had killed a polar bear in a circus. There are victories for the bears, too. A grizzly bear quickly killing an adult African lion is well documented in Page 215, Ref. 50. Ref 62 has some accounts of fights between grizzly and cougar. It seems like these two animals generally call it a draw. So, a lion or a tiger can be expected to put up a good fight against a grizzly.

3.1.5      The More Likely Winner

Considering two healthy wild specimens in their prime and of above-average size, it would be a spectacular fight, provided there is no escape route. A tiger avoids unnecessary fights, and may just escape if it can. But when drawn into a fight, it is a formidable fighter. This fact has been reflected in Clyde Beatty’s book when he talks about his tiger, Rex: “When the issue was forced upon him and there was no escape from a battle, he fought like a demon and usually won” (Page 164, Ref. 4?).  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

If the specimens are of approximately the same weight, it can go either way with the animal fighting more aggressively having a better chance of victory. Other than that, the advantages of the respective cats may compensate each other out. The lion’s taller structure may somehow counter the advantage a tiger has of swiping with both the front legs at the same time. Lion’s mane may also give it some protection as well as ‘psychological advantage’ to counter the size of the tiger and its better weaponry. The tiger, though, may still have a significant advantage owing to the far superior agility,  greater strength and better fighting skill.

If there is a considerable size difference, the bigger animal stands a better chance of winning.

Overall, the two seem to be fairly evenly matched at equal size and age with the tiger having a better chance of coming out victorious. Tigers, being often larger than lions, should come on top most of the times. The documented fights support this conclusion.


The big cat experts – the scholars, trainers, hunters, photographers and writers – have a wealth of comparative information to share. Several big game hunters, though, have been accused of exaggerating the size of their trophies and of sensationalizing the strength of those animals. But just as with the big cat hunters, one needs to take the words of the big cat trainers with a pinch of salt. They’d love to tell you how huge each of their cats was and some involuntary (!) anomalies brought in to sensationalize certain animal or incident. Clyde Beatty, while mentioning the great escape of his tiger Monarch, has mentioned the height of the wall Monarch had cleared as being 15′, 16′ and 20′ at three different places in his books. He said a lioness, Bessie, was “two years old, weighing four hundred pounds” (Page 144, Ref. 4). A lion, Sammy, crashed “his full four hundred and fifty pounds on to the back of the innocent Bessie….. Outweighed by two hundred pounds, Bessie was no match for those paws” (Page 145, Ref. 4). So, either Bessie wasn’t 400 lbs or Sammy wasn’t 450, to make that 200 lbs difference! It’s not unusual for big cat trainers to increase the weight of the cats (particularly lions, since the mane makes the lion look way bigger and heavier than it really is) significantly in the advertisements. Like the 600 lb lions, the 13’ to 14’ tigers seem a bit far-fetched. Beatty mentions, “Royal Bengals from India are somewhat larger (weighing from 350 to 500 pounds), while the Siberians are by far the largest not infrequently running over 600 pounds and measuring between thirteen and fourteen feet between tip of the nose and tip of the tail.” (Ref. 3)

Not only hunters and trainers, even the scholars, travelers and writers suffer from certain bias. While some politically correct Christian scholars/trainers/writers may blissfully ignore the strength of the tiger in order to establish the lions as the ‘mightiest of all beasts’, there are myths in favor of the tiger, too. On one European traveler’s account, a Sumatran tiger has been mentioned to measure 18 feet (Page 16, Ref. 15)! Also, there is a “quotation from Frenchman Sieur Jean De Lacombe of Quercy, who visited Java around 1670, is an extreme example of the tall-story genre — But the tygers there are so monsterous that it might be thought they endeavoured to attein (attain) the greatness of camels: for even a tall man would have sufficient difficulty to raise his hand as high as they carry their back.”(Page 16, Ref. 15). Even the recent scholars’ works should be accepted with caution. An example can clarify this. Schaller had observed that the tigers in the forests of Madhya Pradesh, India, has around 5% success rate in hunting. Even if we assume that he had a large sample of data for this observation, the figure may vary greatly depending on prey population, forest/terrain/climate pattern and, most importantly, the precise consideration as to when exactly a tiger is ‘committed’ to a hunt. Unfortunately, Schaller’s figure of 5% hunting success rate has been quoted as a standard figure for all tigers by several reputed authors.

3.2.1      Clyde Beatty

Famous animal trainer Clyde Beatty picked a lion to win if it were bigger in size than the tiger, but his recollections on ‘arena’ fights present a different picture. In Beatty’s opinion, “In size, the lion usually has a slight advantage. But the tiger frequently possesses more genuine fury. Yet the lion has its mane,….. Lion has shown himself somewhat superior to the tiger in fighting, yet it would be not safe to say that the lion can always whip the tiger ….. sometimes the tiger holds off three or four lions and leaves the cage unharmed.” (Page 187, Ref. 4).

It doesn’t seem a coincidence that all the intelligent ‘prison-breaks’ by the circus animals mentioned by Beatty, are by tigers. About a tigress, Gracie, he mentions, “Certain aspects of Gracie’s behavior interested me more than the escape itself – her cunning, for instance. ……… This cleverly executed escape called for ability to fool people completely.” He recalls “another escape that ranks with Gracie’s nocturnal adventure” where sixteen tigers collaborated to make an escape route! In another incident, a Siberian tiger named Monarch had made a similar intelligent escape. Beatty went on about intelligent tigers: “The most shrewdly calculated escape that I can recall was carried out by Big Ross, the brainiest tiger I’ve ever handled. What this animal succeeded in doing called for a careful study of the prospects, the decision that it was possible to break loose and the cleverest kind of planning for each and every step involved. ……… It was an astonishing feat and Big Ross had figured it out perfectly.” (Ref. 3). Of course, the tigers were in more genuine need to escape, being afraid of the gangster lions, but the intelligence behind the manners in which they escaped, is incredible. And even then Beatty never picked any of these tigers as the brightest animal he has ever handled. And even though he said that, “I ‘seat-broke’ Rajah faster than any other animal I ever trained. He seemed to know immediately what I wanted him to do” (Page 258, Ref. 3), Rajah was not the brightest animal he had trained! According to him, the brightest animal he has ever handled was a tigress called Venus (Ref. 27). Ironically, the stupidest cat he had was also a tigress, Jennifer!

Beatty had several reasons to be ‘biased’ towards the lions. (Read section to see a definite example of Beatty’s bias towards the lion) In all his books he talks mostly about the lions, and when he talks about them, he does so with a lot of affection. He has talked at length about how intelligent his tigers were, but never sounded so affectionate about them other than for one tiger, Rajah. Beatty would enjoy the ‘communication’ he could establish with most of his lions and with Rajah. They were playful and had accepted the arena as their own place and the performance as their duty. The tigers apparently didn’t. Being individualistic, they even tried to escape several times. Like a mother who’s more affectionate towards the playful but mostly obedient offspring than towards the rebellious one, Beatty always preferred the lions and Rajah. Even though Nero, a lion, had mauled him, he says he was Nero’s number one fan. Incidentally, Nero had ‘rescued’ him from being killed by a tiger called Trudy. [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

To counter the popularity of the ‘Tiger-Lady’ Mabel Stark, Beatty had initially tried his hands with a group of tigers and had apparently failed. It seems probable that Beatty had thereafter decided to have both lions and tigers in his show but with far more lions than tigers (see below about his ‘design’ to make a lion the “arena boss”). This necessiated propagating the idea that lions are stronger and/or more dangerous than the tigers. Also, his religious ‘faith’ would not allow him to accept the fact that tigers are mightier than the lions.

Lion family in Cleveland Zoo. Notice the size of the mane of the lion. The mane makes the lion look way bigger than it really is. The maneless part looks puny!

Most of Beatty’s adult male lions were around 500-550 lbs, with an occasional ‘Detroit’ weighing around 600 lbs (Page 45, Ref. 3: “Detroit, an African lion. Handsome, black-maned, and weighing six hundred pounds, one of the most enormous animals in my experience.”) or a Henry weighing 350 lbs. The Siberian Tigers were around 600 lbs. Bengals (it seems that he had a lot more females than males) were 350 to 500 lbs (Big Ross was ‘five hundred pounds of clawed murder’) with the occasional heavier ones such as Rajah. That Beatty’s tigers were smaller than other circus tigers is evident from the accounts of other trainers. Mabel Stark had tigers that “tip the scale anywhere from 350 to 800 pounds. Whitey…… weighed 850 pounds” (Page 116, Ref. 55). Roman Proske mentions of at least one Bengal tiger at 700 lbs (Page 259, Ref. 54).

Beatty’s lions generally fought in group (of two, three or even four), either against another group of lions or against a single tiger (“Lions love to fight in gangs. Tigers, on the other hand, are individualistic.” (Page 116, Ref. 4). Also, “Queenie – a wise and calculating fighter – managed to wriggle free and get away from her assailants, and when the Royal Bengal was gone, Ma’am (Sumatran) found herself with three lions to fight!” (Page 252, Ref. 3). Also, “Down from their pedestals sprang the other lions. Into the tangle they leaped – but not to gang up on the tiger as lions usually do.” (Page 70, Ref. 4). Beatty has made several other such comments that his lions always ganged up against the tigers (Instances from Ref. 27 – Page 68: “Soon I had a free-for-all in the arena involving every one of my lions and two tigers (one was a tigress who was fighting several lions and managed to badly rip the shoulder of a lion)”, Page 74: “This meant that twenty lions were fighting nine tigers”, Page 75: “lions are gangsters, tigers fight alone.”, Page 75: “At one time it looked as if ten lions were battling Chester (Sumatran)”, Page 85: “Meanwhile, the other tigers jumped to the floor, to leave the arena. The lions, ever eager to gang up and start a fight, were after them.”). This was bound to have made the tigers scared of the lions. Like a puma or an Amur tiger that try to escape the hunting dogs even though they can make a short work of the dogs, Beatty’s tigers were dominated by the lions. Even though his Sumatran tiger Chester could fight off seven lions and Sudan could fight off six, the threat was always there.

Beatty admits that this arena domination by lion was by design rather than by natural traits of the animals. He mentions that, “The reader, knowing that mine is a lion-tiger act, might wonder the “arena boss” is a lion, and whether this doesn’t establish the superiority of the lion over the tiger. Before going on with my story, let me explain that my act is so organized that only a lion can appear in this role. Before I enter the arena, I send in twenty lions and five tigers. Only during this brief interval, when the animals are milling about the floor, is it possible for a beast to establish himself as the big chief; and because of the preponderance of lions it is natural that a member of this species should emerge as the ruling power.” (Page 150, Ref. 27). That he allowed this to happen, even though six of his tigers were killed by lions, shows that Beatty clearly had wanted the tigers to remain subdued.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

Beatty has talked about the likely winner in lion versus tiger fight in one of his books. Keeping in mind his views mentioned above, one can analyze his opinion on the likely outcome of tiger-lion fights.

Beatty said that, “In a fight between a full-grown lion and a full-grown tiger, I’d be inclined to bet on the lion, largely because he has certain physical advantages. His mane, for instance, protects his throat; the tiger has no such protection. The average lion, also, is a little bigger and heavier than the average tiger. …… I wouldn’t do much frenzied betting on a fight a lion and a tiger of the same age and weight: that would be foolish.” (Page 255, Ref. 27). There are certain points to be noted here. First of all, Beatty didn’t bet on any animal if they were of the same weight. Second, His opinion was based on the lions he had, which were heavier than the tigers. Third, he considered the mane to be a definite protection for the lion. As discussed before, his opinions on sizes and the mane can be proven wrong for wild animals. And he seemed to realize that the arena feuds are not a good measure of fighting abilities of the cats, for he said, “the scraps that take place in captivity do not furnish an accurate gauge. For they are usually characterized by circumstances that give one side or the other the advantage – this advantage generally being on the side of the lions, owing to their incurable tendency to gang up against any foe.” (Page 255, Ref. 27).

Beatty has cited some cases in favor of the tiger and some in favor of the lion. Incidentally, while he has a lot of genuine tiger victories to talk about, he could talk only of one lion, Sultan, the new “arena boss” that time, and so must have been the best lion fighter, who “took on and whipped every tiger in my act” (Page 259, Ref. 27). What’s surprising is, even though he managed to write details about all the arena feuds, he has no mention of Sultan whipping tigers anywhere else! Additionally, he admits that it was not a typical case, whereas, he could cite many instances of a single tiger fighting against several lions and holding his own. For example, “I could cite many instances of a single tiger fighting off a group of lions. In fact my Sumatra tiger Chester fought off seven lions” (Page 258, Ref. 27), “I’ll have to admit that it is seldom a tiger can hold his own very long in a struggle with several lions that have ganged up, but I have seen it happen often enough” (Page 258, Ref. 27), “Rogue seemed undaunted by the arrival of his third adversary. He was lashing out in all directions so fast that it was difficult for the eye to follow the lightning-like movements of his paws” (Page 257, Ref. 27) and, “The tiger is normally at his best when fighting one other animal; and usually that one other animal is doomed.” (Page 74, Ref. 27). Beatty has also mentioned that he would bet for one tigress called Rosie against a lion called Duke (mentioned as a ‘roughneck’ by him). ”As powerful as Duke is, I would back Rosie in a fight with him if she had two good eyes, but she was no match for the lion in her handicapped state” (Page 158, Ref. 27).

So, if Beatty could conclude that, “the question of lion-tiger superiority is pretty much of a toss-up” (Page 259, Ref. 27), it seems that the tigers, even in Beatty’s ‘arena’ were at least equal to the lions in fighting, even after being against tremendous odds. Considering all the points mentioned above, Clyde Beatty has provided more proofs than anyone else that tigers are better fighters than lions in a captive state.

3.2.2      Other Experts

Alfred Court, the celebrated animal trainer, mentioned, “Tigers are my weakness. Despite my satisfaction in our eleven lion, …… This set me free to return to my seven tigers, who were, and always would be, my consuming passion. I have trained many cats since then, but it is that princely pleiad that I remember most affectionately today.” In the same chapter he said, “….. the trick is less risky with a lion, for tigers in general are more intelligent.” (Ref. 1).

A pair of Amur tigresses in Cleveland Zoo. Notice the shoulder development and relatively less-developed rear quarters.

A pair of Amur tigresses in Cleveland Zoo. Notice the shoulder development and relatively less-developed rear quarters.

Charles Wilkins’ book has it that, “Every weapon it’s got has to be deadly efficient. Each of its retractable claws, for example, is independently articulated, so that, having grabbed its prey, it can drag it in, as if on a conveyor belt, without having to release its grip. ‘A lion can’t do that, because its claws aren’t fully retractable and because they all work together. If it grabs you through the cage bars and wants to pull you in, it has to release its grip every time it moves farther along your arm or leg, so you have a chance to escape. If a tiger gets even a thread of your clothing, it can have your arm or leg through the slot in a instant.” (Page 9, Ref. 2).

“The late Alex Kerr (1957), the famous wild-cat trainer of Bertram Mills Circus, was another tiger-supporter” (Page 77, Ref. 19) and said that the tiger is the stronger between the two.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

Dave Salmoni, an animal trainer, says that, in general, a male lion stands a better chance at winning a fight against a tiger because, according to him, all a male lion does is fighting. But his credibility is doubtful. In Discovery channel’s Animal Face-off program he mentioned that a tiger would crush a lion’s skull and win easily. But in all later ‘interviews’ he has favored a lion. This would mean either of the two: 1. he would say anything on camera if he’s paid to say that, or 2. he changed his mind after the juvenile program was broadcast on Discovery channel. Either way, his credibility remains doubtful.

Dunber Brander, a British hunter, was of the opinion that “the more powerful animal, viz., the tiger, would debar the lion from frequenting forest tracts” (Page 46, Ref 74)

Rev Haughton, a zoologist, was  of the opinion that tigers are far superior to lions in strength and will kill the lions in fights (Page 392 Ref 75 and Page 495 Ref 76)

Kailash Shankhala is of the opinion that a lone tiger, ‘even at equal strength’, is no match for a lone lion. He did not back up his opinion with any data or experiments, though. In his book (Ref 73), he seemed to have experimented on or experienced something before making any comment on any particular thing. But his comment about strengths of lions and tigers go totally unsupported by any such experiment/experience. Interestingly, in the same book he has mentioned that during the era of the Mughal empire the superiority of the tiger over the lion was acknowledged.

Mabel Stark, arguably the first woman tiger-trainer, always favored the tigers. She had the opinion that, “they call the lion king of the jungle, but the tiger is the royal lord of all animal creation. You can cow a lion, but a tiger is fearless. To me he is the most magnificent expression of animal life” (Page 13, Ref. 55). She had worked with a few lions, too, but her passion was the tigers. The Theater Gossip column of Ref 66 had this: “A tiger is not afraid of a lion and I am prepared to support the statement with an offer of $1000 cash” Is the answer of Mabel Stark, world famous wild animal trainer, to the statement of Clyde Beatty that the tiger is afraid of the lion. “I’ll put any one of my full grown tigers in any arena with a full grown lion and post $1000 that the tiger will kill the lion ……….. I’ll agree with Mr. Beatty that lions have a sense of brotherhood and will pitch in and help a fellow lion in a fight. It is also true that tigers have the code of every tiger is for himself, but, meeting on equal terms the tiger will defeat the so-called king of the beasts every time. For a lion to attack a tiger could hardly be classed as bravery – it would fit better under the term of foolhardiness” (Ref 66)

Roman Proske had trained both lions and tigers but had always been more fascinated by the tigers. On a similar note to that of Mabel Stark, he mentions about tigers, “they were, and they remain, to me the most inscrutable, the most dangerous, the most beautiful and the most fascinating of all wild animals (Page 173, Ref. 54). …….. Here is nature’s perfect creation for death and destruction. The lion, in comparison, is a great bluffer” (Page 174, Ref. 54).

John E Lodge, an animal trainer, says in the article When Lions and Tigers Mix in the Circus: “I know the lions will whip the tigers” (Page 41, Ref 57).


I have found a supposed eye-witness account of a fight in a zoo between a ~500 lb African lion with a ~450 lb tiger. The description of that fight support the opinions put here, viz., the lion had wrested an early advantage, the fight was almost evenly matched, the mane of the lion made it easier for the tiger to pin the lion, the tiger could inflict more injury to the opponent etc. It should be noted that the tiger had gained advantage even though it was ~50 lbs lighter.

3.3.1      Tiger(s) killing Lion(s) (No specific data)

Richard Perry mentions that “under artificial conditions of captivity, a tiger can always kill a lion…… Tigers are undoubtedly more aggressive than lions, and intolerant of rivals in their territories; and in hybrids between the two the tiger parent is dominant.” Also, for the beasts in the wild, he mentions of another lion being killed probably by tiger “roaring of African lions in enclosures in Gwalior appeared to attract the wild resident tigers, and one released lion was almost certainly killed by them.” (Page 165, Ref. 16)  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

The second part is hardly any evidence since no one really knows how exactly the lions have died. Moreover, the lion was in a completely unknown and unfamiliar territory. It could even have died of starvation! Even if it were killed by a tiger, the tiger must have huge advantage in terms of knowing the place well, and being able to do ambush attacking.

3.3.2      Lion wins against tiger (Vague reference, no specific data)

An Indian prince had arranged a fight between a lion and a tiger in which the lion had killed the tiger (Page 119, Ref 31).

3.3.3      Tiger wins against lion (A possible fair fight)

Mentioned in Gettysburg Compiler, Gettysburg, PA., Feb. 7, 1899 (No. 23):
Lion against Tiger: An extraordinary combat in which the king of the beasts was vanquished in a battle to the death.

3.3.4      Tiger kills lion (Captive animals)

Charles Darwin (The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. London. John Murray. Volume 2, 1st Edition. 1871. Page 266-267) has mentioned that “In 1857 a tiger at Bromwich broke into the cage of a lion and a fearful scene ensued: ‘the lion’s mane saved his neck and head from being much injured, but the tiger at last succeeded in ripping up his belly, and in a few minutes he was dead”

3.3.5      The “Lion Killer” Ben, and other tigers (Circus Animals)

In Jim Tully’s book Circus Parade (Ref 42), there is an entire chapter devoted to lion vs tiger fights. It has a fascinating account of how the people of the circus used to talk about what would happen in a fight between Bad Bill, a fierce lion who supposedly could “lick anything that walks or swims in the world” and had killed a trainer, and Ben Royal, a Bengal tiger. When, because of unfortunate circumstances, the two cats really fought a battle, “Bad Bill was found, his throat torn, his stomach ripped open, and part of his carcass eaten. Ben Royal, with bloody jaws, dozed near him. ….. The tiger was afterward billed as ‘Ben, the Lion Killer’.”

About another tiger, it is mentioned that it had killed two lions. “I seen a tiger kill two lions quicker’n you could say ‘have a drink.’ The lions seen the tiger comin’ an’ roared loud as thunder but it gave a lunge wit’ mouth wide open and caught the lion right under the throat an’ before it got thru’ gurglin’ it cropped the other lion.”

3.3.6      The Roman Arena fights (Tigers were most likely victors)

This is verified from various reputed sources:
”A question often asked the office of the Zoo is, ‘If an adult lion and tiger were to fight, which would win?’ As we try to keep our adult lions and tigers in the Zoo from fighting, we did not know until in the records of the Roman arena we found that the tiger was usually victorious in such a combat …… It (the tiger) was most dreaded of all the beasts that appeared in the arena.” (Page 82, Ref. 20)
” The tiger is a rare jewel in a treasure chest of truly spectacular Indian wildlife. When the ancient Romans set tiger against lion in the coliseum, the tiger invariably won.” (http://www.pbs.org/edens/bhutan/a_tiger.htm)
” The only living creature Nero really loved was Phoebe, a tigress, which put up such a tremendous fight in the arena that he had transferred her to a golden cage in the palace grounds.” (Page 180, Ref. 17).
”Occasionally lions were forced to fight tigers, but apparently the tigers always won.” (Page 287, Ref. 28 ).
”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 of James Ward’s animal pictures painted later in the century where the lion symbolizes 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 such a fight every time” (Page 163, Ref. 29).
”… ancient Roman arena where lion versus tiger fights were often staged for the gratification of the crowds. In most of these combats the tiger emerged the winner” (Page 75, Ref. 19).
”If we are to believe the records of the old Roman arena, …… during those lusty days, a lion and a tiger were frequently matched …… and in such a combat the tiger usually won” (Page 7, Ref 30).
”Occasional fights were staged between lion and tiger – the tiger always won.” (Page 51, Ref. 35).
“In the time of the Emperor Titus, Tigers and Lions were forced to fight in the Amphitheatre in Rome, and it is recorded by Martial that the Tiger was able to kill the Lion, a fact which has been confirmed by accidental contests occuring between these two animals in modern menageries” (Page 392, Ref 75)

3.3.7      A collection of other results

Gerald Wood has mentioned (Page 77-78, Ref. 19) the following documented fights (only ‘fights’ have been mentioned here).

Tiger defeats lion: a tiger victory in a staged fight in which the tiger took advantage of freeing its both front paws whereas the lion could make swipes with only one paw at a time.

Tiger kills lion: A tiger killed a lion in a fight where the tiger didn’t try to attack the mane-protected parts and overpowered the lion using both front-paws.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

Eight lions kill two tigers: This had happened in a zoo in Germany (7th January, 1957. Frankfurt Zoological Gardens). Should never be counted as a fair fight, though.

Lion defeats tiger: In a circus, a lion had won a battle against a tiger (June 1949. New Bedford, Massachusetts).

Lion kills tiger: Happened in a circus (February 1951. Detroit).

Lion kills tiger: Happened in a zoo (September 1951. Madras Zoological Gardens).

Tigress kills lion: Happened in a menagerie (1865. Birmingham)

Tiger kills lion: Happened in a circus.

Tiger kills lioness: Happened in a zoo (19th November, 1945. Bangalore Zoological Gardens).

Tiger kills lioness: Happened in a zoo (January 1946. Mysore Zoo)

Tiger kills lioness: Happened in a circus (1951. Milan).

Phillipps-Wolley mentions that “in every case of a fight between the two occurring in a menagerie the tiger has invariably killed his opponent” (Page 195, Ref. 37).

Cooper mentions of a lion being harassed by a tiger. “Although the lion may be the king of beasts in looks, actions, and honor, he is far from it in fighting ability. The clash between the lion and the tiger invariably ends in a victory for the striped beast, and in several encounters between King Edward, a big black-maned Nubian, and Dan, a Royal Bengal tiger, the “king of beasts” had moved out second best” (Page 68, Ref. 38 ). But there was a twist in the tale, as has been mentioned in Section 3.3.18.

On page 34 of ref 39, there is a mention of a staged battle between the two – most probably an Asiatic lion and a Bengal tiger – in which both were wounded and the battle ended in a ‘draw’.

“They are natural and deadly enemies and the lions were killed off almost at once when they entered tiger’s preserves” (Page 90, Ref. 40).

“Fights between lions and tigers have been staged. The tiger always wins” (Page 257, Ref. 41).

“In lion versus tiger fights, tigers have usually been the victors” (Page 70, Ref 60).

“Is the lion or the tiger the superior in courage and strength? There is little evidence on record to help us to a decision, but all that there is in favor of the tiger. The two animals have been put together to fight, but the lion has invariable declined the combat. They have accidentally gotten into each other’s cages, and the tiger has killed the lion. Feats of strength are authenticated of the tiger to which the lion can, on evidence, lay no claim; and as regards their comparative courage in the presence of man, the evidence goes to prove the superiority of the tiger. Says Livingstone, for instance, “Lions would seem to be inferior in power to the Indian tiger.”” (Page 547, Ref 65)

“Mr. Bolton said that a friend of his saw, in the circus at Verona,” in “a battle between a lion, and a tiger, a horse, and an ass” the tiger had ‘yielded’ to the lion. This may well have been an act in the circus (Page 233, Ref 67)

Another third-party story tells us of another lion victory. An old man told Thomas Lawrence of some arena fights. In a long fight between a tiger and a lion in an arena the lion had ‘prevailed’ (Page 281, Ref 69).

More mentions of tiger vs lion fights (mostly tiger victories, I could not find any other lion victories mentioned anywhere else) can be found in references 43 and 44.

3.3.8      Clyde Beatty’s accounts (Tigers seem better fighters)

[See section 3.2.1 above for more detailed analysis of Beatty’s opinions]
In Beatty’s ‘arena’, as mentioned before, ‘fair’ fights seldom took place since the lions would gang up against solitary tigers. But the following incidents can be taken note of where the fights were ‘fair’ or the outnumbered animal could earn at least a draw. The last one is an unfair fight in which the victim of human intervention was killed:       Sumatran tiger vs. seven lions

Sumatran tiger had held his own against at least seven lions.
”At one time it looked as if ten lions were battling Chester” and yet, Chester “emerged with no serious injury” (Page 79, Ref. 27), mentioned elsewhere as “In fact my Sumatra tiger Chester fought off seven lions” (Page 258, Ref. 27).       Royal Bengal tiger vs. three-four lions

Bengal tiger whipped three-four lions at the same time.
“Rex, a Royal Bengal tiger, was the most dependable cat I have ever trained. He went to greater lengths to avoid a fight than any other lion or tiger I have known. When the issue was forced upon him and there was no escape from a battle, he fought like a demon and usually won. …… Three or four times lions ganged up on such occasions and dragged him down from his roost – and always lived to regret it. For Rex was at his best when the odds were against him” (Page 164, Ref. 7).       Lioness vs. tiger

A tiger made short work of a lioness.
”Bouncie (lioness) astonished me by jumping down from her high seat near the tunnel door and landing on my big tiger Theba, who was leaving the arena. It was an amazing thing for her to do, for Theba was almost two hundred pounds heavier than she, and capable of wrecking my most pugnacious animal. Theba didn’t waste much time. He shook off the determined but much lighter Bouncie and grabbed her by the neck. Why he didn’t snap it I’ll never know; he could easily have done so” (Page 163, Ref. 27).  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]       Lion vs. tigress

Lion killed tigress by attacking from above and catching her off-guard.
Detroit, the 600 pound lion, had killed two tigresses, Empress and Sleika, but had huge advantages on both the occasions other than being around 200 pounds heavier than either of them. Detroit had caught Empress off-guard when she was performing. “From his top pedestal he had hurled himself in a twenty-foot spring straight at Empress ….. caught her throat in his teeth just as she was riding over the hurdle.” (Page 66, Ref. 4). Similarly, he had killed Sleika attacking her suddenly from above. “He landed on Sleika from above with his claws bunched together, knocked her from her own pedestal and rolled to the floor on top of her, teeth snapping at her throat.” (Page 70, Ref. 4).       Tigress vs. several lions

A tigress could rip a lion’s shoulder and escape even when outnumbered by lions.
” Soon I had a free-for-all in the arena involving every one of my lions and two tigers (one was a tigress who was fighting several lions and managed to badly rip the shoulder of a lion)” (Page 68, Ref. 27).       Tiger vs. lion(s)

Beatty said that a tiger, Sudan, could hold his own against his best fighter lion, Caesar.
”Sudan was a real fighter and could have held his own against either Prince or Caesar (two of the four ‘brother’ lions dominating the arena).” Soon afterwards Sudan had to fight at least six lions at once. (Page 67, Ref. 27).       Lion vs. tiger

Sultan, the new “arena boss” that time, and so must have been the best lion fighter, “took on and whipped every tiger in my act” (Page 259, Ref. 27). What’s surprising is, even though Beatty managed to write details about all the arena feuds, he has no details mentioned of Sultan whipping tigers anywhere! Additionally, he admits that it was not a typical case.       Tiger vs. lion – ‘The Big Cage’ Fight

Lion killed tiger in an unfair fight. The tiger had the better of the lion but was dashed with ammonia in the face and thereby lost proper vision momentarily, and got killed by the lion.
In the making of the movie The Big Cage, this tiger was killed by a lion. This part is not shown on the movie, though. Beatty admits that it wasn’t a fair fight since he had dashed ammonia into Bobby’s (the tiger) face to let Caesar (the lion) free from Bobby’s jaws. Moreover, the selection of the animals had to make the lion win since that was the story. Caesar, according to Beatty, was the ‘overlord’. Caesar would take on three tough lions at once (Chapter: The Four Killers, Ref. 4). On the other hand, Bobby’s name has never been mentioned elsewhere; indicating that it wasn’t probably one of the bigger tigers and neither was a good fighter. Obviously, so if even Bobby had to be weakened against the mighty 600 lb Caesar by dashing ammonia into Bobby’s face, it tells volumes about the fighting skill of a tiger (Page 189, Ref. 4). Even though Beatty maintains that Bobby would have been killed anyway (his reader may wonder how! Also, one may wonder why did he dash ammonia on Bobby’s face when the lion got pinned, but not on the lion’s face when the tiger got killed!!), he said elsewhere what a handicap it is fighting without proper vision (Page 158, Ref. 27) There is another incident mentioned by Beatty where ammonia had to be used when a lion was about to kill a trainer – “(John, the lion) might have killed him if an alert cage boy had not handed him an ammonia ‘gun’ – a syringe which if properly aimed at an attacking animal ….. slowed up, trying to catch his breath.” (Page 231, Ref. 3). Roman Proske mentions of another incident where his life could be saved because ammonia was sprayed on Rasso, a lion, who was out to kill him (Page 138, Ref. 54). It can be easily seen here that ammonia is so powerful as to force a lion leave a man unharmed. It is obvious that ammonia, if used on one cat in fight between two, can well be the deciding factor.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]

3.3.9      Tiger kills lion with one bite

Roman Proske has mentioned a fight in which a tiger had crushed the neck of a lion in one single bite. The lion was a massive black-maned one. The fight wasn’t fair, though. The lion had the advantage of jumping on the back of the tiger to start the fight. Later, the tiger had the advantage when the trainer had poked it on the face with a steel fork. (Page 17, Ref. 54).

3.3.10      Tiger killed two lions

A particularly aggressive tiger has been mentioned in a collection of circus stories. “That (four hundred pound) tiger is a killer. He has murdered four other cat animals, two lions and two tigers” (Page 193, Ref 56).

3.3.11      Lion against a pair of tigers

A lion fought against a tiger. A tigress also chipped in. The lion was severely injured, but the tiger had lost a canine (Page 292, Ref 61).

3.3.12      Tiger killed a lion and a jaguar

“A large savage tiger, named Nana Sahib, had, however, torn down a partition separating it from a fine South American jaguar, which it had attacked and killed by ripping up its abdomen with its claws. The same tiger some years before had killed a full-grown lion in a similar manner” (Page 492, Ref 63)

3.3.13      Tiger killed a lion

Ref 64 gives account of a fight between a lion and a tiger in a menagerie in which the tiger made a short work of the lion. But this was not a fair fight as the tiger was in his prime and the lion was past his prime  (Page 10, Ref 64).

3.3.14      Tiger and lion ‘call it a draw’

Against the belief that a tiger would try to escape when put into a pit against a lion, “as soon as the tiger perceived the lion, he went directly to him, and struggling with all his might, overthrew him. Everyone thought that the tiger would have little trouble killing his adversary …..” The fight ended with both the animals being wounded, but not mortally (Page 215, Ref 68)

3.3.15      Lioness almost kills a Bengal tiger

”Lions will not stay in the same cage with tigers. We tried this once, putting a lioness in with a Bengal tiger. There was a fierce fight and the lioness nearly killed the Bengal” (Page 108, Ref 70)

3.3.16      Lionesses and tigers

Ref 71 Mentions about two fights between lioness (origin/age unknown) and tiger (origin/age/sex unknown). In one, the tiger was fatally wounded and the lioness had only little injuries. In the other the lioness was fatally wounded while the tiger had slight injuries. The author, though, mentions that, “although most naturalists are agreed that the average lion is no match for the average tiger, being not only generally smaller but much slower and more clumsy in his movements” (Page 18-20, Ref 71)  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM/BIGCATS]

3.3.17      Tiger kills lion

Chicago Daily Tribune of Apr 22, 1882, had a news article about a tiger killing a lion incidental to moving a menagerie.

3.3.18      Lion kills tiger

“In several encounters between King Edward, a big black-maned Nubian, and Dan, a Royal Bengal tiger, the “king of beasts” had moved out second best.” But finally one day King Edward had succeeded to overpower and kill Dan (Page 68, Ref 38).

3.3.18      Lion kills tigress

A report on the newspaper KoreaTimes mentions about a ‘fight’ between a 110 kg 5 year-old lion and a 90 kg (!) 6 year-old Siberian tigress in which the lion killed the tigress with a throat-bite. The report says that, “The incident occurred when the five-year-old lion, named “Cheongi,” fell into a trench five meters below his yard, which segregates the pen from zoo visitors, while attempting to catch a chicken that a zookeeper had thrown to him….. Right after the lion’s falling, the tiger, six-year-old “Hobi,” who was in her pen next to Cheongi’s, jumped into the trench. “Hobi, excited while watching it, jumped down to the trench. She made a poor landing, then Cheongi attacked her, bit a fatal spot, and killed her,” the zookeeper said.”
Two things should be noted here: both the animals seem underweight considering their age, and there wasn’t much fight – the lion had a significant advantage.

3.3.19      Tiger kills lion with just a single swipe

A March 2011 report says that a Bengal tiger killed a lion with just one swipe of its paw, tearing the jugular vein of the lion. It happened in a zoo in Ankara, Turkey. However, no real ‘fight’ had taken place. There are not sufficient data available to make anything out of this. Only interesting thing is that, a tiger’s paw swipe is strong and accurate enough to tear the jugular of a lion.


Almost all the references here have been provided by Charles, Damon, Ray of Hope, Maurice, Toxxon, Sam and others discussing this on the discussion forum.

4.1      BOOKS

  1. My Life with the BIG CATS. Alfred Court. Simon and Schuster. New York. 1955. Court is considered to be one of the greatest animal trainers of all time.
  2. The CIRCUS at the EDGE of the EARTH. Charles Wilkins. McClelland & Stewart Inc. Toronto. 1998.
  3. Facing the Big Cats. Clyde Beatty, Edward Anthony. Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York. 1965. Beatty is one of the most famous big cat trainers.
  4. Jungle Performers. Clyde Beatty and Earl Wilson. Robert M McBride & Company. New York. 1941.
  5. Into Africa. Craig Packer. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 1994. Packer was a professor of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota.
  6. The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator-Prey Relations. George B Schaller. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago & London. 1972. Schaller is among the most well-known researchers of the big cats.
  7. Tiger. Simon Barnes. St Martin’s Press. New York. 1994. The author is a wildlife and conservation writer.
  8. Stones of Silence: Journeys in the Himalaya. George B Schaller. The Viking Press. New York. 1979.
  9. Man Eaters of India. Jim Corbett. Oxford University Press. 1957
  10. Tiger Haven. Arjan Singh. Harper & Row, Publishers. New York. 1973.
  11. One Man and a Thousand Tigers. Colonel Kesri Singh. Dodd, Mead & Company. New York. 1959.
  12. The Tiger: Its Life in the Wild. George B Schaller, Millicent E Selsam. Harper & Row, Publishers. New York. 1969.
  13. Serengeti: A Kingdom of Predators. George B Schaller.  New York. 1972.
  14. The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives. Alan Turner. Columbis University Press. New York. 1997.
  15. Frontiers of Fear: Tigers and People in The Malay World, 1600-1950. Peter Boomgaard. Yale University Press. New Haven & London. 2001.
  16. The World of the Tiger. Richard Perry. Atheneum. New York. 1965.
  17. Wild Cats of the World. C A W Guggisberg. Taplinger Publishing Company. New York. 1975.
  18. The Way of the Tiger. K Ullas Karanth. Voyageur Press. 2001.
  19. Animal Facts and Feats: A Guinness Record of the Animal Kingdom. Gerald L Wood. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, 1977 (& 1972).
  20. Wild Animals in and out of the Zoo. William M. Mann, Director, National Zoological Park. Vol. 6 of the Smithsonian Scientific Series. 1930.
  21. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Mammals. Dr Vladimir Hanak, Dr Vratislav Mazak, Edited by Susan Lowry. Artica. Prague. 1979.
  22. The Lions of Tsavo: Exploring the Legacy of Africa’s Notorious Man-Eaters. Bruce D Patteson. McGraw-Hill. 2004.
  23. Tiger: Portrait of a Predator. Valmik Thapar. Facts on File Publications. New York. 1986.
  24. The Art of Being a Lion. Christine and Michel Denis-Huot. Friedman/Fairfax. 2002.
  25. Lions: King of Beasts. Lee Server. New Line Books.
  26. Tiger Moon. Fiona Sunquist, Mel Sunquist. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 1988.
  27. The Big Cage. Clyde Beatty, Edward Anthony. The Century Co. New York 1933.
  28. Wild Cats of the World. Mel Sunquist, Fiona Sunquist. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 2002.
  29. 1759: The Year Britain Became the Master of the World. Frank McLynn. Atlantic Monthly Press. New York. 2004.
  30. Animal Life and Lore. Osmond P Breland. Harper & Rowe, Publishers. New York. 1963.
  31. Tiger: The Story of the Indian Tiger. Kailash Sankhala.
  32. Golden Shadows, Flying Hooves. George B Schaller.
  33. The Tiger: Power and Fragility; Predator-Prey Relationships among the Large Mammals of Nagarhole National Park (India). Karanth, K.U. 1993a. Ph.D. Thesis, Mangalore Univ., Mangalore.
  34. Wonders of Lions. George & Kay Schaller. Dodd, Mead & Company. New York. 1977.
  35. Count Belisarius. Robert Graves. Cassell. 1938.
  36. The Amazing Planet. Roy Chapman Andrews. 1940.
  37. Big Game Shooting. Clive Phillipps-Wolley. 1894.
  38. Lions ‘n’ Tigers ‘n’ Everything. Courtney Ryley Cooper. 1924.
  39. The Asiatic Journal and Monthly Miscellany. 1823.
  40. An Outspoken Soldier, His Views and Memoirs. Giffard Le Quesne Martel. 1949.
  41. Impulse Archeology. Edited By Eldon Garnet. Volume 4 Number 2, Spring 1975.
  42. Circus Parade. Jim Tully. 1927 (2005).
  43. Curiosities of Natural History. 1865
  44. There are a lot of books mentioned about this topic in this forum. The books range from textbooks for young kids to scientific journal papers.
  45. Tiger is a Gentleman – Leaves from Wildlife. Vivek R Sinha. 1999
  46. Mammalia of Somali Land. Journal of Bombay Natural History. 1891.
  47. British Mammals: An Attempt to Describe and Illustrate the Mammalian Fauna. Harry Hamilton Johnston. 1903.
  48. Tigers in Red Weather. Ruth Padel. Walker and Company. New York. 2006.
  49. The Journal of Science (Vol I of New Series). Harvard University. 1871.
  50. The Great Bear Almanac. Gary Brown. Lyons and Burford, Publishers. 1993.
  51. Canine tooth strength and killing behaviour in large carnivores. Van Valkenburgh and C. B. Ruff. Journal of Zoology, London. 1987, Vol 212.
  52. Bring ‘em back alive. Frank Buck with Edward Anthony. Garden City Publishing Company, Inc., Garden City, New York. 1930.
  53. Big Cats: Kingdom of Might. Tom Brakefield. Voyageur Press. 1993.
  54. Lions, Tigers, and Me. Roman Proske. Henry Holt and Company, New York. 1956.
  55. Hold That Tiger. Mabel Stark with Gertrude Orr. The Caxton Printers, Ltd. Caldwell, Idaho. 1938
  56. The Greatest Circus Stories Ever Told: Amazing Stories of Life Under the Big Top. Published by Globe Pequot, 2005
  57. Popular Science. July 1937. Vol 131 No 1. Bonnier Corporation
  58. Sagas from the Far East: Or, Kalmouk and Mongolian Traditionary Tales. Rachel Harriette Busk, Ardschi Bordschi. Griffith and Farran, 1873
  59. A History of Sanskrit Literature. Arthur Anthony Macdonell. D. Appleton and company, 1900
  60. Animal Facts and Fallacies: With Decorations. Osmond Philip Breland. Harper 1948
  61. Biographical Sketches and Authentic Anecdotes of Quadrupeds. Thomas Brown. A. Fullarton & Co.; and Blackie & Son; William Tait, Edinburgh; W. Curry, Jun. & Co. Dublin; and Simpkin & Marshall, London, 1831
  62. California Grizzly. Tracy Irwin Storer, Lloyd Pacheco Tevis. University of California Press, 1996
  63. Monthly chronicle of north-country lore and legend. W. Scott, 1888
  64. The Large and Small Game of Bengal and the North-western Provinces of India. John Henry Baldwin. Henry S. King & Co., 1877
  65. The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art. John Holmes Agnew, Harry Houdini Collection (Library of Congress)
  66. The Evening Independent, Dec 12, 1932
  68. The Mirror of literature, amusement, and instruction. Reuben Percy, John Timbs
  69. Sir Thomas Lawrence’s Letter-bag. Thomas Lawrence, George Somes Layard, Elizabeth Croft. G. Allen, 1906
  70. On the road with a circus. William Carter Thompson. 1905
  71. The Windsor Magazine. 1896
  72. Chicago Daily Tribune. April 22, 1882
  73. Tiger! The Story of the Indian Tiger. Kailash Shankhala.
  74. Wild Animals in Central India. A A Dunber Brander. Edward Arnold & Co. London. 1923
  75. Principles of Animal Mechanics. Rev Samuel Haughton FRS. Longmans, Green & Company. London. 1873
  76. NATURE Vol XII. May 1875 to October 1875.


4.2      MOVIES

  1. Ring of Fear (1954). One must watch this movie in order to get a real picture of how Clyde Beatty used to perform inside the big cage with lions and tigers. There are no lion-tiger fight sequences, though. Other than Beatty’s act, the movie, as such, has little more to offer. It is more of an advertisement for Clyde Beatty Circus than a movie.
  2. Jungle Jim (1936). It has one tiger-lion fight. It is hard to find out how many lions and tigers might have been used, or anything about their age, size or anything that can be compared (both/all the lions/tigers looked small. The only thing noticeable was the thick mane of the lion). Per the common notion, the tigers in the movie are all villains and trying to kill people (only the ‘good’ people were attacked by tigers in the movie) while the lions somehow attack the ‘bad’ people only. So, it is quite obvious that at least in one sequence the lion has to defeat the tiger. Accordingly, the heroine gets trapped in a cave with a tiger approaching her. She calls a lion and the lion readily appears and fights off the tiger. I guess the selection of specimens was done carefully so as to not ruin the story-line. No single shot of the fight lasted for more than 2-3 sec so that the lion could always be seen having an upper hand and the tiger domination could be edited out. This fight clip, often titled “Lion chases a tiger off in a real fight” has been widely circulated on the internet!
    One “tiger drops dead” scene in this movie has been shown four different times when a tiger is killed in the movie!
  3. Africa Screams (1949). It has a few scenes of Beatty with his lions. A noticeable thing is the height of the lions at shoulders. Even though the lions were big ones, they were hardly above half of Beatty’s height. Beatty was 5’6”!

4.3      WEBSITES

  1. National Geographic
  2. Tiger Canyons
  3. Encyclopedia Britannica
  4. BBC: Nature
  5. The Lion Research Center
  6. Darwin Books Online
  7. Bite Club: Comparative Bite Force (Also here)
  8. Tiger on AnimalInfo
  9. BigCats
  10. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group
  11. The Tiger and the Thistle
  12. Panthera Tigris by Vratislav Mazak
  13. Tiger vs Lion Historical Encounters (The site as such may not be ‘authentic’ but the information provided there are readily verifiable. An excellent compilation of facts!)
  14. Tiger Info-Book at SeaWorld

[All the links provided here up to this point, are verified to be valid as of June 13, 2008]


Here are some links to some websites that have something relevant to this topic.

5.1      Lairweb

+ This is most probably the first structured website that dealt with the lion vs. tiger topic.
+ The site didn’t try to put a lot of images or movie clips copied from other websites.
— It has put too much stress on the face-value of an odd comment or freak data rather than on analyzing the source.
— There are several wrong data/information. For example, it got even the basic anatomy of the cats wrong (“tigers’ strength is in the hindquarters”!! Sunquists mention, “but the hindquarters are not as well muscled and look almost puny compared with the forelimbs”, Page 346 of Ref. 28 ).
— Most importantly, it has presented data about ‘historical’ fights selectively, or the author wasn’t aware of a lot of the documented fights. Moreover, when mentioning lion ‘victories’, definitive terms have been used, while tiger ‘victories’ are mentioned with guess-words like ‘apparently’, “it’s claimed that” etc. That’s not an unbiased approach in any way!
— It claims a lion victory that has apparently been filmed, “the film was taken during an expedition to capture some tigers in the Gir region of India.” And it has been mentioned elsewhere in the site that, “(lions live in) the Gir Forest. There are no tigers here and probably none within 160 kilometres ….. that the opportunity for a lion and tiger to meet in the wild is practically non-existent.” This is just one of the many contradictions present in this website.
— It has mentioned very few sources of information.
— Going by the images on the website, the elaborate explanations for every defeat of a lion and lack of explanation for apparent defeats of tigers, and selective (often wrong) information, this site is not far from being just biased.

5.2      Animal Face-Off/ Discovery Channel

+ Discovery has identified a good topic for a popular program and did a fair, though seemingly hasty, job.
+ The idea of simulation is a novel and interesting one.
— The analysis stressed on the animals’ hunting techniques (for small to medium prey) rather than on fighting techniques.
— Simulation obviously has an insane amount of limitations. It is also debatable how good a simulation it actually was, what kind of data have been analyzed etc. The prototypes, the ‘measurements’ and ‘discoveries’, the analyses and the actual simulation – were all theatrical and surprisingly superficial. The very idea of such a simulation, even though novel, was never going to be better than a childish SciFi movie both in its presentation and in its contents.
— Discovery could do better by hiring more experts including someone who is a league above Dave Salmoni and Sam, as their expert. Someone like Craig Packer may be. Even though Salmoni has worked with tigers and lions, he never sounded like an authority when talking on the whole tiger vs. lion thing and the other ‘expert’, Sam, had little more than nothing to offer. Not surprisingly, the entire program, even though laudable for being first of its kind, seemed plain juvenile.
— The ‘simulations’ look funny at best. Most of them follow the trend of cheap Hollywood movies of yesteryears – the villain (here, the one who loses finally) keeps nagging the hero (the winner here) for some time and then the hero finishes off the battle suddenly (weirdly). For the Lion-Tiger episode, though, the lion makes the first attack. Most of the ‘results’ are ridiculous, to say the least.
— Such simulations do not have any value beyond the director’s predetermined results and hype-revenues.
— The program has talked about certain aspects of the animals, but omitted a lot of important things. They never talked about actual fights that have happened before. They never talked about the tiger’s far superior agility or its ability to make swipes with both the front paws on more occasions and for more sustained time than a lion can do, etc. One may also wonder about the accuracy of the data presented in the program, like a tiger weighing 570 lb and a lion weighing 530 lb – were they really talking about average weights in the wild?
— From the very outlook of the program, which is a mixture of reality-shows (the mock verbal fight between the ‘experts’) and super-hero cartoons, to the over-simplistic and often populist approach, meant that the program certainly failed to add value to either the viewers or the reputation of Discovery Channel. The program just had way too many drawbacks to be discussed here fully.

5.3      More Opinions and Documented Fights

[The following comments have come from ‘Prime’. I will review these and modify the article as necessary. Some others have discussed these with ‘Prime’ in the comments section. I will take their views, too, into consideration.]

1.  One account of a tiger ‘defeating’ a lion has apparently been repeated multiple times in

37. Big Game Shooting. Clive Phillipps-Wolley. 1894.
43. Curiosities of Natural History. 1865
63. Monthly chronicle of north-country lore and legend. W. Scott, 1888
64. The Large and Small Game of Bengal and the North-western Provinces of India. John Henry Baldwin. Henry S. King & Co., 1877
65. The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art. John Holmes Agnew, Harry Houdini Collection (Library of Congress)
72.Chicago Daily Tribune. April 22, 1882

2.  Another account apparently repeated three times here in

28.Wild Cats of the World. Mel Sunquist, Fiona Sunquist. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago. 2002.
35.Count Belisarius. Robert Graves. Cassell. 1938.
75.Principles of Animal Mechanics. Rev Samuel Haughton FRS. Longmans, Green & Company. London. 1873.

3.  Mabel Stark apparently did not have tigers as heavy as has been claimed. [I have re-verified the4 accuracy of the data. However, I do not have any control over the data and if there are false data from reputed sources, it is hard to find that out]

Alfred Court, the celebrated animal trainer, mentioned, “Tigers are my weakness. Despite my satisfaction in our eleven lion, …… This set me free to return to my seven tigers, who were, and always would be, my consuming passion. I have trained many cats since then, but it is that princely pleiad that I remember most affectionately today.” In the same chapter he said, “….. the trick is less risky with a lion, for tigers in general are more intelligent.” (Ref. 1).
Alfred court mentions nothing of anything that makes you think he favors a tiger over a lion in a fight, he mentions no leverages, what does intelligents in performing tricks suppose to cater in a fight with a lion? This should be dis-reguarded for it is only a stand point of who he admires more not who he favors in a fight…its like a whos your favorite animal poll, not to mention alfred court stated one of his lions was the God of war and that he gave away one of his lions (Caeser) because he started many fights with his tigers….meaning lions are more agressive
[This is not my opinion, but Court’s. I did neither think nor write that Court ‘favored’ the tigers.]

Charles Wilkins’ book has it that, “Every weapon it’s got has to be deadly efficient. Each of its retractable claws, for example, is independently articulated, so that, having grabbed its prey, it can drag it in, as if on a conveyor belt, without having to release its grip. ‘A lion can’t do that, because its claws aren’t fully retractable and because they all work together. If it grabs you through the cage bars and wants to pull you in, it has to release its grip every time it moves farther along your arm or leg, so you have a chance to escape. If a tiger gets even a thread of your clothing, it can have your arm or leg through the slot in a instant.” (Page 9, Ref. 2).
What would that do against a lion who is even stronger in the front quarters, try and hold some one in a standing position who is stronger than you, it will do nothing but pleet your own energy.
[Tigers have stronger forequarters. This has been discussed in the post.]

“The late Alex Kerr (1957), the famous wild-cat trainer of Bertram Mills Circus, was another tiger-supporter” (Page 77, Ref. 19) and said that the tiger is the stronger between the two.  [INDRAJIT.WORDPRESS.COM]
Lions are stronger in the front quarters while tigers are stronger in the back limbs, this isint a running or jumping contest, so show the proof that he is talking about them fighting or take it down.
[Tigers have stronger forequarters. This has been discussed in the post.]

Where both animals existed in the same tract the more powerful animal, viz., the tiger, would debar the lion from frequenting forest tracts, and this no doubt was an important contributory cause to the disappearance of the lion from Central India.
No base, to his statement, lions would win out almost every fight in the wild because they are aided by the pride, asiatic lions record pride of group members was a pride that consist of 32 lions, a tiger would commit suicide if he ventured near a lions pride of average-ing 8-12 lions, not to mention one lion has the only record of winning an ocaison in the wild, so a asiatic lion is just as willing and game as a bengal, let alone it would be almost impossible for a tiger to take on multiple lions in the wild and drive them away… when you know that poaching and exssive hunting was the cause of lions declining faster than tigers in asia, simply because they live in the open, while tigers remain hidden…a hunter can rid a group of lions in one crack because they live in prides…be realistic.
[First, Asiatic lions form smaller prides. Second, this is not my opinion.]

Rev Haughton, a zoologist, was  of the opinion that tigers are far superior to lions in strength and will kill the lions in fights (Page 392 Ref 75 and Page 495 Ref 76)
Ahh, the person who thinks that tigers are longer than lions by 10 feet, and has ridculous claims of strength and who even quotes martial and edmonds mengeries accident (possiblely novel) that guy? If you insist in using  statements of 18 foot tigers, than whats stoping people from saying lions can kill 10,000 tigers in one fight? Its bull shit and should be taken off asap, if you don’t… then we’ll all know you rely on anything that favors the tiger even fiction.
[Again, this is not my opinion.]

Roman Proske had trained both lions and tigers but had always been more fascinated by the tigers. On a similar note to that of Mabel Stark, he mentions about tigers, “they were, and they remain, to me the most inscrutable, the most dangerous, the most beautiful and the most fascinating of all wild animals (Page 173, Ref. 54). …….. Here is nature’s perfect creation for death and destruction. The lion, in comparison, is a great bluffer” (Page 174, Ref. 54).
What is this, more people who just are stating they like tigers? Is this some type of poll where who ever likes a tiger…will mean that a tiger will win in a fight with a lion…lol and that statement would show you are cherry picking, Roman proske stated that when female lions or tigresses go into estrus, not even the tiger is as agressive and dangerous as the male lion.
[This is an opinion from an expert. Nowhere has it been used to mean that a tiger would ‘defeat’ a lion]

4. (A list of lion ‘victories’ has been mentioned. All of the relevant accounts from that list has been mentioned in this post already)

5. Apparently, quotes from fictional works have been used. I will review and remove them if necessary.

[The following are taken from http://www.freewebs.com/jackjacksonj/index.htm. I have not reviewed these yet]

  1. Impulse Archaeology by Eldon Garnet – Social Science – 2005 Page 257
    “Fights between lions and tigers have been staged. The tiger always wins”
  2. The Man-Eaters of Eden: Life and Death in Kruger National Park by Robert Frump – Nature – 2006 – 216 pages. Page 91
    “Put them together, who wins the fight?” “There is no doubt that in one-on-one combat,” says the African game ranger, “the lion would lose. The Bengal tiger on average weighs about five hundred ……”
  3. Our Animal Friends and Foes by William Atherton Du Puy, Edward William Nelson – Science – 2004 Page 23
    “So is the lion of Africa, wrongly styled the king of beasts because another cat, the tiger, is bigger, fifty pounds heavier, and has mastered the lion on many occasions, notably in the days when such creatures were matched in battle in the Roman arenas.”
  4. The Windsor Magazine – Page 20. 1896 Vol 3
    “most naturalists are agreed that the average lion is no match for the average tiger, being not only generally smaller but much slower and more clumsy in his movements”
  5. The Journal of Science, and Annals of Astronomy, Biology, Geology … – Page 399
    by James Samuelson, William Crookes – Science – 1871
    The lecturer added that he was sorry to upset the superstitions of childhood, but the tiger is a much more powerful animal than the lion, and will always beat the latter. The lion had a great mane and looked big”
  6. The Encyclopedia Americana: A Library of Universal Knowledge, Page 622
    TIGER, the largest and most admirable of the cats (Felis Tigris). In size and power it surpasses the lion, as it does in beauty, and expresses the highest type of feline structure
  7. Reference: Martial De Spectaculis 21 (NOT VERIFIED YET)
    While the trainers of the rhinoceros may have trembled in fear at the fate that awaited them if their animal failed to perform, and another trainer was savaged by his lion,[24] some were more successful. One trainer was noted for his tigress which, though tame enough to lick his hand, had torn a lion to pieces, “a novelty unknown in any times”
  8. The captivity, sufferings, and escape of James Scurry, By James Scurry, William Whiteway. 1824. Page: 130
    “In England we have generally been taught to consider the lion as the king of the forest; but to convince me of this, would be a difficult task, as I have frequently been an eye-witness of the strength, fierceness, and agility of the tiger; to which the lion, in these qualities, is much inferior.”
    “The stoutest elephant always appeared to me to be very uneasy at the sight of a tiger” Page 139
  9. Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, Exhibiting a View of the Progressive Discoveries and Improvements in the Sciences and the Arts – Page 57:
    In these games a woman fought with a lion. An elephant, after having trampled to death a bull, went and knelt to the emperor; a royal tiger killed a lion; and wild cattle dragged chariots.
  10. Kesri Singh, Oct. 26, 1955, “Experiments in implanting African lions into Madhya Bharat”—Journal, Bombay Natural History Society, Vol. 53. Page – 466
    “I had a few opportunities to arrange duels between the lion and the tiger in a small arena specially prepared for the purpose. In three such experiements on three different occasions I found the same result. It is the lion that always makes the first attack and it is he who gets the worst of it. One or two smacks from the tiger are enough to make the lion retire”
  11. Count Belisarius – Page 51. by Robert Graves -1938 [NOT VERIFIED YET]
    “Occasional fights were also staged between lion and tiger (the tiger always won) or wolves and bull (the wolves always won, if in health, by attacking the …”
    “Lions and tigers have often been put together to fight but the lion has invariably declined the combat They have accidentally got into each other’s cages and the tiger has killed the lion As regards their comparative courage in the presence of man all the evidence is in favor of the tiger”
    “Lastly there were put forth together the two young lusty lions which were bred in the yard and were now grown great These at first began to march proudly towards the bear which the bear perceiving came hastily out of a corner to meet them but both lion and lioness skipped up and down and fearfully fled from the bear and so these like the former lions not willing to endure any fight sought the next way into their den”
  13. The Eclectic Magazine – Page 547. by John Holmes Agnew, Walter Hilliard Bidwell – 1844 [NOT VERIFIED YET]
    “Feats of strength are authenticated of the tiger to which the lion can, on evidence, lay no claim ; and of the courage before man, the evidence is all on…”
  14. The Rudiments of Wisdom Encyclopedia by Tim Hunkin “In fights between a tiger and a lion in the wild, the tiger is usually the winner.” [NOT YET VERIFIED]
    by John Hampden Porter – Animal behavior – 1894 – Page 239
    “and in a personal contest the would generally have the advantage over a lion have often been pitted against each other and the general result is well known to be as stated. Gunga who belonged to the King of Oude killed thirty lions and destroyed another after being transferred to the zoological garden in London”
  16. Pets and playfellows; or, Stories about cats and dogs – Page 162. by Elizabeth Surr – 1885
    “In fair fight the royal tiger would be certain to come off conqueror, for he is even bolder and stronger than a lion”
  17. The Medical Times and Gazette: A Journal of Medical Science, Literature … Medical – 1850. Page 626 [NOT YET VERIFIED]
    “But the Roman emperor was determined to try whether the Bengal tiger could fight the African lion, and Martial records that the tigers and lions fought, and that the tigers always beat the lions.”
  18. Natural history sketches among the carnivora: wild and domesticated – Page 21. by Arthur Nicols – 1885
    “Many of the foregoing facts leave no doubt of the greater ferocity and courage of the tiger as compared with the lion There can be equally little question of his greater strength which has been shown by Houghton to be only 69 9 per cent for the fore limb and 65 9 per cent for the hind limb in the lion of the total in the corresponding limb in the tiger The same authority states that five men can easily hold down a lion whereas nine are required to control a tiger To this may be added the testimony of Martial from actual observation of the contests in the arenas where the tigers always killed their antagonists the lions”
  19. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society – Page 393. by Bombay Natural History Society – Natural history – 1949
    “Even a full-grown lion has been known to be no match for a full-grown tiger, the lioness therefore had even less chance, and the poor creature lost her life”
  20. Tales of travelers; or, A view of the world – Page 453. by Tales of travelers – 1838
    “The tiger in the East Indies is more powerful than any met with in other parts of the world. It is the undisputed master of the Indian forest. Indeed the royal tiger of Bengal is more than a match for the Asiatic lion. A British officer, who resided many years at Sierra Leone, was repeatedly a spectator of combats between the lion and the tiger, in which the latter was universally victorious.”
  21. The marvels of nature in earth, in sky, and sea – Page 300 by Marvels – 1880
    “It would appear from the most correct accounts that the Lion is hardly a match for this formidable creature. The Tiger is as beautiful as dreadful”
  22. The Medical Times and Gazette: A Journal of Medical Science, Literature …
    Medical – 1850. Page 626
    “The tiger, if in good condition, invariably kills the lion when compelled to fight.”
  23. Curiosities of natural history – Page 234. by Francis Trevelyan Buckland – 1866
    “The tiger immediately attacked the Lion, catching him by the throat, and in a few minuteskilled him. This same tiger is, I believe, still being exhibited in Edmonds’s menagerie.”
  24. The Year-book of Facts in Science and Art – Page 284. by John Timbs, Charles W. Vincent, James Mason – Science – 1872
    He stated that when the Bengal tiger and African lion fought … the Roman amphitheatres, the tiger killed the lion
  25. Natural history sketches among the carnivora: wild and domesticated – Page 21. by Arthur Nicols – 1885
    “Many of the foregoing facts leave no doubt of the greater ferocity and courage of the tiger as compared with the lion. can be equally little question of his greater strength, which has been shown by Houghton to be only 69′9 per cent, for the fore limb, and 65′9 per cent, for the hind limb in the lion”
  26. Economic Zoology: An Introductory Text-book in Zoology, with Special … by Herbert Osborn – Zoology – 1908. Page 457
    “The lion, while usually termed the king of beasts, is inferior to the Bengal tiger in strength and endurance, and the title properly belongs to that species”
  27. The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Commercial … – Page 493 1873
    “It is moreover unlikely that an Indian lion could contend wilh the tiger as it is much inferior in size and strength.”
  28. The Illustrated Natural History – Page 162. by John George Wood – Natural history – 1865
    “The same Tiger is also celebrated for his battle with a lion, resulting in the death of the latter. The two creatures had been put into one large cage, or box, which was divided by a partition in the centre, so as to separate the two animals. While the attendants were” at their breakfast, the Tiger battered down the too frail barrier, and leaping into the lion’s chamber, entered into fierce combat. Not even the keepers dared interfere to stop the battle, which raged until it was terminated by the slaughter of the lion. The poor beast never had a chance from the beginning, for it was weakened by three years’ captivity, and had lost the swift activity of its wild nature. Its heavy mane defended its head and neck so well, that the Tiger could not inflict any severe injury on those portions, and the fatal lwounds, under which it sank, were all upon the flanks and abdomen,which were torn open by the Tiger’s claws.”
  29. The Dublin university magazine – Page 409. by University magazine, Dublin city, univ – 1877
    “He mentions a case in which a tiger in a menagerie burst through the partition of his den into a lion’s, and in a few minutes killed him.”
  30. Administration of Public Education – Page 360. by Stephen J. Knezevich – Education – 1975 – 620 pages
    “The answer is that there would be one dead lion. The tiger is much quicker, much more powerful than the lion. But what would happen if ten lions were put in…”
  31. Animal Facts and Feats, A Guinness Record of the Animal Kingdom by Gerald L. Wood, 1972. Page – 78
    “Alfred Court, another famous wild-animal trainer, had three enormous Siberian tigers at one time but he was afraid to put them in a mixed group with lions and other animals for fear there would be a massacre. Instead, he used them in a tiger act with four Bengal tigers, but even then he said he was always terrified they would attack their smaller relatives.”
  32. Boston Daily Globe – Jul 19, 1909. TIGER WHIPS LION
    Two Fight in Ring at a Coney Island Show. Spectators on Verge of Panic and Several Women Faint.
  33. The Sheboygan Press (Newspaper) – November 3, 1943.
    “Q. Can .1 tiger beat a lion in a fight?
    A. The tiger is a better fighter than a lion and Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews has stated that there is only one instance on record where a lion beat a tiger This occuired.”
  34. Daily Times News (Newspaper) – February 27, 1974. Tiger’s Top Lion’s
    “That the typical tiger is a fiercer fighter than the typical lion is common knowledge. Less widely known is what gives that tiger the advantage. Simple thing. The lion stands on three paws to maul with the fourth. But the tiger balances itself on its hind legs to maul with both front paws simultaneously. Moment by moment, the fighting paws on the tiger’s side generally out-number the fighting paws on the lion’s side by two to one.”
  35. The Newark Advocate – September 13, 1928, When a tiger and a lion fight each other, which wins? J. McC. A. Authorities differ as to the fighting qualities of a tiger and a lion. However, records show that in more instances, when the two animals fight, the tiger is the victor,

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Filed under: Animal Fight,Big Cats,Clyde Beatty,Fight,India,Interspecies Conflict,Lion Tiger Anatomy Comparison,Lion Tiger Bite Force Comparison,Lion Tiger Comparison,Lion Tiger Size Comparison,Lion Tiger Strength Comparison,Lion vs Tiger,The Big Cage,Tiger vs Lion,Tiger vs Lion Documented Fights,Tiger vs Lion Roman Arena Fights,lion,tiger — Tags: Bagh, Лев, Лев Tiger Сравнение, лев Tiger борьбы, faitoraiontaigā hikaku, Harimau, Harimau Singa Fight, Harimau vs Singa, holang-i, laban sa Lion Tiger, laion dae taigeo, Löwe, Löwe Tiger Vergleich, Löwen Fight Tiger, lǎohǔ, Leão, León, león Lucha Tigre, León vs Tigre, Leone, Leone contro tigre, leone tigre Lotta, Lion, Lion contre Tigre, Lion Tiger confronto, Lion Tiger Fight, Lion Tiger Paghahambing, Lion Tigre comparaison, Lion Tigre lutte, Lion vs Tiger, тигр, raion tai tora, Raion wa, raiontaigā wa, saja, saja taigeo, Shīzi, shīzi lǎohǔ bǐjiào, shīzi lǎohǔ pūmiè, shīzi yǔ lǎohǔ, Singa, Singa vs Harimau, Singha, taigeo bigyo ssawo laion, Tiger, Tiger vs Lion, tigre, Tigre Comparación León, tora, אריה, אריה טייגר השוואה, אריה טייגר להילחם, האריה לעומת טייגר, נמר, الأسد ، النمر ، النمر مكافحة الأسد ، الأسد مقارنة النمر والأسد مقابل النمر

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