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A snow tiger, or Panthera tigris, is a Bengal tiger with a white coat instead of the more common orange hue. Snow tigers are not a separate species. Also known as white tigers, snow tigers are not albino. White coloration occurs when each parent provides the necessary recessive gene for white fur, an extremely rare occurrence in nature. A snow tiger’s white coat usually has dark stripes like that of an orange Bengal tiger, although occasionally one is born striped or with stripes so light they are barely noticeable.
Snow tigers reach maturity after two to three years. Male white tigers are larger than females. A male snow tiger can weigh up to 507 pounds (230 kilograms) and be nearly 3 meters long, while the largest females weigh around 375 pounds (170 kilograms) and are around 2.5 meters long. Snow tigers are generally larger than their orange counterparts. This endangered species is almost extinct in the wild.
The snow tiger is native to India and Southeast Asia, but most of them live in zoos as a result of breeding programs to produce white offspring from captive tigers carrying rare, recessive genes. A snow tiger is a carnivore and eats other mammals like wild boar, buffalo, deer and goats in the wild. Newborn tigers drink their mother’s milk but switch to meat when they are several months old. Snow tigers are generally solitary as adults, but the female cares for her cubs until they are able to fend for themselves, around two to three years of age.
White tigers cannot run as far as some other wild cats, but as they hunt at night, they are able to capture their prey using stealth. They prefer habitat with lots of foliage for cover and a constant source of water. The adult snow tiger can eat an average of 18 kilograms of meat a day and will eat even more if there is plenty of food after an especially good hunt.
Some people believe that the term snow tiger sometimes refers to the snow leopard, a close relative of the Bengal tiger. Others believe that the term snow tiger refers to the greater Siberian tiger as it lives in a snowy habitat. The Siberian tiger is orange, however, and so far there are only rumors that white Siberian tigers exist.