View Full Version : Tiger: Hunting Method

Sabyasachi Patra
07-06-2009, 09:35 PM
Tigers are stalk and ambush predators unlike cursory hunters who keep on chasing their prey and wear them down by exhaustion and kill them.

Tiger stalks its prey and follows it with a lightening charge. It jumps on the back of the animal grabs its neck and pulls it backwards. The weight of the tiger falls on the neck of the animal. The animal leans forward due to this weight and falls and since the tiger keeps on pulling the neck back the weight of the tiger as well as the prey now falls on the neck of the prey while it is falling. This results in a clean dislocation of the neck of the prey.

For smaller animals like a cheetal fawn, it is usually a nape bite that suffices.

For killing bigger prey like Gaur, the tiger attacks from behind and severs the tendon of its hind leg there by restricting the movements of the Gaur. It then jumps over the back to complete the neck dislocation.

The image of a tigress and cub feeding on a Sambar kill shows the dislocated neck.

All other big carnivores like leopards, lions, cheetah etc choke their prey to kill them. At times adolescent tigers are also seen killing their prey by choking them like a leopard. It takes time to master this technique.

I have heard lot of experts say that tiger hunts only during early morning and late evenings. However, I have seen tiger trying to hunt at any time of the day whenever the tiger feels hungry and finds a potential prey nearby.

AB Apana
08-06-2009, 05:42 PM
A nice behavioral image here.

This time at Kabini there was speculation on whether tigers hunt in the rain. Can anybody throw light on this?


Sabyasachi Patra
08-06-2009, 06:13 PM
They hunt in all weather. I have seen that they take the advantage of inclement weather ie. rain, thunder storms and dust storms. It helps that the sound of the rain helps in suppressing the occasional rustling of leaves during stalking. Also the prey gets distracted by the rain.


Abhishek Jamalabad
09-06-2009, 08:28 AM
I never knew that tigers dont choke their prey. Thanks for this article

Murugan Anantharaman
09-06-2009, 10:44 AM
Nice explanation sabyasachi....i have also never noticed a tiger choke, rather on the 2-3 occasions i have witnessed its always broken the neck. One more interesting aspect is that when tigers hunt bigger prey like the gaur or occasionally a smaller elephant they attack it from behind just like you mentioned and try to first nail the animal to the ground so that there is no scope for it to run away. However with elephants i am not sure how the tiger then kills.

I have heard that when tigers fight the territorial dominant rivals they hurt them badly or sometimes choke them too and eventually the rival or the dominant one whoever is weaker dies. Not witnessed 2 tigers fighting though just heard.

I have witnessed the remains of a tiger kill just after the monsoon. So it must be hunting all weather. After all they are on top of the food chain in the jungle. Unlike lions tigers do hunt whenever there is a potential prey around.It may not eat it immediately but nevertheless it kills.

But I have heard that the success rate for their hunts are very low. Most of the times the prey gets away. If I am not wrong the success rate of hunting is highest with wild dogs.

Bibhav Behera
09-06-2009, 09:28 PM
One more aspect which i would like to add is that tigers often stalk elephant calves for a long time and lie in wait for them near the herds. Elephant calves being frisky run around a lot. the tigers wait for an opportunity and take a bite at the back of the head and retreat (to avoid being mauled by the herd).. they then wait for it to die and the herd to abandon it...

Sabyasachi Patra
09-06-2009, 10:35 PM
I agree that given a chance the tiger hunts elephant calves. I have seen tigers stalking and if the elephant calf strays too far then immediately the tiger attacks. At times, the tiger is spotted much before. In one of those instances I have seen the tiger growling a lot to frighten the elephant herd and a lot of roaring and trumpeting followed. Normally when they detect a tiger, immediately the mother takes her calf to the middle of the herd. The idea of roaring is to frighten the herd especially the mother into committing mistakes. I have seen the expression on the face of a person who was with me in one of those instances, and can imagine the impact of those roars on the elephants in general and the mother in particular.


Murugan Anantharaman
10-06-2009, 10:55 AM
I had once seen a docu on NGC where in a tiger stalks a rhino with its calf for a long time, taken in Kaziranga. When the tiger saw a lack moment it attacked the calf and it went straight for its neck and by the time the mother came and rescued the calf it was hurt but safe. I am sure there might have been more moments like these.....

Bibhav Behera
14-05-2010, 02:36 PM
When a Tiger or any other predatory cat catches a prey, then it holds the neck from the lower side and when grounded, places its own body on the side opposite to the legs of the prey while still holding onto the neck to avoid kicks from the prey which could break its jaws or other bones in its body.

Had seen this in a lot of documentaries but had never thought the reason for it until I read about it in one of Jim Corbett's books "Jungle Lore".

Saktipada Panigrahi
25-11-2011, 05:51 AM
I agree with the observations made by Shri Sabyasachi.
During my visit to Simlipal T.R in April,1980, I saw interesting pugmarks of a Male tiger on the forest road,the tiger slowly walking on the road for a distance,then retreating into the forest cover in the left only to come out again on the road and re-entering into the cover.We were very slowly moving in the jeep with utmost curiousity that we will find the tiger on the road.What we finally observed was not the tiger but an elephant calf with a broken leg(in a small herd)as the likely target of the tiger.

"S.R.Chowdhury(S.RoyChowdhury who was the Field Director when I visited)of Orissa Forest Dept.related a quite remarkable instance of the tiger's self assurance in making a kill,to which he had been an eye-witness.He was watching a line of elephants slowly going up a forested hill along a narrow ledge,from far away,when a tiger suddenly
leaped on to the ledge from bush cover,made a lightning pass at a young calf, and retreated into cover before the excited adult elephants could intervene;the attack was said to have lasted only a few seconds.The infant collapsed and later died......."-M.Krishnan

I have a feeling that a Male tiger can garner enough courage to attack an elephant calf in a herd.In the Rajaji National Park,a few years back, it was a large Male who attacked the elephant calf in the herd and killed it before the adults could react.SaktiWild

Saktipada Panigrahi
27-11-2011, 10:31 AM
I may like to add one incident documented by Shri H.S. Panwar,(Ex.Director, Project Tiger,Ex.Field Director,Kanha Tiger Reserve):
"In one case,a huge territorial male was observed over the carcass of an only slightly smaller male he had killed in an encounter.The former cannibalized and persisted on the kill for four days, in much the same manner as he might persist over a herbivore kill.The intriguing aspect was that the killing was not made by the conventional method.No canine marks were seen on the neck or nape of the carcass.It appeared that the smaller male had intruded into the territory of the larger male in the belief that the latter was away from the intruded segment of its territory.But the presence of the smaller male was probably advertised to the territorial male by the alarm calls of langur or the deer and this alerted the territorial male and brought him out in search of the intruder.Suddenly confronted with the territoral male, the intruder may have offered submission which the territorial master was not magnanimous enough to accept.He probably therefore took the intruder by surprise by holding his head between in forepaws and twisting the neck with a vicious jerk,snapping the spinal cord."-H.S.Panwar

P.S:When we two visited Kanha for the first time in March,1975, we reached Mandla by bus from Jabalpur.We met him in his office.He said, "You will not get any type of conveyance from here for 2/3 days, it is Holi time here (It was the day next after Doljatra).I am rushing to Kanha, there is a forest fire, are you prepared to come with me?"Did not wait for any driver, he drove the jeep himself.Just dropping us in Kanha FRH, he rushed to the spot where forest fire took place.

Saktipada Panigrahi
27-01-2012, 03:52 PM
Another Method documented by M.Krishnan:

"I saw the freshly killed carcass of an adult gaur cow in Palamau N.P.,killed single-handed by an adult male tiger well known in the area:the tracks showed where the tiger had attacked the cow,in tree forest,and later dragged the kill down a decline to the middle of a stony, open nullah where it has abandoned it,......
The remarkable feature of this kill(which was inspected by several others, besides me) was that there was no claw marks on the gaur's hide,and the only wounds were two sets of deep,punctured wounds,inflicted by canines, on either side of the nape; the throat had not been bitten.(photo)"

The tiger is such a remarkable predator that it will instinctively develop a hunting method for a particular prey.Possibly no Manual/Code could be written in advance.