Tuesday, February 17, 2009
I'm busy today, workin', workin', workin'. But last night I did bookmark this most excellent tiger picture for future use!
Chat away to your heart's content.
Tigers are magnificent animals. I worked at the Bronz Zoo in my youth, which had tigers, polar bears, Kodiak bears and lions. I actually thought about which would win in a steel cage death match. Lions are over-rated ... they're comparatively slow , and the males are incredibly lazy. I have a soft spot for polar bears, my college mascot ... but Kodiak bears are huge, and can be surprisingly quick. I thought tigers would be the best, pound for pound, but that the Kodiaks had too much size on them.
The circus act of lion tamer Clyde Beatty (1903-1965) featured up to 40 tigers and African lions. According to Beatty, the male lions usually came out on top in fights against tigers of both sexes.
I had this silly thought years ago -- before there was google -- and when I thought it was academic. I just did a quick search.
Koreans were into staging pit fights between their hometown Siberian tigers and lions. When the Lions kept beating the Tigers, the Koreans tried Bengal tigers instead ... and found that the Bengals would usually beat the Lions.
Gold Rush Californians put ordinary grizzlies ... not Kodiaks ... into pits with bulls. It was no contest, as the grizzlies had a hell of a right hand ... so the Bears beat the Bulls. The Californians wanted action, and so:
"Eventually, and at considerable cost, African lions were brought in to raise the stakes. The most fierce of the adult males was sent in whilst the grizzly was already waiting in the pits. The lion was known for bravely charging straight in and looked good for the money, but the grizzly killed a male lion almost as easily as he'd killed the bull."
... Bears beat Lions.
Compared to polar bears, who have a swimmer's build .... grizzlies are heavy built -- think Mike Tyson -- and have much longer claws.
Kodiaks are grizzlies on steroids. When they stand, they're a squat ten feet tall. They can sprint 30 mph, and can knock down trees.
But of the lot, nothing up close is more impressive to see than a tiger. The Bronx Zoo has a big collection of Siberians, many of which you can now see close.
If you ever have a chance to go to the Bronx Zoo you should. Before it became a zoo .. at a time when the Bronx was all farms ... it was an effort by a bunch of rich New Yorkers to save the buffalo from extinction. As I've heard the story, there were more buffalo in the Bronx at one point than there were out West. As I tell the story, every buffalo out West has a Bronx grandmother.
If you leave the Bronx Zoo on its west side (Southern Boulevard), and walk a couple of blocks west you'll be in the Italian neighborhood of Arthur Avenue - Belmont Avenue -- Dion and the Belmonts. It has many great local restaurants.
Please provide more details or a link to the Korean story, Link.
The Korean claim surprises me. For one thing, Amur tigers (aka Siberian tigers) typically are larger than Bengal tigers.
Another thing: When did the Korean fights take place? Were they using African lions or Asiatic lions? (There are still a few hundred Asiatic lions in the Gir Forest of India.) Asiatic lions are smaller than African lions.
In the end, anything is possible. There are stories of wolverines intimidating bears.
And, as the National Zoo notes, "Tigers are lions' closest relatives. Without their coats, lion and tiger bodies are so similar that only experts can tell them apart."
Meanwhile, there is no way to know the health or condition of the individual animals in Korea.
P.S. I went to the Bronz Zoo when I was a kid. Later (1970s) I was operations manager at an African wildlife preserve in the U.S. Among the 1,500 wild animals at the preserve were 120 lions and, in a special exhibit, 9 Bengal tigers.
The black bear who played Gentle Ben in the TV series spent a few months at the preserve. He was a lover, not a fighter.
In my quick research I learned that lions and tigers were close enough to breed, so that a liger wasn't just a myth.
I googled "lion tiger fight" and this was near the top:
It could be as wrong as the early internet stories about Sarah Palin.
At a dog park I saw a fight between a Jack Russell and a Newfoundland over a ball. The Jack Russell won.
"Male lions, who are comparatively poor hunters, are bred for fighting-- they fight male lions to take over prides and they fight male lions to defend prides. They are thus much more accustomed to fighting big cats than tigers are and are MUCH more aggressive. That said, the Korean pit fights mostly used Siberian tigers, which, though they are the largest cats of all, are not nearly as aggressive as the bengals. When Bengal tigers were brought in, the fights were much more competetive. "
Same caveat. Anything out of Korea is suspect. The California pit fights stories appear better documented.
DEC, you know your animals.
The Bronx Zoo is improved from the 1970s, when I worked there as a kid. The animals made an impression on me then. Many have a perfection that we humans may never achieve.
My daughter is into animals. At the Bronx Zoo, her favorites are the African Wild Dogs.
Anon @ 9:14 am, you and your daughter may enjoy this post from the archives of my blog:
"Never Park Your Car on a Lion's Tail"
Once went to a large feline preserve in CA. They routinely gave the tigers there a bowling ball to play with and gnaw on and they had one on display. After a week in the cage with a tiger the outer smooth surface was completely scored with deep channels and the ball was cracked clean through. Just kind of put a point on the feeling of pure power you feel when in the proximity of one of these big cats!