THE MANCHURIAN TIGER

BY A. S. LOUKASHKIN

THE FACT that the present year is the Year of the Tiger according to the Twelve Year Animal Cycle of Chinese chronology makes the following paper, read before the Natural History and Geography Club of the Young Men's Christian Association in Harbin on December 15, 1936, of unusual interest. The tiger in the minds of most Occidentals is associated with the jungles of tropical countries, and it may come as a surprise to some of our readers to learn that this great feline is an inhabitant of Manchuria and neighbouring Siberia, where in winter arctic conditions prevail. Not only is this the case, but the fossil remains of tigers have been found on islands off Northern Siberia well within the Arctic Circle, from which it may be inferred that the tiger was originally a northern animal, which, in the course of time, spread southward in Asia into tropical countries. The range of the species Panthera tigris (Linnaeus) extends from the mouth of the Amur River in the east to the Caucasus Mountains in the west, and from Siberia in the north to Java and Bali in the Malayan Archipelago in the south, a number of subspecies having been distinguished throughout this wide area. The tiger is now extinct over extensive areas in its former range on the mainland of Asia.

A. de C. Sowerby

Geographical Distribution: At the present time the habitat of the Manchurian tiger is comparatively small. It includes the wooded mountainous country of Northern Korea, Eastern Manchuria (which lies in Kirin Province) and Southern Ussuriland, whence it ranges over the Sikhota Aling ridge. In Kirin Province the unpopulated regions at the sources of the Sungari River, the La-lin Ho, the Mu-tan Kiang, the Mureng River (or Mu-lin Ho) and the Sui-fen Ho appear to be the area in North Manchuria where the tiger is always to be found to-day.

Settled steppes in the southern and western parts of Kirin Province prevent the tiger from penetrating south as far as Kirin City.

The distribution of the tiger in Manchuria, however, is not confined to these areas, for it may be met with far from the borders of the territory indicated above. It has been secured in the Greater Hingan Mountains in Heilungkiang Province in North-west Manchuria, as well as in the Ilhuri Aling near Sahaliang. In the Amur Province it does not wander far from the left (north) bank of the Amur River.

The whole Ussuriland and the greater part of Primorsk Province of Eastern Siberia are inhabited by this formidable master for the Manchurian wilds, but from the plains round Lake Hanka the tiger disappeared more than twenty years ago as a result of intensive hunting and the introduction of agriculture. It now visits this region only in the course of its winter wanderings.

Outside the above mentioned territory the tiger has also been recorded as occurring in Eastern Transbaikalia. As far as I know, the most recent recorded ease of a tiger being shot in this region was in 1931 in the Argon River district. The village of Ust-Maja on the lower course of the Aldan River in Yakutsk Province (60 25' North Latitude and 134 32' East Longitude from Greenwich) is the most northerly point of the tiger's distribution in North-eastern Asia in recent times. This occurrence took place on November 18, 1905, during the Russian-Japanese War, when, as a result of the fighting, tigers were driven from their usual habitat further south.

As an exception to the rule that the tiger does not frequent the steppe country of Western and North-western Manchuria, it may here be mentioned that in the spring of 1929 one of these animals visited a Chinese village situated on the soda-steppe in the valley of the Nonni River some 40 kilometres south of Tsitsihar Station on the Chinese Eastern Railway.

Regarding the range of the tiger in Korea, it is known that its southern boundary does not quite reach Seoul, while all along the coast of the Japan Sea it is now absolutely extinct, for this region, like the southern part of that country, is more or less thickly populated.

Systematic Notes: From the above description of distribution of the Manchurian tiger it may be seen that the area now occupied by this animal is completely isolated. There is no point of connection with the known ranges of other races of tigers, namely, China, Mongolian, Turkestan, Indian and Malaya.

Such an isolated geographical distribution served Mr. N. A. Baikov (1) as a reason for classifying all three of the Far-eastern subspecies of woolly tigers as belonging to one race. Previous to this authors separated and described three distinct subspecies, namely, the Amur, the Ussuri and

The Manchurian Tiger (Panthera tigris amurensis, Dode).

the Korean tigers. Considering that all three represented only individual colour variations, Baikov discarded all these names as no more than synonyms, selecting the name far-eastern or Manchurian woolly tiger (Felis tigris manschurica) as the correct one. He also gives this animal the name "cave tiger" as inhabiting caves and rocks like the sabre-toothed tiger (Machairodus latidens) of Europe of the Tertiary Epoch.

The same author acknowledges Machairodus as the direct ancestor of the present day Manchurian tiger on the basis of the latter's anatomical peculiarities, its craniological resemblances and its enormous size and weight. In the last named characteristic the Manehurian tiger exceeds all its southern relatives.

Whether or not this statement is correct can not here be discussed, since the question of systematic classification of the Manchurian tiger is outside the scope of the present paper, but it may be noted that in the course of excavations of mammalian bones in Post-Tertiary Strata near Harbin (Khu-hsiang-tung) in 1931, bones and teeth of a fossil tiger were unearthed, proving that already in that period this great feline was an inhabitant of the region now known as Manchuria.

Professor S. I. Ognev (1935) (2) admitted two subspecies of Far-eastern tigers, namely, the brightly eoloured form of Korea, Tigris tigris coriensis Brass, and the lighter coloured woolly tiger, Tigris tigris longipilis Fitzinger, of Manchuria and Eastern Siberia (3).

Tiger Hunting and Some Tiger Habits. In describing the life and habits of the Manchurian tiger, it may be stated here that the conditions under which they were observed were mainly presented in the course of hunting this animal, for which reason it would, perhaps, be best to give an account of the methods employed by professional Russian tiger hunters in Ussuriland. Shooting for sport is almost unknown in this region, and the notes here given apply only to the hunting of the tiger by professionals. These professional hunters usually form groups of four men. They supply themselves with various necessaries, and, in the beginning of winter, just after the first fall of snow, set out for some district where the tiger is to be met with.

Having arrived they pitch camp, and then proceed into the forest in search of fresh tiger tracks. In former times in the taiga, abounding with different kinds of big-game, numerous tiger tracks might be found, but to-day these are very much more scarce. When tracks have been discovered the hunters try to find out whether the tiger has recently killed some quarry in the area, or is still only looking for it.

If the tiger has not made a kill and is still wandering about, two of the hunters begin to follow up its trail, while the other two strike camp and follow the first two at a distance of from two to three kilometres.

It is their duty to transport all camping equipment, and in the evening to put up the tent and prepare a hot meal for themselves and their two companions. When on the move they avoid all fatigue or haste.

After dark the two trackers return to camp for the night. The following day the second pair of hunters takes up the trail of the tiger, while the first pair takes a rest and carries the camping outfit to the next halting place. In such manner the hunters pursue the tiger for weeks on end, allowing it no possibility of staying in any one part of the taiga in order to secure food.

Such an energetic chase puts the tiger out of patience. Its daily marches become shorter and shorter, and at last it takes shelter under some wind-fall, and awaits the attack of its pursuers.

At first, however, the tiger, sensing the pursuit, tries to retire into the wildest parts of the forest. It climbs up mountains into rocky places, where it tries to elude its pursuers by doubling on its tracks and other ruses.

Its favourite trick is to return on its own trail to the nearest fallen tree, then, passing along the latter, to turn aside and set off in a new direction.

Being pursued such a way and having no chance to stop for food, the tiger gradually becomes infuriated. If it meets with any beast on its way, and fails to capture it at once, it does not pursue it, but continues its attempt to out-distance and shake off the hunters.

On one occasion a tiger, having thus been followed up by hunters, came upon a bear's lair. The bear, hesitating to fight with the tiger, set off for the nearest tree, but, just as it reached it, it was overtaken by the tiger. Judging from the tracks on the ground, a furious fight must have taken place between the two great carnivores, for the snow under the tree was ploughed up, besprinkled with blood and covered with bear's hair. But the fight was fruitless for the tiger, for the bear finally freed itself from the latter's claws and made its escape. The tiger continued its way without the much needed meal.

Tiger hunting in Manchuria calls for untiring effort, courage and an infallible knowledge of the taiga on the part of those who would engage in it. The hunter must not fear any difficulties, and he must pursue his quarry day after day, till he attains his end.

Only a violent snowstorm can save the tiger from his pursuers, for then the latter must stay in camp, while the tiger's trail becomes covered with snow, so that further tracking is impossible.

A second method of hunting the tiger in Manchuria is by following it with dogs. For this purpose it is necessary to have a pack of dogs of very considerable strength, well trained in the chase of every kind of big-game animal found in the taiga. The main inconvenience of this method of hunting is the difficulty of compelling dogs to trail only the tiger. Frequently when they come across the fresh tracks of other game they will turn aside to follow them.

The professional hunters do not as a rule possess many good dogs, and, when they go hunting, they usually collect together most of the dogs of their village to form a nondescript pack. After a couple of weeks of hunting, however, even the worst of dogs understands what its master requires from it. Such a dog will attack a wild boar with great ferocity, but from a tiger it shrinks away, turning aside and looking back for the hunter.

The method of training dogs to go after big-game animals is very primitive in Manchuria. It consists of not giving any food to the dogs till they succeed in bringing to bay a wild boar or a bear, which the hunter kills with his rifle. Immediately the game is brought down the dogs are given the animal's entrails, the hunter pitches camp, and hunting is ended for the day. The satiated dogs, having lost their keenness for the time being, will continue the chase very unwillingly.

Not all dogs are equal in hunting, as they differ greatly in quality and character. In every pack there are one or two leaders which the rest follow. If the leader is lost, the pack soon gets out of hand. It cannot follow the quarry, and only after some time does the pack become normal again.

Entering the forest with hunters, the well trained dogs scatter in different directions in search of the trail of their quarry. They do not go far from their master, so that the hunter may keep them in sight. The taking of a straight direction by the pack indicates that the dogs have come upon a fresh trail, whereupon the hunter must follow them immediately; otherwise the dogs, having run a little distance and not seeing the hunter behind them, will leave the trail and begin to look for their master.

If the trail is fresh and the game is not far ahead, the dogs quickly come up with the latter, when they begin to bark furiously, at the same time catching hold of its legs and biting it in the hind quarters. In such a manner they cause it to stop and turn at bay. When the quarry is thus stopped, half of the pack continues to surround it barking, while the other dogs take a rest, keeping to one side. If, however, the quarry tries to break away, the whole pack charges it, some of the dogs actually jumping on the animal's back and forcing it to halt once more. Working only from sound and keeping behind trees out of sight of the quarry, the hunter gets within easy range of the latter and shoots it.

It is very interesting to note that the tiger, although of such great strength that it could easily kill the dogs pursuing it, yet tries to escape from them. There is a possible explanation for this strange behaviour. The native hunters, Orochons and Goldis (Fish-skin Tartars), say that they know of many cases in which packs of "mountain wolves" or wild dogs (Cuon alpinus Pallas) have attacked tigers, and every time the tiger was overcome. Evidently, the hunter's dogs are mistaken by the tiger for wild dogs, and instinct causes it to seek safety in flight.

When a tiger is killed by a hunter the dogs attack the dead body with the utmost ferocity, so that it is difficult to drive them away, even with the use of clubs.

In order to deflect them it is necessary to light a fire. As soon as they smell the smoke they become quiet and lie down round their quarry, allowing nobody to approach it.

When dogs are well trained, the hunter has no necessity to look at the tracks in order to determine what animal his pack is following. This is revealed by variations in the tones of the dogs' barking. They bark at a boar with angry and resonant voices, rather higher in pitch than ordinary barking. At a bear they bark in a rather lazy way,; much as they would if a strange cow entered their yard. At the tiger the dogs also bark with high pitched voices, but their barks are heard only at rather long intervals, while some of the dogs remain silent.

If the snow is deep the hunters must not take their pack with them, because the dogs sink in the snow and the tiger catches and kills them one by one.

At the start of a tiger hunt the dogs go forward somewhat unwillingly, looking back every now and then, but, after a while, they begin to show more enthusiasm, and finally they follow the trail boldly,

A third method of hunting the tiger consists of watching for a tiger over the carcase of some animal, domestic or wild, which it has killed. Put this method of hunting is not as popular as the two foregoing, for there are very few men brave enough to sit in a tree throughout a long winter's night in the severe frost waiting for a tiger. The latter usually comes to its kill in the evening, making the vicinity resound with its loud roars. While there is no danger to the hunter as long as he sits up in the tree, it is dangerous for him to attempt to return home during the night. He thus has to remain in the tree till morning which is very tiresome. On one occasion a hunter killed a tiger just after dark. He did not dare leave his perch to investigate, however, and so was forced to spend the whole night in the tree in a temperature of some 30 degrees below freezing. To keep himself warm he climbed up and down in the tree, as he was thinly clad.

In deep snow the tiger loses the hair on the soles of its feet and also to a certain extent from its abdomen, so that it tries to follow its own tracks as much as possible. In places where it has killed some quarry there will be found a well beaten out path, which can easily bear the weight of a man. The chief trouble in using a path made by a tiger is that the tiger's stride is so much longer than that of a man that it is very tiring to keep placing one's feet in its tracks.

When a tiger has killed off or driven away all the game in a given territory, and deep snow prevents its making long marches in search of wild boars or wapiti, it will repair to the nearest village in the hope of satisfying its hunger with domestic cattle, pigs, horses or dogs. Sometimes it even kills human victims, after which its boldness knows no limit. When darkness comes on, the tiger walks freely along the streets of villages, entering the yards and climbing on to the roofs of sheds and eow-houses, which it robs. The people of the village, frightened by the tiger's visits, sit in their houses and dare not go out of doors until the morning. There have even been eases in which the men, although armed with rifles and able to see the tiger through the window walking in the yard, have hesitated to fire because they feared that the tiger might spring into the room through the window.

Many hunters think that the tiger, when pursued by them, in its turn begins following its pursuer. But Mr. Dsul, the best authority on tiger hunting in Manchuria, says that there is no truth in this statement. Usually the tiger, finding itself pursued, retires further and further into the wilds and never returns the way it has gone. Only in eases when the tiger knows that it is not being hunted does it attack human victims, knocking them down with a stroke of its powerful paw. In attacking a large animal, such as a horse, the tiger jumps upon its back and rides there till its victim falls down. Tree trunks besprinkled with blood to a height of two meters testify to this fact. Not infrequently tigers, driven by long hunger, attack human beings, especially Chinese trappers. The tiger is capable of jumping over a very high obstacle, provided it can get a purchase on its edge with its fore paws.

The strength of the tiger's neck muscles is unusually great. It can easily carry in its mouth a pig of from 120 to 170 kilogrammes in weight, and only in places where there are many trees does it put its quarry on the ground and drag it between the tree trunks, tearing and breaking the surrounding undergrowth.

Tigers cannot climb up vertical trees, but, when pursued by dogs, can easily run along trees which grow at angles of, say, not more than 45 degrees.

An infuriated tiger stands on its hind legs, tearing the bark with its claws and biting off the twigs of trees. Small trees, as thick as a man's arm, are sometimes broken by tigers at a height of about a metre and a half, seemingly without any difficulty.

In hunting the wapiti during the autumn, the tiger imitates the stag's call. However, it continues to roar long after the wapiti's rutting season is over, by which fact it betrays itself.

During the day a hungry tiger chooses a high place from which it can observe a wide stretch of tangy, but a satiated tiger prefers to hide itself, especially on cold days, in the thickest undergrowth, changing its lair from day to day.

It may be noted that a tiger becomes very bold when hungry, losing much of its normal cunning and caution. It does not bother to tangle its trail when being hunted, and, if wounded, it seeks revenge against its enemy even at the price of its own life.


1) N. A. Baikov "The Manchurian Tiger," 1925, Harbin, M. R. S.

2) Professor S. I. Ognev "Mammals of Russia and Adjacent Countries", Moskow, 1935 (in Russian).

3) The well known English mammalogist, Mr. R. I. Pocock, in a learned paper which appeared in The Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society, Volume XXXIII, No. 3, pp. 505-541, May, 1929, has pointed out that Panthera and not Felis or Tigris is the correct generic name for the tiger, and also that the correct name of the tiger inhabiting Manchuria, Korea, the Amur Province. Transbaikalia, Primorskaya or the Maritime Province of Eastern Siberia and the Ussuri is Panthera tigris amurensis Dode, while the name Panthera tigris longipilis (Fitzinger) rightly applies to the tiger of Central Asia (See A. de C. Sowerby, 'The Tiger in China" in The China Journal, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, February 193S, pp. 94-101). we are inclined to agree with Baikov that differences noted by various writers in the tigers found in various parts of what may be called the Manchurian Region are merely individual colour variations, not racial differences. A. de C. S.


Contents first published by Museum of North Manchuria, Manchuria Research Institute, Harbin, Manchuria. The China Journal, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3, March 1938, pp. 127-133.

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