WHITE TIGER BREEDERS - ROBERT BAUDY, JOSIP MARCAN
Historical quotations are credited and are in the public domain. Original text is licensed under the GFDL. I am grateful to Paul McCarthy and Jerry Blackman for researching and providing extensive material, information and corrections on white tigers and for genealogies.
White Tiger Genealogies from Mohan to Modern Day
Circus White Tigers: Susie - Matriarch of a White Tiger Line
Circus White Tigers: Takila/Chequila & Tony - Patriarch of a White Tiger Line; Maharanee/Maharani
Circus White Tigers: Siegfried and Roy's Tigers
Circus White Tigers: Obie and the Mysterious 1975 Litter of Six
Circus White Tigers: The 1984 White Tiger Cubs Theft Case
Current Day - Spread Of White Tigers In Zoos - Too Many To Count
Reintroducing White Tigers Into The Wild?
White Tiger Studbook and Bibliography
“White gene” vs “Inhibitor gene.”
Although these pages refer to “white genes,” white tigers have the genes for normal orange colours, but those genes are switched off by a recessive “inhibitor gene.” When a tiger inherits 2 copies of the inhibitor gene, the normal orange colour is suppressed. In general parlance, it’s simply easier to refer to “white genes.”
The owner of the Rare Feline Breeding Center (a big cat farm that masqueraded as a sanctuary, later becoming “Savage Kingdom”), Robert Baudy (Robert Emile Baudy, from France), claimed his white tigers to be pure Amur stock, however none of them were registered as Amur tigers. Whether he knew it or not, his tigers had inherited the white gene from a Bengal or Bengal-Amur ancestor. Because of Tony, most white tigers in the USA are a mix of Amur and Bengal. Because of international loans and sales, only a few in India are pure Bengal. Baudy only realised his supposedly pure Amur tigers had white genes after one sold to Marwell Zoo, UK developed white spots.
In the Orlando Sentinel, 18th Septmber 1965, Robert Baudy is shown with a 2.5 years old white tiger at Center Hill, Florida. This came from an animal dealer in Thailand and he received it at the beginning of September 1965. Two weeks later it had died of a heart attack following an epileptic seizure. The tiger is not mentioned in his own book, “Notes On Breeding Felidae At The Rare Feline Breeding Center” 1969, or a later biography entitled “Baudy, The Animal Man: The Biography Of Robert Baudy,” 1996. If genuine, this would have been born in 1963. Begum (Mohan's first mate) had a number of probable heterozygote cubs (from matings to "No. 3" and Sultan) in 1958 and 1959 that were lost to follow-up and would have been old enough to breed in 1963. These might have been bred together and might have produced white offspring.
At the suggestion of TH Reed, white tigress Rewati (Mohini x Ramana) went to Baudy’s Savage Kingdom in January 1979 to be bred to a Siberian tiger. Baudy bred Rewati to an unregistered Amur tiger because she would not mate with either of his Bengal tigers, however Rewati did not produce any cubs while with Baudy. Rewati preferred the Amur because both Rewati and the Amur tiger had been hand reared and "spoke the same language".
Baudy had connections with another breeder, Julius von Uhl of the Hawthorn Circus. Von Uhl and Robert Baudy may have been business partners in "The Siberian Tiger Foundation." In June 1979, four tigers were removed from Julius von Uhl’s Fort Bengali, and 5 Fort Bengali lions were handed over to Robert Baudy by the Federal Agency Service. Von Uhl's 4 50% Siberian tigers from Fort Bengali (born 1974) may have gone to Robert Baudy. Later, Baudy had his own legal problems after a tiger killed an employee (the tiger was shot) and "Baron Julius Von Uhl" attended the court sessions. (The Tampa Tribune, 23rd June, 1979 (p19)).
The Tampa Bay Times, 8th July, 1979 described Robert Baudy’s 45 acre facility just east of Bushnell in Sumter County. It was founded in 1961 and until 1977 the public were kept out except for glimpses of exotic animals from the highway. He was quoted as saying “Raising a crop. That’s all I do. Using scientific methods and all my experience in animal breeding. I am raising a crop …. Instead of oranges I grow cats.” He advertised on a hoarding for crippled or dead horses and cows and every morning shots could be heard “Each day I must make a decision on who must live and who must die. It’s a business decision.” He supplied black jaguars (another public draw) to zoos in the USA and Russia. In 1979, the Smithsonian Institute still kept a white tiger at Baudy’s compound; this was the tiger given to President Eisenhower by the Indian government. He also sold wild animals to show business but said this was purely to finance his compound. Others were sold to Universities and as pets.
Baudy apparently realised that his Amur tigers had white genes after one sold to Marwell Zoo developed white spots. The white spots were confirmed by Marwell Zoo. When animals develop white spots later in life it is more likely to be vitiligo. He had one offspring of Kubla and Susie, born 1969, which he sold to a zoo in Paris, France. Baudy sold a pair of white, supposedly pure Amur, tigers, Raisa and Gorby, to the Beauval Zoo in France and some of Raisa and Gorby's offspring went to a Dutch zoo and some to Colchester Zoo, England.
The Orlando Sentinel, 4th August 1985 reported on Baudy’s white “Siberian” cub Boris. Boris was supposedly the first all-white Siberian tiger cub, born at Center Hill in June 1984, and was Baudy's first white tiger. He was “born after generations of cross-breeding” according to Baudy in the report. “The cub is the first of what Baudy hopes will be a continuing breed of white Siberian tigers. Although about 40 valuable white Bengal tigers – a species from India – are known in the world, the Siberian tger has never given birth to a healthy white cub, Baudy said. Boris could be worth $1 million, he said. If Boris is purebred, the cub would be the first white Siberian tiger in captivity, said Ron Macgill, assistant curator of the Miami Metrozoo. The cub likely would be valuable, but Macgill said Baudy’s $1 million estimate seemed high . . . proving the purity of Boris Siberian strain is next to impossible, Macgill said. Baudy, he said, is one of the best exotic cat breeders in the country. But Macgill questioned his ability to be positive about the cub’s ancestry.”
At birth Boris was given to Gladys Lewis to hand-rear. Five all-white Siberian cubs from the same mother were stillborn. Boris was soon twice and large as other Siberian cubs of the same age and was likely to attain 800 lbs and stand 10 ft tall on his hind legs. Boris’s birth generated interest in zoological circles with someone in the Soviet Union contacting Baudy to ask if the cub was for sale. Baudy intended to breed Boris to his newly-born half-sister who apparently had white genes. How could Baudy know that the half sister had white genes unless one of her parents was a white tiger? This means that one parent had to be a white Bengal/mixed blood tiger since Boris was claimed to be the first white pure Siberian tiger.
According to the Tampa Tribune, 2nd August 1985, Boris’s parents were both yellow Siberian tigers. Boris’s sibling, a yellow cub, did not survive. This article says that Boris was the successful result of line-breeding and cross-breeding initiated by Baudy in 1968, mating Siberian tigers that possessed some white genes. Although it is not explicit, those white genes could only have come from the Bengal tiger. Baudy probably white hybrid offspring to pure Siberian (Amur) tigers over several generations until he could claim the latest generations were pure Siberian.
Baudy said his white Siberian breeding programme had begun in 1968 with Siberian tigers that had the white gene. He is known to have obtained an orange, possibly heterozygous cub from von Uhl, the offspring of Kubla (Siberian) and Susie (Bengal, carrying the white gene), born in August 1969. A cub from their Feb 1969 is also unaccounted for. He would likely have gotten a white tiger from breeding their offspring together and crossed to an Amur tiger. He would need to test-mate offspring to see if they carried white, and then line-breed carriers back to Amur tigers . If he line-bred to Amurs for long enough, he eliminates almost all Bengal genes except for colour. The public would not care how pure Baudy’s tigers were as long as they looked Siberian.
F1 cross of Bengal and Amur tiger: 50% Bengal/50% Amur
F2 backcross to Amur tiger: 75% Amur /25% Bengal
F3 backcross to Amur tiger: 87.5% Amur /12.5% Bengal
F4 backcross to Amur tiger: 93.75% Amur genes
And so on.
The Orlando Sentinel, 20th July 1986 described Baudy. His home was full of pelts, stuffed heads and skeletal remains. All of the big cat pelts were from animals that died or were destroyed on his own farm. “What I’m doing here is basically farming. It’s just that I’m not farming cows, I’m farming very rare animals . . . and just like a farmer, when you have an animal that is not a producer – or sometimes you have an animal that has a some kind of problem at birth – I destroy them. My business is to produce defectless animals.” The mainstay of his business was breeding and selling rare big cats. The US Dept of Agriculture has sometimes used his facility to temporarily house animals seized from exhibits under the Animal Welfare Act.
“Probably the breeder’s greatest coup came a year ago, when he announced the birth of Boris, the first white Siberian tiger born in captivity. The green-eyed Boris is already a majestic 200 pounds, and is expected to triple his weight by the time he matures. Baudy estimates his value at $250,000 [down from $1 million the previous year!] - but he’s not for sale. The breeder hopes to cross Boris with his yellow half-sister and bring forth the elusive white gene again. Bill Zeigler, curator for Miami Metrozoo, where two white Bengal tigers were born recently, says if both Boris’s parents are pure Siberian, then the tiger may indeed be one of a kind, but ‘if it has any Bengal in it at all, it would be no more rare than ours.” There are about 70 white tigers in the world, most of which are hybrids, Zeigler says.”
The article continues by saying that Baudy removes the cubs from their mothers “whose mothering skills can’t always be counted on” for hand-rearing. What isn’t mentioned is that removing the cubs brings the mother back into season so that she can be mated sooner and produce litters at shorter intervals. Hand-rearing also makes the animals more used to human contact and is valuable when selling them to circuses.
The Tampa Tribune, 29th January 1990 also mentions his white Siberian tigers. On 17th June 1996, the same paper reported the birth of 2 white Siberian cubs, a male and a female. By then, white Siberian tigers were his trademark and his favourites and could weigh up to 700 lbs.
Baudy sold a pair of white, supposedly pure Amur (Siberian) tigers, Raisa and Gorby, to Beauval Zoo in France - it is highly unlikely that they were pure Amur; their white offspring are described as white Bengal (or Bengal-Amur) tigers. Some of Raisa and Gorby's offspring went to a Dutch zoo and some to Colchester Zoo, England. Baudy sold 2 white tigers to boxer Mike Tyson, but these ended up in a rescue centre because Tyson was refused a licence for them. He sold another to Julius von Uhl, but von Uhl claimed he had never purchased any tigers from Baudy. Baudy also sent white tigers to the Lowery Park Zoo in Florida where they had a litter of cubs.
Baudy sent a golden tiger named Genesis, who had a white sibling, to the Out Of Africa park in Arizona. Genesis was born with deformed knee caps, which were surgically corrected with moderate success.
The Tallahassee Democrat, 5th August 2001 reported that Siegfried & Roy had recently acquired a white tiger cub from Robert Baudy.
White tigers are popular in circuses. Josip Marcan, a Croatian, was a veterinarian at the Frankfurt zoo for 7 years, before moving to America and becoming a tiger trainer. He was a trainer with the Hawthorn Circus when the Hawthorn Circus leased troops of white tigers and trainers out to other circuses. His white tigers are claimed to be of pure Bengal origin from Yugoslavian imports, however, no pure Bengal white tigers are known to have been perpetuatied outside of India. Contrary to claims of having pure Bengal tigers, Marcan's tigers originated from the Hawthorn Circus and are Bengal/Amur mixes descended from Silver. Marcan maintained the illusion of Bengal purity. He breeds black-striped white tigers, stripeless white tigers and golden tigers, but is careful not to over-produce white tigers - yet it seemed to produce a disproportionate number of white and golden tigers compared to normal orange tigers. Marcan now owns the tigers in the Ringling Circus, which include white and golden tigers. His white tigers are descended from "Silver" from the Hawthorn Circus bloodline, though there is an unsubstantiated rumour that one tigress was sent to Nandankanan zoo for impregnation to found his own white tiger line (it seems more likely that she was mated to one of Hawthorn Circus's white tigers).
A white tiger called Silver is behind many white tiger lines, but there is no genealogy information available because those bred by Marcan were not part of any zoo breeding programme. Silver had a number of disabilities caused by a difficult birth. According to the Sports Illustrated article (July 21, 1986) “Now He's The Cat's Meow” "All of Burck's white tigers are hard of hearing. The one named Bagheera is stone deaf. Three of them are cross-eyed. All of them are neurotic, easily spooked. The one named Silver is mentally retarded. When Silver was born his sac didn't break. When he took his first breath he inhaled his placental fluids. Most baby tigers scream. Silver lay flat barely breathing. He remained comatose for four months. Burck had to use a tube to feed him. Silver is five years old now. He roars all the time and bangs his head against his cage for reasons that he alone understands. He is afraid of everything - the whip, circus music, meat, Burck.”
Because Silver’s disabilities were not genetically transmissible, he could be bred from. Silver was loaned to Josip Marcan and all of Marcan's white tigers were descended from him, despite his claims that they came from a separate line imported from Yugoslavia. Wade Burck had warned John Cuneo (Hawthorn Circus) that Marcan might try to breed Silver, but they didn't know that Marcan had indeed bred white tigers from Silver until much later. Silver's descendants went to (among others) MarineWorld/AfricaUSA in Vallejo, California (Marcan sent cubs there for hand-rearing); Siegfried & Roy in Las Vegas; the Henry Doorly Zoo, and probably Australia's Dream World on the Gold Coast.
Josip Marcan, though claiming to be a veterinarian and renowned tiger expert, was not licensed to practice as a vet in Florida ( Tigers of India Josip Marcan). His operations included "Bengal Tiger Encounter", "Tigers of India" and "Adriatic Animal Attractions". Those who have rescued tigers from Marcan since the 1990s described him as a prolific breeder who keeps only a few of the tigers he breeds, at his private "preserve" in Florida. Former employees described the preserve as housing tigers in small cages and using an exercise pen in rotation.
According to the promotional blurb, "By the early 1980s he [Marcan] had developed a breeding program that was producing the finest genetically sound Bengal tigers anywhere. Animals from his breeding programs have made their homes in zoos and wildlife parks all over the world" but the publicity omits to tell donors that its tigers are performing tigers and that it supplies tigers to circuses. In 2011 Marcan’s “Preserve” provided a male golden tabby tiger and a "snow white tiger" to a circus act.
Information about Josip Marcan’s white (and golden) tigers is hard to find. His white tigers came from the Hawthorn Circus, but while the Hawthorn Circus only bred striped white tigers (and used to have more white tigers than orange tigers), Marcan also bred stripeless and golden versions. White tigers were flashier, but were less easy to train. In 1987, Marcan had two golden tabby tigers – a three month old male and a three week old female (Barisal, born to orange female Abra) (News Press, 24th October, 1987, and News Press, 24th October, 1987). The golden tabby is caused by the same gene that produces stripeless white tigers. In captivity, the gene showed up in descendants of the Bhim and Sumita brother-sister mating.
On 16-May-1987, Marcan’s white female Kismet produced white cubs at the Clyde-Beatty Cole Circus, in Media, Pa. On 14-Oct-1991, his orange tigress, Bulba, produced two white tiger cubs while the circus was in Rome, Georgia. By October 1991, Marcan had bred 40 Bengal cubs: 20 orange, 15 striped white, 2 stripeless white and 11 golden tabby and he was about to retire from performing to concentrate on tiger breeding.
The Orlando Sentinel, 20th March, 1988 reported on 5 month old Barisal and 7 month old Kanpur, two golden tabby tigers. Marcan said they resulted from selectively breeding tigers whose genes produced lighter shades of the brown or black stripes of normal Bengals. Blood test of parents reveal whether they have recessive genes that would produce the lighter shades (to my knowledge, DNA testing was not this advanced in the 1980s and his claim might have been to explain the disproportionate number of white and golden cubs he was producing compared to normal colour cubs). The result of the tests and breeding is a color of Bengal that has disappeared from the wild, Marcan said. He said that breeding and selling lions and tigers to zoos was more lucrative than being a circus trainer. He valued the golden tabby tigers at $300,000 each compared to $120,000 for a white tiger. He next wanted to breed one of the golden tabby tigers to a white tiger and was not sure what colour the offspring would be.
The Town Talk, 16th October 1989 reported on other products of Marcan’s breeding programme. “A dark grey stripe down a three-week-old tiger kitten’s back is bringing visions of the world’s first known coal black tigers to trainer and breeder Josip Mar¬can. ‘A myth has it that there once were black tigers in the wild, but nobody has ever been able to substantiate it,’ said Mike Kolomichuk, marketing director for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus.” Marcan had already bred numerous tiger variations and had been trying for years to produce a black cub. The closest he had managed was a male whose orange stripes were so dark that Marcan believed the tiger had a recessive gene which could — if matched with the same gene from a female — produce an all-black kitten. He knew of only two other tigers that possibly carried the black gene. The new cub was one of two born in Georgia, and did not begin showing the dark colouration until two weeks after her birth, when the circus had moved to Marrero.“She’s very dark. She has no orange pigment. Her skin is dark. There’s almost no white behind her ears.” A blood test to confirm the gene’s presence could not be made until the cub was three to six months old, and she wouldn’t reach breeding age until she was three years old. (To my knowledge there were no such blood tests at that time.) If Marcan could find another gene carrier, he said there would be a one in four chance that they would produce a black cub. According to Lisa Moreschi of the Cincinnati Zoo, a black tiger probably would be a first: “To the best of our knowledge there is no record of a black tiger.” The zoo’s veterinarians and officials could not say whether Marcan’s hopes were well-founded, on the grounds that a black tiger had not already occurred naturally.
The Orlando Sentinel, 16th November 1996, carried a long article about Josip Marcan’s breeding programme. A litter of three gold tabby tigers had been born on October 26th, 1996 sired by a snow white tiger. A few days later, a litter of 4 cubs were born to golden tabby tiger Ravi. The 3 males and 1 female were sired by the same snow white tiger and the litter comprised a snow white cub, a grey-striped white cub, a black-striped white cub and a normal black-striped orange cub. According to Marcan, “When you breed them, you never know exactly what colors you’re going to get.” Marcan, who had been working with tigers for 35 years, said he was involved in genetic research that might make it a little easier to know what to expect from each mating.
It went on to say that Marcan occasionally loaned tigers to zoos for special attractions, but doubted he would contin¬ue the practice after one of his cubs die while at a zoo. Another three one year old tigers were apparently lucky to have returned alive from one zoo, and were just skin and bones when they returned.
At the time, the largest tiger at his compound was a 7-year-old, 700-pound golden tabby male worth nearly $1 million. Marcan planned to take two golden tabby tigers to India in 1997, hoping to trade them for two black gene carriers. He wanted to eventually produce a black tiger. He also wanted to set up a preserve, possibly in Africa, where the tigers could “hunt, kill and multiply on their own.”
The Southern Illinoisian (Carbondale), 29th August 1999 described Marcan’s eight Bengal tigers at the Du Quoin State Fair. Four colours were on display: normal orange, black-striped white, a golden tabby and a stripeless white (one of only 12 known according the report). Their appearance at the fair was to help support the breeding programme.
According to Tigers of India Josip Marcan Marcan's preserve is sited on 80 acres but only a small portion of the land was used. Marcan was said to breed and sell tigers to zoos in the Florida area. The Species Survival Plan won't include Marcan's tigers because they are not pure Bengal tigers for conservation breeding, but are descended from circus tigers. Marcan wanted to work on legislation that would allow him to exchange tigers with pure bloodlines from India. CITES does not allow tigers to be taken from the wild and bred for circus acts or the pet trade and the Marcan Tiger Preserve is not an AZA accredited facility.
According to a United States Department of Agriculture investigation report, Marcan was cited in 2000 and 2001 for violations of the Animal Welfare Act after investigations found unsanitary food preparation and storage, inadequate ventilation and water supply, and failure by handlers to make regular checks on the tigers. Marcan blamed this on Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus (who had contracted out the tigers) requiring them to travel by train instead of trailer. Marcan's tigers are not part of the only internationally sanctioned Species Survival Plan.
In 2004, one of Marcan's tigers, Apollo, caused a five-car pile-up when he escaped from a Cole Bros Circus trailer on Jackie Robinson Parkway, New York City. In 2009, Brooklyn Federal Court found Marcan liable for $935,500 damages to two drivers who were seriously injured in the incident.
In July 2004, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo received two tiger cubs (born 19-May-2004) from Josip Marcan – an orange female called Rani (nicknamed Pistol) and a white male called Rajah. Their parents were on loan to Panama City Zoo (Pensacola News Journal, 13th August, 2004). In 2006, adult stripeless white male Lazarus, owned by Marcan, was exhibited at the Iowa State fair along with 8 other tigers from his breeding facility (Des Moines Register, 17th August, 2006). In 2007, the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo received two white tigers on loan from Marcan – Indira, a striped female white tiger, and Ussuri, a snow-white male – before the cubs were relocated to Las Vegas where they have been sold to an entertainment act (several illusionists were using white tigers by this time).
In January 2011, the Gulf Coast Zoo, Alabama, had a white tiger cub named Sita that had been born at the Marcan Tiger Preserve on Nov 7, 2010. The zoo were charging $50 for a 30 minute tiger encounter with Sita who was claimed to have been rejected by her inexperienced mother. Her sibling had allegedly died at birth so the Gulf Coast Zoo was asked to raise her until she was old enough to be returned to Marcan Tiger Preserve.
Most white tiger websites have a pro- or anti-agenda and variously claim to give “facts,” “truths” or debunk “myths” but give misinformation or have hidden agendas. I stick to facts and deductions based on facts. Some information is documented, some is from personal correspondence with zoos, and some is from the recollections or personal notes of people involved with circus or zoo tigers where records were have been lost or destroyed. Even the different editions of tiger studbooks are inconsistent. Information from my pages, which are frequently updated, is widely copied on those other sites. Some sites have tried to claim I copied their work.
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