CIRCUS WHITE TIGERS: SIEGFRIED AND ROY

White Tiger Genealogies from Mohan to Modern Day
1500 to 1899 - Historical Accounts of White Tigers
1800s - Current Day Stripeless White Tigers
1900 to 1950s - Historical Accounts of White Tigers
1950s to 1970s - The White Tigers of Rewa & Orissa
1970s - Alleged White Amur Tigers, Susie & White Tigers of Unknown Lineages
White Tigers in Captivity Today
White Tigers in British Zoos (1960s to 1990s)
White Tigers: Mohini - Mother of American White tigers - and her Descendants
White Tiger Breeders: Robert Baudy, Josip Marcan

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

Researchers tracing white tiger genealogies, Paul McCarthy (Canada), Jerry Blackman (USA) and Catherine Walsh (USA) have contributed extensive information and charts regarding lineages, births and deaths and colours. Historical quotations are credited and are in the public domain. Original text is licensed under the GFDL.

The Indiana Gazette, Pennsylvania, 18th October, 1978 (p12) said that Siegfried & Roy had 33 white tigers at their complex (definitely an erroneous figure).

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 17th February, 1980 (p 128) reported on Siegfried and Roy's cub White Gold, which it said was a $100,000 seven week old white tiger cub, with a Great Dane as a foster mother. Photos show that White Gold was an orange cub, therefore a heterozygote. His parents may have come from Julius von Uhl’s stock, but White Gold’s place of birth (in December 1978) isn’t mentioned.

The main origins of Siegfried and Roy's white tiger breeding stock trace to the Cincinnati Zoo white tigers which are chronicles elsewhere on this website. In the 1980s the Cincinnati Zoo was selling white tiger cubs sired by Bhim for $60,000 each and was criticised as being a "white tiger mill". When the National Zoological Park decided to leave the white tiger business and sent their white carriers out to other zoos, they specifically asked that the carriers not be bred for their white genes. Cincinnati Zoo ignored this request and there was extensive inbreeding which brought out the recessive mutation for stripeless (snow white) tigers. The Siegfried & Roy snow white Bengal tigers are descendents of Bhim and Sumita (a brother-sister mating) and the gene may have come via their grandparent Tony since the other grandparent, Kesari, and her siblings had no snow white descendents.

Siegfried & Roy also had tigers descended from one of Hawthorn Circus's white tigers, Silver which had a number of disabilities caused by a difficult birth. Silver, a son of Rani and Tony, was born 26th April 1980 and was mentally retarded. He roared continually, banged his head against the bars and was afraid of everything, but because these disabilities were not genetically transmissible, he was bred from when loaned to Josip Marcan and many zoo and circus tigers trace back to Silver.

Chart 2.5: Tony and Rani (Ranee) descendants (including Silver)

When Siegfried & Roy started out with the white tigers, Irvin Feld, tiger trainer and part-owner of Ringling Brothers Circus, had wanted all white tigers in show business under his "flag ship". Feld owned Siegfried & Roy and Gunther Gebel Williams, and he tried to acquire Wade Burck's white tiger act which was in the Ringling Circus in 1984.

Siegfried and Roy bought a litter of 3 white cubs from Cincinnati Zoo (born in 1982) for $125,000 (at the suggestion of the Maharajah of Baroda, cousin of the Maharaja of Rewa and India's commissioner of wildlife at the time, who negotiated on their behalf). These were Sitarra ("Star of India") who was snow white, Neva (snow") and Shasadee ("chosen one"). It was believed that stripeless white tigers were sterile so Sitarra was included for the bargain price of $5000 and then became the matriarch of a white tiger dynasty! They adapted their coat of arms from that of the Maharaja of Rewa with the white tiger on it. Cincinnati zoo later provided a further pair of white tigers in exchange for a promise to share the offspring.

They bred their tigers selectively for stripelessness, though some their snow white tigers subsequent to Sitarra came from Cincinnati Zoo, as per their earlier agreement. Sitarra produced several litters, including cubs named Sieg-Roy, Vegas and Nevada, and later Red, White and Blue, born on July 4th, 1989, in Japan. The illusionists also had a snow white Amur tiger called Apollo.

Chart S: Siegfried and Roy's White Tigers (large image, opens in new window)

The pair had an insatiable desire to obtain white tigers (and white lions). In addition to their white tigers from Cincinnati zoo, they bought them from every possible private source, paying hugely over the odds prices to outbid any competitors. At the same time as proclaiming they were saving an endangered species they were also cornering the market on white tigers. The many white tigers they bred was not conservation (the tigers are not a separate species), but showbusiness. Continued inbreeding resulted in recessive genes “doubling up” and causing hip dysplasia (exacerbated by being kept in confinement), cleft palates and crossed eyes. Some of Siegfried and Roy’s white tigers apparently experienced debilitating pain in their back legs and needed spinal surgery. Such tigers – which are also mongrelised - cannot make positive contributions to a conservation gene pool.

Siegfried and Roy's later snow white tigers are not all offspring of Sitarra and Neva. Their snow white tigers Mantra, Mirage, and Akbar-Kabul were born at Cincinnati and sired by Bhim. Tsumura was born to Tapi and Mota. Mirage is the offspring of Bhim and his own daughter Tapi; a white sister of Mirage went to Gulf Breeze Zoo. Snow white Vishnu was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Vishnu was bred to Orissa (striped white, born in Germany - Bhim and Sumita's daughter Shahiba had gone to Safariland, Germany) and produced 6 striped white cubs. Mantecore/Montecore (striped white male), Jahan (Montecore's snow white male littermate) and She'ra (heterozygous sister) were also born in Guadalajara, Mexico. Phantasialand in Bruhl, Germany, had 2 stripeless white tigers belonging to Siegfried and Roy. According to “The Secret Life of Siegfried and Roy: How the Tiger Kings Tamed Las Vegas” (Jimmy Lavery, Jim Mydlach, Louis Mydlach, Henrietta Tiefenthaler), Seigfried and Roy launched a white tiger breeding program at Phantasialand theme park in Bruhl in 1987, giving Sieg-Roy and Vegas as gifts to the park and allowing the park to start its own breeding programme. In fact "The Magic World of Siegfried & Roy” was an exhibition, including a Tiger enclosure, between 1987 and 1995, and was symbolic of the friendship between Phantasialand and the two German illusionists. The Tiger Enclosure was a nearly identical replica of one of Siegfried & Roy's Royal White Tiger enclosures in Las Vegas. The white tigers, Sieg-Roy and Vegas, were looked after by a trainer. During the day, visitors could see the tiger enclosure at fixed show-times. The tiger enclosure and the exhibit were dismantled in 1995. It does not appear to have been a breeding programme.

There is no record of Vegas or Sieg-Roy breeding while on loan to Phantasialand, Bruhl. I found a snippet (word-of-mouth poorly translated from German) "When it was decided to close the exhibit, the trainer, Mrs. Althoff (from the circus Althoff), housed them in a park (possibly the Serengeti Park), where she negotiated a contract to be their keeper for the first half year. The tigers were used for breeding (with the permission of S & R) and have increased the stock of white tigers." It seems that they returned to Siegfried & Roy at the end of that period.

Guadalajara Zoo had sold Siegfried and Roy four tigers since 1995 and were happy to keep selling tigers to them. It was a tiger from Guadalajara Zoo - Montecore - that mauled Roy during a performance. This tiger had been taken from its mother at five days old (official sources say the mother rejected it). Shiva, Montecore's mother, probably from Grand Prairie, Texas, was snow white. Nino, her mate, was a heterozygous orange tiger born March 30, 1992 (confirmed by Guadaljara Zoos) and his parents both came from Grand Prairie, Texas.

The pair's three tigers born in Japan are Fuji, Osaka, and Tokyo. Jaipur (striped white) was the last of a litter of five born to mother Noele. There are two other tigers Nickolei and Christmas who are also holiday themed and probably littermates. There is also Kashmir, Tajmah, Samsara and Mahatma. A gods themed part-Siberian litter is Titan (striped white), Atlas, and Apollo (snow white). Narmada was a mate to Vishnu. Other snow whites are Indira and Rajiv. Kashmir, Tajmah, Rewa, Baroda, and Nirvana may be littermates. There is also one tiger named Sara (golden striped) who along with Sitarra, has been credited as "starting it all". Vishnu sired Gandara, Akasha, and Kuuma (mother not yet researched). Montecore, the tiger that savaged one of the performers, was the only survior of his litter. When he was on display at their home after the incident, Montecore's pen was labelled with another tiger's name.

In January 1997, Siegfried & Roy’s 6-year-old female white tiger, Nirvana, was choked and killed by Baroda (who had been born at The Mirage in 1993) who was being exhibited with her. In October 2002, Gandara (m), Akasha (m) and Kuuma (f) were born. In June 2008, a litter of tiger cubs,- five week old cubs Svengali (tawny male) and four females Cosmo, Chakra, Star and Celestial, - were obtained from a Florida breeding program to diversify the tiger bloodlines (though they trace back to the same common ancestors!).

Siegfried and Roy were considering presenting a white tiger to singer Michael Jackson for his private zoo at Neverland Ranch (it had permits for tigers), as "a gift to the children of California." Jackson had white tigers. White tigers seemed to be a must-have accessory for the showbusiness elite.

White tiger breeder Betty Young (Riverglen Feline Conservancy, Arkansas - a "sanctuary" that breeds white tigers!) acquired orange heterozygotes from Cincinnati, full siblings of Dolly and Indira bred from Bhim and Kimanthi. San Diego Zoo's white tigress Blanca - Racine Zoo lineage - was born at Betty Young's zoo and had originally been sent to the menagerie at Caliente race track in Mexico (which has other white tigers). Blanca was confiscated at the Mexican border by US Customs and donated to San Diego Zoo by the US government. Siegfried & Roy had tried to acquire Blanca after she was confiscated.

Nashville zoo bred white tigers in co-operation with Siegfried and Roy; it gave 6 white tigers to the Khoa Kheow Open zoo, in Chonburi province, Thailand, in 2002.

Towards the end of their performing career, Siegfried and Roy had 38 white tigers and 15 white lions at their "Little Bavaria" estate outside Las Vegas. Two of their white tigers were loaned to Phantasialand, in Bruhl, Germany where the U.S. Ambassador attended the tigers' reception. They have claimed to have white tigers on breeding loan to Indian zoos, but this is unconfirmed (their white tigers have mixed blood). Siegfried and Roy are on the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Zoo.

Textual content is licensed under the GFDL.

FOOTNOTE

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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