SUSIE - MATRIARCH OF A WHITE TIGER LINE
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
Two researchers tracing white tiger genealogies are Paul McCarthy (Canada) and Jerry Blackman (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.
“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.”
In “The White Tiger Fraud,” Dan Laughlin claimed to have fully researched and documented the accurate genealogy and origin of white tigers in the U.S.A. and that there are 2 distinct bloodlines. Much of the research was done by Rhys Walkley (I have his original charts). One bloodline (Laughlin claims) was the Bengal tiger bloodline which originated in India and entered the U.S.A. via a breeding loan to the National Zoo. One of the Indian origin tigers carried the recessive gene for the white colour and was the mother of the second litter of white tigers born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1976. He claims that the original litter of white tigers born at Cincinnati in 1974 and all subsequent Indian origin bloodline white tigers soon died out in the U.S.A. without leaving any pure Indian origin Bengal white tigers in the U.S.A. Imported white tigress Mohini and orange-coloured white gene carrier Samson were founders of the USA white tigers, and this later merged with the second bloodline. He claimed to have unpublished research definitively showing the true origin of the white tiger in the U.S.A., in a second and separate bloodline that occurred spontaneously in two separate private collections in the U.S.. Siblings born to a pure Siberian male (Kubla) and a Bengal female (Susie, white gene carrier) were bred together at a small zoo in South Dakota, producing 12 live cubs. Two cubs (male & female) were sold to a private individual, while a litter of 5 cubs were sold to another private individual. Both owners inbred their tigers and white cubs of mixed Amur/Bengal ancestry were spontaneously born. This “unpublished” information was there for all who cared to read the ISIS sheets and studbooks. It’s true that there was inbreeding in those days to bolster the white tiger population as they were in great demand.
There are 6 litters registered to Susie and Kubla. None contained 5 cubs - I believe the "litter of 5" referred to the July 1966 litter containing 3 females and a male named either Saber I or Prince, perhaps Laughlin counted these as 2 cubs. Susie and Kubla had 14 documented offspring. A brother-sister pair (Raja, formerly Tony, and Sheba) went to von Uhl and were extensively bred to produce white offspring. Another brother-sister pair (Saber I/Prince and Sheba III) went to Hawthorn Circus were bred together to produce white cubs.
Laughlin wrote “One of the individuals who owned the litter of five brothers and sisters representing the American crossbred white tiger bloodline has continued to inbreed his tigers for over the past twenty-five years even though his neonate mortality rate has often exceeded eighty per cent and his tigers are severely defective and unfit.” That may be true of a single individual owner with very poor breeding practices, but reputable menageries crossed their white tigers to unrelated orange tigers (often of different subspecies) and their mortality rate was around 30%, the same as in captive-bred orange tigers at the time. Laughlin then claims “The only conceivable legitimate reason for exhibiting a white tiger would be for educational purposes to clearly and unequivocally illustrate to the public the process of natural selection and how, when a deleterious recessive genetic mutation randomly occurs that is disadvantageous for the survival of the animal, such as white color in a tropical jungle environment, the animal does not survive to pass on that genetic mutation or disadvantageous characteristic to its offspring. This was the normal course of natural selection and evolution of the tiger until a young white tiger male was captured in 1951 [. . .]” In fact white tigers thrived and bred successfully in India (especially Assam) until gun-toting European hunters slaughtered the tiger population (one hunter bagging around 200 tigers in a couple of years). White tigers were highly valued as trophies. Because most prey animals do not see in glorious technicolour, the black-and-white coat was not a disadvantage in jungle settings. Laughlin does not tell the truth about the viability of the white gene in the wild; white tigers had been around since the 1500s.
“To produce white tigers or any other phenotypic curiosity, directors of zoos and other facilities must continuously inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on.” This is false. They need only breed heterozygous animals together i.e. gene carriers. These are related only very distantly, perhaps sharing only a few percent of genes because they have been outcrossed to completely unrelated tigers from the wild over many generations. Having been convicted of white tiger theft himself, Laughlin seemed determined to discredit the white tigers themselves.
Susie’s ancestry is obscure. If Susie was born in a zoo there should be a record of this in the International Zoo Yearbook, but I would need to know which zoo (possibly Sarasota) and her previous name at the zoo that bred or imported her. The only certain fact is that she came from the Sioux Falls Zoo in South Dakota (and possibly from an unidentified West Coast zoo before that). Baron Julius von Uhl claimed to have purchased “an imported Bengal tigress” named Susie along with the Siberian-cross tiger Kubla from the Sioux Falls Zoo in South Dakota. Roychoudhury thought Susie was bred from wild-caught parents (Susie’s mate, rather than Susie, was bred from from wild caught parents.) Sioux Falls Zoo denied having any record of Susie - was this poor record-keeping by the Zoo or did she have a different name with them? Rhys Walkley obtained information about Susie from the Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota and sent the information to Sioux Falls Zoo. Von Uhl claimed that Sheba was three quarters Siberian and one quarter Bengal, and that Raja was half and half which, if true, would make Susie half Siberian! Susie was bred extensively, resulting in 13-14 cubs, before being paired with the Bengal tiger that killed her.
Information about Susie’s ancestry comes largely from verbal sources from people who are no longer alive. Laughlin claimed she was a spontaneous mutation. Von Uhl and Cuneo didn’t know – and probably didn’t care -whether Susie was descended from Mohan. They "unknowingly" bought cubs that carried white, and probably didn't know or care where they came from. It was apparently common knowledge within the circus and tiger training community that she was descended from Mohan’s normal coloured descendants. Information on the ancestry of circus animals is often only available from circus insiders. Her birth-date fits in with the fact that American circus tigers started producing white cubs in the early 1970s roughly 20 years after Mohan's capture. No white cubs were produced before that time. According to Rhys Walkley and Wade Burck, Susie was a descendant of Mohan. According to the Indian press, many of Mohan’s cubs, both orange and white, were sold or donated to various zoos in India and other countries. Walkley’s information regarding her ancestry came from Sioux Falls Zoo and said that Susie was born in a zoo in Florida in 1959 (though she was not named Susie at that time).
Susie had been owned by Dave Hoover and Clyde Beatty and may have been with Dave Hoover as part of his act in the Sells-Gray Circus. Dave Hoover, Susie's owner, was photographed with Pat Anthony (whom Ivan Henry said had two white tigers at Jungleland). Dave Hoover was with that circus in 1965 when Clyde Beatty died and when Susie was sold to Sioux Falls Zoo. Dave Hoover was only 35 years oldat the time. He started the Dave Hoover Wild Animal Circus Inc in Florida (possibly the Sells-Gray Circus had a record of Susie at that time).
The Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, South Dakota provides various reports of Kubla and Susie and their offspring. 3rd February 1965, Page 2 mentions the purchase of a Bengal tiger for Sioux Falls Zoo. Price of the tiger purchased in Sarasota two lion cubs and $600. It doesn’t add any further detail, but we know from other sources that the tiger was bought from Dave Hoover and not named Susie until she went to Sioux Falls. Three of Kubla and Susie’s litters (totally 11 cubs) are described in The Argus Leader. On 30th October 1966 the paper says “Zoo's Tiger Cubs Step Up Their Diet” refers to four tiger cubs born four months ago - two females and a male. Presumably the gender of the fourth wasn’t known. “Susie gave birth to two males and a female last Spring. Offspring of Kubla a pure-Siberian tiger and Susie a Bengal tiger. This brings the zoo's tiger population to ten including Smiley, a female tiger who will reach breeding age.” The Argus Leader, 15th February, 1968 Page 3, says that Susie and Kubla had quadruplets and that Baron Julius Von Uhl (Shrine Circus) who acquired two of the first litter has expressed an interest in acquiring one. Kubla, valued at $5000, was described as a purebred Siberian and one of the finest specimens in the world.
The Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, 23rd February 1969 Page 13 refers to "Kubla a Siberian tiger valued at $5000, Susie a Bengal tiger valued at $1000, and Smiley a cross breed tiger [Bengal/Siberian] (According to the issue on 12th July, 1967 Page 3. "If it can be established that Smiley is a true Siberian" Vratislav Mazak, a Czech zoologist who was the tiger studbook keeper wanted to know.) The last reference seems to be 14th October 1970 Page 5. “Susie female Bengal tiger has a new mate. Zoo director Keith Halverson picked up the male Bengal tiger in Omaha, but it came from British Columbia where it was raised in captivity. “ This new mate killed Susie.
Mohan had several litters with Begum (producing only heterozygotes) and with his heterozygous daughter Radha (Mohan x Begum offspring), which produced Mohini (who was bred to Radha’s brother, heterozygous orange Samson). No white tigers were being allowed out of India at that time, but a number of the orange offspring were disposed of to the animal dealers P.M. Das and Sons, Calcutta, who would have sold them on as regular orange tigers.
All descendants of Mohan prior to 1959 are accounted for in the Leipzig Zoo Bengal tiger studbook. This records a heterozygous male born in 1953 (the litter prior to Radha and Samson) and a heterozygous orange female from their 1955 litter (sister of Radha and Samson) that were sold to the animal dealer P.M. Das & Sons, Calcutta. The 1955 female went to Bristol Zoo as documented in Geoffrey Schomberg’s “The Penguin Guide To British Zoos,” (Penguin 1970 ISBN 0-14-146154-X). The 1955 male was sold to Ahmedabad Zoo and remained there until 1959. Two heterozygous males born in 1953 went to the same animal dealer. One of those males went to Bombay Zoo. The other is unaccounted for (though it might have gone to Bombay Zoo with its littermate) and is a likely candidate to be Susie's parent. If Clyde Beatty had wanted white tigers, and if he knew that Mohan’s orange offspring were easily available, he could have bought a heterozygous orange tiger from P.M. Das, knowing that he could inbreed them to get white tigers. Although the paper trail is missing, the dates suggest that Susie is the offspring of one or more of the orange heterozygotes traded by P.M. Das, or one of the female tiger cubs Begum x Sultan had at Ahmedabad Zoo (except the last two in 1961). The verbal evidence indicates that her ancestry was known within the tiger training community. T.H. Reed was Clyde Beatty's agent, his son (a director of the Segdwick County Zoo) might still have information on Susie's parentage.
On the very last page of his book “Facing the Big Cats” (published 1965), Clyde Beatty wrote that he bought a white tiger from the Maharaja of Rewa. In 1960 Clyde Beatty bought a white tiger from the Maharajah of Rewa for $10,000, but he was not allowed to take it out of India, and his money was refunded. In 1963 he was still trying to acquire a white tiger for his act. Beatty had owned his own zoo, but it closed around 1948. Beatty died in 1965, the same year that Susie was sold to the Sioux Falls zoo in South Dakota.
(Von Uhl's statements about his tigers’ origins were inconsistent. At one point he referred to Susie as an imported tigress. He also said that all his white tigers, and all his (orange) tiger cubs, were born in Indiana and Georgia, however he had three tiger cubs from the Baltimore County Fair in Maryland in 1976, and up to 6 tiger cubs born in Texas the same year. In press reports he claimed that Sheba was three quarters Siberian and one quarter Bengal, and that Raja - Sheba's brother! - was half and half which, if true, would make Susie half Siberian! )
The argument that Sioux Falls tigers were not descended from Mohan, or closely related to him, is that the stripeless white and golden tabby tigers all came out of that lineage, as did so many cross eyed tigers. Bristol Zoo, which had tigers from the Rewa strain, had no cross eyed tigers and no stripeless white tigers. All the Rewa strain were uniform in type with dark stripes. The other alternative would be if Susie had been born in India at Ahmedabad Zoo and imported into the USA. If this isn’t the case then Susie’s parents carried white and stripeless traits from other Indian imports and these traits only showed up because she was bred to into the white tiger gene pool.
Sheba II and Sheba III started having white tiger cubs in 1972 and 1973, which is exactly the same time frame that Ivan Henry gives for the other purported owners of white tigers – this is exactly when Susie's cubs would be old enough to start having their own cubs.
Textual content is licensed under the GFDL.
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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