WHITE TIGERS 1970s - ALLEGED WHITE AMUR (SIBERIAN) TIGERS, SUSIE, AND UNKNOWN LINES

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
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
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

ALLEGED WHITE AMUR (SIBERIAN) TIGERS

An alleged third strain of white tigers occurred at the Como Zoo in Minnesota where two Amur (Siberian) tigers who were brothers, both born at Como Zoo, supposedly carried the white gene. A lot of digging around indicates that their white descendents are part-Bengal and that the white gene was introduced into the line by Susie, a Bengal tigress (owned by Clyde Beatty). The two Amur brothers had no Bengal ancestry and their parents, a brother and sister who were both registered Amur tigers, had been captured in the wild (though elsewhere, one is described as a Siberian/Bengal cross). Some of the brothers' allegedly purebred Amur descendants are white. One of these Amur brothers (Kubla) was bred to a Bengal tigress (Susie) at Sioux Falls Zoo, South Dakota. Kubla was the grandfather of Tony, a founder of many American white tiger lineages. At the Great Plains Zoo, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Kubla was also mated to an Amur tigress named Katrina who was born at Rotterdam Zoo and joined Kubla and Susie in Sioux Falls after passing through the hands of two other American zoos. Kubla and Katrina had two full-bred Amur daughters.

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 whether she had a different name at the zoo that bred or imported her. Without records available, much of the information comes from verbal sources from people who are no longer alive. 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 provided this to Sioux Falls Zoo. Susie was bred extensively, resulting in 13-14 cubs, before being paired with the Bengal tiger that killed her.

Von Uhl and John F. Cuneo Jr. apparently both knew that Susie was descended from Mohan before they bought any of her cubs, and before her offspring produced white offspring. It was apparently common knowledge within the circus and tiger training community that Susie was descended from Mohan’s normal coloured descendants. Information on the ancestry of circus animals is often only available from circus insiders. The date of Susie’s birth 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 ever produced before that time. According to Rhys Walkley and Wade Burck, Susie was a descendant of Mohan. Rhys Walkley’s information regarding Susie’s ancestry came from Sioux Falls Zoo and said that Susie was born in a zoo in Florida in 1959. 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.

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 possibly went to Bristol Zoo if we are to believe E.P. Gee, though it is equally possible that she went to Ahmedabad (who were snapping up Mohan’s offspring) with Samson and No. 3. The 1955 male was then sold to Ahmedabad Zoo and died there in 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 strongly indicate that Susie is the offspring of one or more of the orange heterozygotes traded by P.M. Das. 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.

(Von Uhl's statements about his tigers’ origins were inconsistent. 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.)

These Bengal/Amur matings resulted in 12 live cubs. Of these, a brother and sister pair (Raja [also spelled Radja] and Sheba II) were sold to one individual while a litter of 5 cubs were sold to another. The new owners each bred brother to sister; white cubs resulted in both cases. Buck, the tiger who bred with his daughter Bonnie and produced a white cub at the Racine Zoo around 1980 may also have been one of Susie’s cubs. One of Susie's cubs went to a zoo in Japan. Three went to the Hawthorn Circus Corp. in Grayslake, Illinois and one or both of the two males may have been fathering white tiger cubs before being castrated because they fought so much. Susie was killed by a Bengal tiger she was paired with for breeding. Kubla was her only documented mate, any previous offspring are unknown.

Chart 3.1: Raja and Sheba II's Offspring (large image, opens in new window)

The other Amur brother was then bred to his Bengal/Amur hybrid niece, Sheba II, while in the Hawthorn Circus. Sheba II produced white cubs suggesting that her pure Amur uncle carried the white gene. However, the majority of the litters sired by her Amur uncle did not include white cubs, which suggests that those white genes actually came from her demi-Bengal brother. Raja and Sheba II were bought by Baron von Uhl of Shrine Circus and later produced at least 2 more white cubs while at the Henry Doorly Zoo, Omaha. Raja and Sheba II also produced two white cubs in Baltimore in 1976. The New York Times wrote: "Rare Tigers Born At Fair. Middle River Maryland, June 27, 1976: "An 8 year old Siberian tiger named Sheba gave birth today to two rare white cubs at the Baltimore County fair. The tigress is owned by Julius Von Uhl who uses her in an animal act. A spokesman for the National Zoo in Washington said that only 36 white tigers are known to exist." However, Von Uhl claims all his cubs were born in Indiana and Georgia. Baron Julius Von Uhl Circus existed as recently as 1995, but Von Uhl is now a horse trainer at the Chicago-based "The Noble Horse" having cut ties with white tigers. He claims to have owned only 2 white tigers, Tony and a white female cub that didn't survive and that he didn't purchase any from Robert Baudy, or sell any to a Swedish Zoo. Raja and Sheba II appear to have had only 2 litters while with Von Uhl who may have erroneously believed that white tigers were an inevitable result of line-breeding (meaning inbreeding).

Alan Shoemaker, Columbia, South Carolina, (Riverbanks Zoo, studbook keeper for the leopard, and part of the IUCN Cat Specialty Group) believes there are pure Amur white tigers in captivity today. Robert Baudy claimed that his white tigers are of pure Amur stock. Baudy apparently realised that his Amur tigers had white genes after one sold to Marwell Zoo developed white spots (confirmed by Marwell Zoo). 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 Long Island Ocelot Club (LIOC) newsletter of July/August 1988 wrote: "Baudy is recoqnized as being very capable in his ability to breed some of the hard-to-breed species according to US Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement agents in Tallahassee. "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 weiqht by the time he matures. Baudy estimates his value at $250,000 - 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 white Bengal tigers were recently born, says "if both Boris' 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 rather shaggy white tigers at Tigerhomes (USA) are also described as Siberian (Amur) white tigers. I also have personal correspondence relating to a pair of privately owned Amur tigers that produced a stillborn white cub. Baudy's Amur stock was almost certainly tainted with Bengal genes.

Kubla also has living descendants that are registered as purebred Amur tigers though it is possible that three-quarter Amur tigers sold through Hunts Brothers International Animal Exchange, in Ferndale, Michigan, might have been mistakenly for pure Amur tigers, resulting in the white gene entering Amur lines in zoos. The Amur tiger is sometimes mistakenly called the "White Siberian Tiger".

UNKNOWN WHITE TIGER LINEAGES

In 1980 a white tiger cub was born at the Racine Zoo in Wisconsin from an accidental father/daughter mating, though the cub was apparently killed by the father. The mother was later used to breed more white cubs. They were not known to have carried the white gene and it is uncertain how they relate to the other known white lineages. The same is true of the white tigers in the Asian Circus in India. Everland Zoo (Yongin Farm zoo), Seoul, South Korea, bought white tigers from a private breeder, Betty Young of Arkansas; these are descended from the Racine Zoo (Wisconsin) tigers. Everland Zoo (Yongin Farm Zoo) also have white tigers from Omaha and Cincinnati zoos, and have bred white ligers (lion/tiger hybrids) possibly from white tigers and leucistic lionesses. Young also acquired white tigers from Cincinnati Zoo.

WHITE TIGER CUBS THAT CHANGE COLOUR

There are records of cubs that are born white but later change to a normal orange colour. This phenomenon is known as “fever coat” and is due to conditions in the womb preventing melanin from being properly deposited in the hairs of the foetus. It is well documented in domestic cats and has been observed in captive jaguars and leopards. It most often occurs when the mother is ill or stressed – which is likely to be the case in some captive tigers – and is related to the temperature in the womb. Why so few reports of white cubs changing colour? If the cubs were born sickly and died before their first moult then they would have been recorded as “white tigers.”

USEFUL GENETIC TERMS

INBREEDING DEPRESSION & OTHER GENETIC ANOMALIES IN TIGERS

COLOUR MORPHS & POSSIBLE GENE COMBINATIONS IN WHITE TIGERS

Textual content is licensed under the GFDL.

Albino tigers (Cooch Behar)

Narayan, V. N. 1924. Number of cubs in a tiger’s litter. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 28:1124.
Pocock RI, 1939. Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia, vol. 1. Primates and Carnivora. Taylor and Francis Ltd., London, 464 pp.

White tigers (Orissa, Bilaspur, Rewa, Bhagalpoore, North Bengal, Assam and Korea)

Cuvier, Georges. 1832. The Animal Kingdom. G. & C. & H. Carvill.
D'Abreu EA. 1916. An Albino Tiger From The Central Provinces JBNHS, Vol XXIV, Pt IV, pg 819
Dunbar Brander AA. 1923. Wild Animals In Central India. Evans Gordon (Capt). 1921. A White Tiger In Captivity (With A Photo). JBNHS, Vol. XXVII, Pt IV, pg. 932
Gee, E. P. 1959. Albinism and partial albinism in tigers. JBNHS., 56:581-587.
Lydekker, Richard. 1893. The Royal Natural History. Frederick Warne.
Mishra, Swati Wilderness Diagnosis, 2001: What Is the White Bengal Tiger's Future? Action BioScience.
Pant, M. M. & Dhariyal, I. D. (1979) : White tiger progeny, its economic potentialities. Indian Forester. Special issue on 1st International Symposium on tiger. New Delhi, 22nd-24th Feb. pp. 52-58.
Pocock RI, 1929. Tigers. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc., 33:505-541.
Pocock RI, 1939. Fauna of British India, including Ceylon and Burma. Mammalia, vol. 1. Primates and Carnivora. Taylor and Francis Ltd., London, 464 pp.
Rathore, B. S. & Khera, S. S. (1979): Mortality in tigers in India. Paper presented in 1st International Symposium on tiger. New Delhi.
Roychoudhury, a. K. & Sankala, S. K. (1979) : Inbreeding in white tigers. Proc. Indian Acad, Sci. 8SB: 311-313.
Roychoudhury, A. K. (1980) : Is there any lethal gene in the tiger of Rewa? Curr. Sci. 49: 518-520.
Saharia, V. B. (1979) : Population dynamics in captive tigers. Wildlife News letter 7: 36-40.
Thornton, I. W. B., K. K. Yeung, and K. S. Sankhala. 1967. The genetics of the white tigers of Rewa. J. Zool. (London), 152:127-135.
Weigel, I. 1961. Das Fellmuster der wildlebenden Katzenarten und der Hauskatze in vergleichender und stammesgeschichtlicher Hinsicht. Säugetierk. Mitt., 9 (Sonderheft):1-120.

Genetics of Chinchilla and Albino

Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders & Veterinarians 4th Ed (the current version)
Genetics for Cat Breeders, 3rd Ed by Roy Robinson (earlier version showing some of the historical misunderstandings)
Cat Genetics by A C Jude (1950s cat genetics text; demonstrates the early confusion that chinchilla was a form of albinism)

FOOTNOTE

Most white tiger websites have a pro- or anti-agenda and variously claim to give “facts,” “truths” or debunk “myths.” There is too much misinformation too many 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. Sometimes personal recollection is the only information left to us because the organisations that bred or traded the tigers have closed and their records were destroyed. Even the different editions of tiger studbooks are inconsistent.

Information originating from my pages, which are frequently updated, has been widely copied on those other sites. Some users of my information have later tried to claim I copied their work.

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