Why are snow tigers white?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Snow tigers, also known as white tigers, have a unique and captivating appearance. The reason behind their white fur can be attributed to a genetic mutation called leucism. This mutation affects the pigmentation of the tiger’s fur, resulting in a lack of melanin, which gives their coat a white coloration.

Leucism is different from albinism, which is another genetic condition that affects pigmentation. While albino animals lack melanin in their entire body, including their eyes, leucistic animals still have pigmented eyes. This is why white tigers have blue or green eyes, which adds to their striking appearance.

It’s important to note that the white coat of a snow tiger would actually be a disadvantage in the wild. In their natural habitats, tigers rely on their camouflage to hunt and avoid predators. The orange fur of a normal tiger helps them blend in with their surroundings, making it easier to stalk prey and remain hidden from potential threats.

However, white tigers, with their conspicuous white fur, would stand out in the forest or grasslands, making it difficult for them to remain hidden. This lack of camouflage significantly reduces their chances of survival in the wild.

Due to their striking appearance, white tigers have been selectively bred in captivity for their aesthetic appeal. This has led to a higher prevalence of the leucism gene in captive populations. While this may have increased the number of white tigers in captivity, it has also raised concerns about the welfare and genetic diversity of these animals.

The white fur of snow tigers is a result of a genetic mutation called leucism. While their appearance is captivating, it would be a hindrance in the wild as it doesn’t provide them with the necessary camouflage for survival. It is important to consider the well-being and genetic diversity of these animals when it comes to their breeding and conservation efforts.