Did Tigers Ever Roam The UK?

If you’re tiger mad, it’s likely you will have seen everyone’s favourite stripy friends in a local zoo. But have you ever found yourself wondering if tigers have ever roamed the UK? Well, while there are, of course, no wild tigers stalking through our forests today, there were once huge lions roaming across Britain. Imagine that!


Called cave lions, these big cats lived some 12-14,000 years ago – which is not so very long ago when you think that dinosaurs were on our shores over 65 million years ago. They were up to 25 percent bigger than the lions you would see on a safari in Kenya, and the males had little or no mane. Their other distinctive feature is that they had faint stripes.

Cave lions lived in prides and hunted deer, elk, bison and horses. As the ice retreated from the northern hemisphere they became one of the many species that sadly died out – along with woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, and Neanderthal man. The reason for their extinction is thought to be either the advance of humans, who began farming around this time, or climate change.

So tigers have never lived wild here in the UK, but what about in the rest of Europe?


Even more recently, tigers roamed parts of Europe, including eastern Turkey, Ukraine and southern Russia. The Caspian tiger could be found in these regions until the Middle Ages, as well as in places such as Mongolia, Armenia and Georgia, inhabiting riverine lands that offered plenty of cover in the form of forests, reeds and tall grass. It was the largest of all tigers, with long, strong legs and huge paws. What also distinguished it from other tigers was its fur colour; Caspian tigers had golden yellow fur with brown stripes.

The Caspian tiger was declared extinct in the 1970s, largely due to loss of habitat and being hunted by humans. Since then a lot of research has gone into finding out whether the Caspian tiger can be brought back. The species has been found to have very similar DNA to the Siberian tiger – so much so that it’s not certain whether the two are actually different species at all.

Currently there are plans to reintroduce some Siberian tigers into part of the Caspian tiger’s former territory, in Kazakhstan. Habitat in a designated reserve is currently being prepared, and it is hoped that the tigers can be introduced over a nine-year period, between 2024 and 2033.

If you’re a tiger fan and looking for things to do in London this summer, don’t miss The Tiger Who Came to Tea theatre show. Packed with sing along songs, magic and clumsy chaos, it’s one of the best examples of children’s theatre in London – perfect for kids aged three and above. It tells the story of the bestselling picture book by Judith Kerr, and is sure to be a hit with your little ones. Book your tickets for this fantastic children’s show in London.