How to spot the difference between a tiger and a tigress

For centuries we’ve been fascinated by tigers, and modern culture has seen them turn up in everything from story books (think Tigger in Winnie the Pooh and Shere Khan in The Jungle Book) to theatre shows for kids, such as the Olivier Award nominated The Tiger Who Came to Tea. But for budding biologists, telling the difference between male and female tigers can be tricky. Here’s how to spot the telltale signs.



Tigers are the biggest cats on the planet. Bengal tigers are the largest of the subspecies, with males weighing in at around 272kg. Females typically weigh around half that, with the biggest of the bunch reaching 159kg. Of course, scientists can’t physically pop a wild tiger on some scales; nor can they compare these cats against each other, because tigers usually live alone. Instead, they have to look at objects in a tiger’s territory and work out how much larger or smaller the tiger is in comparison.


Body composition

Although hard to spot, tigers and tigresses have differences in their bodies. Males, for example, have slightly longer tails and larger paws relative to the size of their bodies. A tiger’s overall length might reach 3.5 metres, while a tigress’ isn’t likely to exceed 2.5 metres. Male tigers often have larger heads and necks than females too, with more pronounced cheeks and jaws. Again, these differences can be hard to identify.


Females might become pregnant during mating season and display teats or a swollen belly - a much more obvious sign of their sex.



Tigers often display many of the same behaviours, such as roaming a large territory and marking it by lifting their tails and spraying objects such as trees and rocks with a mixture of urine and gland secretions. Male tigers typically have a larger territory than females and will mark it more frequently, spraying at least once a day.


If tigers are seen fighting they’re most likely to be males. While young females will search out unoccupied territory to make their own, males will challenge the current owner of an occupied territory.


Conversely, if a tiger is spotted with cubs in tow, you can be sure she’s female. Males don’t have any part in raising young, while females keep their babies by their side until they’re 24-30 months of age.


Discover the tiger at a theatre near you

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is currently touring the UK, and will be playing at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from 8 July to 1 September 2024. This theatre show for kids is based on the children’s picture book by Judith Kerr and has been winning the hearts of families for 15 years. Expect sing-along songs, dancing and clumsy chaos in this spectacular kids’ theatre show, which has a running time of 55 minutes with no interval - ideal for little ones ages three and up. Book your tickets today!