Tigers are one of the most iconic big cats in the world and we are constantly learning more and more things about these majestic creatures as time goes on.
This includes facts about their behavior, habitat and diet as there are several subspecies of tiger that each lives in different areas and biomes of Asia.
Because of this diversity in habitat, tigers often cross paths with other bigs cats including leopards – but are these feline predators another type of prey for tigers?
If you want to learn more about the relationships between tigers and leopards, then this is the place for you. We are going to be looking into the diet of tigers to see if other big cats – like leopards – appear on their dinner plates.
So, let’s get started!
What Do Tigers Eat?
As we said earlier, tigers are stretched across a huge area of the world and live in very different biomes from species to species. This means that the diet of subspecies will have a few differences when it comes to what types of animal species they prey upon.
However, there is some consistency when it comes to diets and tiger subspecies. All tigers will regularly prey upon ungulates – large, hoofed mammals such as deer, cattle, or horses.
Although the species varies from subspecies to subspecies of tiger, all tigers mainly get their nutrition from animals such as deer, pigs, buffalo and goats.
Where things vary is when it comes to other common animals found in each subspecies biome. For example, the Sumatran tiger lives in an area with lots of porcupines and tapirs so they frequently are preyed upon.
Because there are species of tigers spread across most of western Asia, they often cross paths with certain species of leopards.
These two species coexist as competitors, which means that their territories sometimes border or overlap and the two end up competing for sources of food.
But do tigers see these leopards as sources of prey too?
Do Tigers Eat Leopards?
There are three species of leopard that overlap territory with tigers. These include regular leopards along with closely related species of the clouded leopard and the snow leopard.
Each species is a lot smaller and less powerful than tigers which means that they are seriously vulnerable if caught up in a fight with a tiger.
However, interspecies fighting among leopards and tigers is pretty rare and most of the time, leopards and tigers are sure not to cross into each other’s territories.
However, if food or mates are scarce then it is likely that they will cross paths – but only attack if there’s not enough food sources to go around.
Leopards will hide from tigers by climbing up trees (which their smaller, more agile biology allows them to do with ease) because they will attack and kill leopards.
They also do not discriminate between ages either so tigers will still kill any leopard cubs they come across too.
If a leopard and tiger are caught up in a brawl, then the tiger will almost always come out as the victor no matter what species is against which.
This is because all tigers are so much bigger and more powerful than all species of leopard – but do tigers eat their competitors like they would their prey?
Yes, they do.
Tigers have been recorded to eat a range of different predators including leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards.
Although they do not go out of their way to exclusively hunt them down to eat, a tiger will not turn away from killing and eating a leopard if the two cross paths.
And it’s not just leopards – tigers are known to kill and consume other competitors including dholes, bears, pythons and crocodiles. Basically, most animals that cross paths with a tiger are likely to end up on their menu for dinner.
However, tigers are far more likely to actively hunt for ungulates than leopards. This is because most ungulates do not put up a fight when hunted and are much easier to chase and bring down.
Leopards, however, can bite and claw back in a fight – so tigers will be much safer hunting down other species of animal for their meals.
Do Leopards Eat Tigers?
So tigers do kill and eat leopards (including snow and clouded leopards) but is the situation ever the other way around?
Well, no. While both leopards and tigers are apex predators (which means they do not have any predators above them on the food chain) tigers are vastly stronger than leopards which means they almost always win in a fight.
The only time a leopard has any chance of taking down a tiger is if they come across a lone cub or a very young tiger.
If the leopard wins, then we can assume that they will eat their kill – but this sort of situation is so extreme and rare that it almost never happens.
We cannot say for certain that a leopard has never eaten a tiger but the odds are so stacked in the tiger’s favor that while a few instances of tigers eating leopards have been recorded, there are none of leopards eating tigers.
Do Tigers Eat Leopards In Captivity?
When kept in captivity, tigers are fed a diet by their zookeepers that closely mimics the one they have in the wild. This means that tigers are usually fed sources of beef, bones, chickens and hares because they can be locally sourced for a low cost.
Hunting and cruelty laws means that zoos are forbidden from feeding tigers other endangered animals like leopards. So, the answer is no – tigers are not fed leopards in captivity even though they sometimes eat them in the wild.
So, tigers do kill and eat leopards when the two cross paths in the wild.
This is because they are natural competitors and tigers want to improve their species chances of survival even further by killing their competitors. Tigers will also kill other competitors like dholes and bears to achieve this.