Friday, December 17, 2010
Maltese and Black Tigers
Maltese tigers are said to be blue in color with dark gray stripes reported mostly from the Fujian Province of China. The term "Maltese" comes from domestic cat terminology for blue fur, and refers to the slate grey coloration. Many images have been made of "Blue" tigers and well, they are really really blue; most people seem to ignore that "blue" in an animal means a steel or slate gray with a slight blueish tint to it.
Most of the Maltese tigers reported have been of the South Chinese subspecies though they've also been reported in Korea. Around 1910, Harry Caldwell, an American missionary and big game hunter, spotted and hunted a blue tiger outside Fuzhou and had this to say about it: "The markings of the beast are strikingly beautiful. The ground color is of a delicate shade of maltese, changing into light gray-blue on the underparts. The stripes are well defined and like those of the ordinary yellow tiger."
Maltese-colored cats certainly do exist. The most common are a domestic cat breed, the Russian Blue, and a variety of the British Shorthair, the British Blue, but blue bobcats and lynxes have also been recorded.
In isolated populations, mutations can occur so the odd coloring of a Maltese tiger isn't too far out of the possible, even if they aren't neon blue like most artists depict them. Below is what one artist (I do not have the credits so if anyone knows, please tell me!) thinks it may look like:
Black tigers are another that seem to pop up in Cryptid sightings but no photo of one (or the Maltese) is believed to exist. Black tigers are probably the result of a psuedo-melanistic sub-population, or in other words, their stripes are so close together to appear as a solid or nearly solid black fur pattern. Most black mammals are due to the non-agouti mutation. Agouti refers to the ticking of each individual hair. In certain light, the pattern still shows up because the background color is less dense than the color of the markings. Animals with psuedo-melanistic coloration are said to be the result of inbreeding. They're also said to be smaller, which could be a result of inbreeding as well or black leopards being misidentified as tigers.
In other words, Maltese and Black tigers may be sub-populations of actual species, isolated and inbred to the point that their coloring has changed drastically. Personally, with the fact that tigers all over the world are endangered or near extinction (if not extinct already) then this may be the answer to why these ones look the way they do. One day we may find specimens of each, but if we do I hope we shoot them with cameras instead of guns; live animals are worth more to science then dead ones in my opinion.