Observing multiple individuals of the same species can reveal distinct personalities, not just in humans but also in other animals, whether domestic or wild. Now, a study has identified two main personality traits in Siberian tigers that the researchers believe impact their hunting abilities, mating behavior, and social status: one is “majestic”, the other is “steady”.
The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest tiger subspecies and can be found in the cold forests of Russia and China. It weighs over 200 kilograms and eats birds, boars and bears. Like other tigers, the Siberian tiger is endangered by habitat loss and poaching, as its body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
An international team of researchers did a survey with the caretakers of almost 250 Siberian tigers to better understand the tigers’ personality traits. They used a human personality test and adapted it to explore traits in tigers, such as sincerity and bullying. It’s the first study that looked at tigers’ characters in a semi-wild setting, they said.
“All tigers are not the same and, while we cannot know how the character or temperament of one tiger strikes another, we can assess how the personality of a tiger strikes human observers – and that’s what we measured,” Rosalind Arden, one of the authors of the research, and a researcher at LSE in the UK, said in a media statement.
Tiger’s personality traits
A group of over 50 feeders and veterinarians responsible for the well-being of tigers living in two wildlife sanctuaries in northeastern China collaborated with the researchers. They completed questionnaires that included up to 70 adjectives to describe the personality traits of each tiger such as savage, imposing, dignified, and friendly.
With over 800 questionnaires completed, the researchers found two personality types that emerged the most in the tigers. Tigers with traits such as confidence, competition and ambition were grouped under the “majesty” mindset, while those that showed traits such as obedience, gentleness and tolerance fell under the “steadiness” mindset.
Tigers who scored higher for “majesty” were healthier, preyed more on live animals and ate and mated more, based on the habits observed by the caretakers. Meanwhile, those who ranked higher for “steadiness” were shown to be gentler and more loving. The researchers also found very few sex-related differences in the tigers’ personalities.
As all the tigers in the study were semi-captive, the results may have been different if tigers in the wild could have been studied, the researchers noted. However, the findings still offer valuable insights that contributed to the conservation and survival of the Siberian tigers, with fewer than 4,000 of these iconic animals in the wild today.
“Like us, Siberian tigers are individuals. Understanding their temperaments is essential because, as we have seen, these personalities have a bearing on this endangered species’ ability to breed and flourish,” Arden said in a statement.
The study was published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.
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