Are white tigers albino?

The well-known white tigers at zoos which are so popular with tourists and visitors are not albinos. Albinos have pure white coats and pink eyes.

White tiger
White tiger. Not an albino. Photo: Pixabay.

The glamorous white coat is chalky-white, their stripes are chocolate coloured (a dilute version of the normal near black stripes), and their eyes are ice-blue. Not the appearance of an albino cat. This non-albino tiger coat is due to a pair of recessive genes.

It is thought the genes emerged as recessive genes because of a mutation which occurred about 100 years ago (as at 2002).

All the world's captive white tigers are descendants from one dazzlingly beautiful white cub spared the tiger hunter's bullet as he was captured in Madhya Pradesh, India in 1951. His name was Mohan and he was mated with a normal-coloured tigress. All the offspring were normal.

The breeders forced the recessive gene to the surface by inbreeding Mohan with one of the cubs mentioned. This produced the result they were looking for: a litter of four white tiger cubs.

They are the foundation cubs of the world's white tigers. All white tigers are inbred as you can see. There was no breadth to the breeding program.

But to confirm; the white appearance is not that of an albino cat. The major difference between an all-white cat and an albino cat is in the eyes. They are clearly pink in the albino animal but blue (without pigmentation in the iris for the non-albino white cat).


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