The tiger is a powerful feline that roams Asia, a large and beautiful beast, well-respected for his hunting prowess.
Across the Atlantic, the cougar viciously defends his territory against all comers, a powerful and ferocious feline in his own right.
What would happen if these two apex predators were to come together and engage in an epic battle to the death? Who would win? Would the winner leave unscathed?
Let’s break down each feline’s vital statistics to determine the most likely outcome if these two cousin cats went head-to-head in one-on-one combat.
As these are both big cats, there are going to be a lot of similarities in their lifestyles and hunting habits. Yet, there may be details in how they live which can play an important role when the cat engages in combat, so it’s important to evaluate each combatant.
(photo: Mathias Appel)
A large black striped cat usually featured orangish-hued fur, the tiger enjoys a solitary roam through this territory, marking with urine, feces, or scraping on trees or earth to notify any intruders that they are making a grave mistake.
If that is not enough, his mighty roar may prove the incentive to get out of his range before things turn violent.
While this can serve as a warning to any predators, that includes other tigers as well.
While it is not a frequent occurrence, occasionally other tigers enter one another’s territory, and when this trespasser disregards the home tiger’s warnings, a brutal and deadly battle can take place between the two.
The tiger prefers to hunt at night and enjoys pursuing deer, wild pigs, buffalo, or other large mammals, reportedly attacking even the mighty elephant in extreme and unusual circumstances, although often only when he has a clear advantage due to the larger prey having suffered an injury or being sick.
Despite his hunting prowess, he is not averse to chomping down on free carrion if he stumbles upon some while stalking his range. He may also bury his kills and return later for a second meal.
(photo: Bob Haarmans)
The tawny short-haired cougar can also be found in a reddish or grey coat.
With their slender body, long tail, and rounded heads, they are large enough to have acquired the nickname “mountain lion”.
Also a solitary cat, the cougar enjoys hunting deer, porcupines, coyotes, and raccoons among other mammals, even occasionally snacking on insects if the mood suits him.
Just like his tiger cousin, he also will eat carrion and will bury his kills so he can have seconds at a later time.
Notably, he has incredibly powerful hind legs, which are longer than his forelegs, which provide him with the ability to jump approximately fifteen feet straight into the air.
While he may be able to growl and shriek, he is unable to roar.
Tale of the Tape
|Weight||200 – 680 lb||120 – 220 lbs|
|Length||up to 10 feet long (including tail)||7 ft 10 in|
|Habitat||rain forests, grasslands, savannas||forest, lowland and mountainous deserts|
|Lifespan||8 – 10 years (in the wild)||8 – 13 years (In the wild)|
|Bite Force||1,050 PSI||724.6 PSI|
|Speed||30 – 40 mph (in short bursts)||50 mph|
|Prey||Carnivore: moose, deer species, pigs, cows, horses, buffalos and goats||Carnivore: deer, coyotes, porcupines, and raccoons|
Tiger vs Cougar: Size and Weight
Size advantage in lethal combat cannot be underestimated. In many cases, size can be the deciding factor. How do these two big cats compare in size?
The tiger is the absolutely largest cat species, ranking even higher than the lion and in rare instances can weigh just under 1,000 pounds!
The average weight is still an intimidating 700 pounds, resulting in a lot of big cat to contend with in a fight.
The cougar brings approximately 220 pounds to the scale, which no matter how vicious or aggressive he may be, there’s no discounting that he is at a serious disadvantage in this category.
It will take agility and ingenuity if he wants to take down a foe of this magnitude.
Tiger vs Cougar: Speed/Movement
With so much weight under his belt, you may expect the tiger to be a slow, plodding foe and the cougar to run laps around him. The cougar certainly could use that advantage to counteract the tiger’s immense bulk.
However, that is not the case.
The tiger has the power to move and he and the cougar can each run 50 mph over short bursts. That means that any injured foe who attempted to flee is unlikely to escape unless his opponent has a leg injury or is winded.
The cougar does have the advantage in the agile, maneuverability category, as he has less weight to move around and is an agile feline. This may be closer to a tie than anything, but due to this slight advantage, we are going to let the cougar have this one.
Tiger vs Cougar: Weapons
As these warriors are both felines, they bring similar weapons to battle with them: sharp claws and powerful jaws.
Each of these cats uses a mighty bite to attempt to instantly end their prey in a single strike.
Because the weapon selection is the same, this one will have to go down as a draw.
Tiger vs Cougar: Intelligence
The tiger has the largest brain of any big cat, and while that doesn’t necessarily indicate greater intellect, his hunting prowess is more a product of his mother’s teaching than instinct.
That is telling as it shows that tigers have a great ability to learn and adapt to altering conditions when hunting and surviving in the wild.
He is also known to learn from his prey and exploit weaknesses to perfect efficiency when taking down his prey.
While the cougar is often referred to as smart and he can adapt and learn from his mistakes as well, his intellect does not rank high among big cats, which puts him in a tier below the tiger.
Tiger vs Cougar: Hunting Skills/Instincts To Kill
Both species are ambush hunters, with the tiger often sneaking along behind his prey and then darting out for a quick kill, while the cougar often prefers hiding behind cover and then leaping out at his prey.
They each go for the quick kill, often targeting the back of the neck near the spine to incapacitate their prey or targeting the throat in some situations.
However, cougars are known as one of the least aggressive cats and will rarely engage with humans while tigers are well-documented for killing humans when feeling threatened.
Neither cat typically goes out of his way to attack humans, but if young is nearby or if feeling threatened it is certainly a possibility.
Due to its more aggressive nature, the tiger wins this category.
Tiger vs Cougar: Weaknesses
Finding a weakness to exploit can often mean survival when death is assured. It’s time to consider whether either cat has a weakness which his opponent can exploit to find an advantage or claim victory.
One of the only real weaknesses that the cougar can exploit on the tiger is his impatience.
As a powerful predator, if he is unable to make a quick kill, he can become exasperated and become predictable, allowing a clever opponent to use evasion tactics and evasion to wear him down and find opportune times to strike.
No, whether the cougar’s lower intellect would allow him to manipulate the tiger in this way is up for debate.
The cougar’s primary weakness is a weaker sense of smell. This is the main reason why he prefers to hang out in hiding and wait for his prey to come by because he is not as proficient as a scent hunter.
As each of these cats operates primarily from ambush, that could give the tiger a chance to get that all-important first strike.
Final Verdict: Who Would Win In a Fight
While it is not impossible for the cougar to take down a tiger if he managed to get a surprise strike and land the perfect debilitating bite in the right place, it is improbable.
The tiger simply has too great a weight advantage, is more cunning, and fast enough to overcome any maneuverability advantage the cougar main gain from its smaller size.
While it is always fun to root for the underdog, it is not recommended to place your bets on the cougar because he is simply overmatched in too many categories and the tiger is a more aggressive beast.
The champion in this mostly one-sided affair is going to be: the tiger.
Winner: The Tiger
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