Young Tiger Puts Its Hunting Skills to the Test and Claims Its First Victory

Written by Sharon Parry
Updated: October 21, 2023
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Key Points

  • A tiger cub is learning to hunt by observing its mother’s body language and practicing on a partially throttled deer.
  • Tigers are carnivores and prefer to hunt large ungulates, but will opportunistically prey on other animals as well.
  • Tigers use a combination of concealment, stalking, and a sudden rush to capture their prey, and may use a bite to the back of the neck or a throttle bite to kill it.
  • The kill rate for tigers can be as low as one in 12 attempts.

This tiger cub is a novice hunter but we all have to start somewhere! He is beginning to understand his mother’s body language when she detects that prey is nearby. She has a look of complete concentration because she has a target in her sights. This incredible footage was captured in India, as a tigress ambushes and stuns a samba deer. Though she partially throttles the deer, she does not completely kill it. She uses it to allow her cub to hone his own killer skills. He makes a good start at learning the throttle hold. Whilst this may seem very cruel, it is a vital part of a predator’s learning curve. Scroll down to see the full footage of this crucial life lesson.

What Do Tigers Normally Eat?

Tigers are carnivores and obligate meat eaters so they consume very little if any plant material. Their preferred prey are large ungulates. This could be large bovids such as antelope, wild cattle and water buffalo or large cervids such as deer. They also hunt wild pigs.  

However, the tiger is also an opportunist and if they get the chance to take a primate, reptile, bird, amphibian, fish, or even an invertebrate it will do so. Tigers have been seen taking young elephant and rhinoceros calves, but know better than to tackle an adult!

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Royal Bengal Tiger with Cub

Tiger cubs must learn how to be excellent hunters.

©Anuradha Marwah/

What Hunting Technique Do Tigers Use?

This tiger cub is receiving an important lesson in how to hunt and kill prey. Even though tigers are excellent hunters, their kill rate can be as low as one in 12 attempts. They are solitary stalk and ambush hunters, with three elements to the hunting technique. These are concealment, stalking, and a sudden rush.

Once the prey has been captured, they may kill it with a bite to the back of the neck. This is useful for smaller pray – the tiger inserts their canine tooth between the neck vertebrae. The bones are forced apart and the spinal cord is broken. This will not work on larger prey because the tooth will not reach the vertebra. Instead, they use a strangulation or throttle bite. This is highly effective on animals that have thick manes or well-muscled necks. It crushes the trachea (wind pipe) and therefore cuts off the animal’s air supply. As we see in this clip, younger tigers who are not used to hunting may also use this technique on smaller prey. First, however, they need to perfect their technique!

Watch the Fascinating Clip Below

Summary Table

Key InformationDetails
Tiger’s DietCarnivores and obligate meat eaters. Prefer large ungulates such as antelope, wild cattle, water buffalo, or large cervids such as deer. Also hunt wild pigs and other animals if opportunity arises.
Hunting TechniqueSolitary stalk and ambush hunters. Techniques include concealment, stalking, and a sudden rush. Kill prey with a bite to the back of the neck or a strangulation or throttle bite.
Success RateCan be as low as one in 12 attempts.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sourabh Bharti/

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About the Author

Dr Sharon Parry is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on dogs, animal behavior, and research. Sharon holds a PhD from Leeds University, UK which she earned in 1998 and has been working as a science writer for the last 15 years. A resident of Wales, UK, Sharon loves taking care of her spaniel named Dexter and hiking around coastlines and mountains.

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