The Golden Tabby Tiger is an extremely rare colour variation of this exquisite wild cat, and not a separate subspecies. This tiger is characterised by its gorgeous fawn-coloured (or pale gold) fur with its light-orange stripes and pale (sometimes white) belly and legs. The fur is thicker and softer than other tigers’ fur, giving it a distinctly luxurious look and feel. Usually, a Golden Tabby Tiger (or a Strawberry Tiger, as it is sometimes known by the public) is simply a different coloured version of the Bengal Tiger subspecies.
Interestingly, the Golden Tabby Tiger is usually considerably larger than the average Bengal Tiger. When two of these golden tigers are mated with one another, the offspring may be white, since this variety of tiger carries the gene for White Tigers.
The Golden Tabby Tiger is, to the best of modern knowledge, only in existence in captivity today. And, even in this protected environment,
there are only about 30 or fewer of these animals in the world, testifying to its great rarity. However, there are more tigers that carry the gene (although they display no physical characteristics thereof), slightly improving the chance of more being born. The more that Golden Tabby Tigers are allowed to breed only with one another, the more likely they are to produce more such colour variations, although this is not guaranteed.
Golden Tabby Tigers are known for being highly intelligent. This is one of the reasons for them making ideal pets for private owners and zoos.
Genetically speaking, this tiger has the genes of a normal orange-coloured cat, but also two copies of a recessive wide band gene. This is what lends the Golden Tabby its gorgeous white and ginger markings. Usually, a Strawberry Tiger is the result of a zoo’s breeding white and common orange tigers together (whether intentionally or by accident), rather than a deliberate attempt at breeding Golden Tabbies.
The first Golden Tabby Tiger ever born in captivity came from two Bengal Tigers at the Adriatic Animal Attractions in Florida, in 1983. One or both of these parents carried the gene for such a colour variation, but neither of them displayed any of its characteristics. Therefore, this cub was a complete surprise to those at the park.
Because this is not an individual subspecies of tiger, biologists and scientists will not spend excessive time, effort or money on studying or protecting the Golden Tabby. However, the zoos and conservation parks in which they live value these rare creatures for their beauty and intelligence.