A fierce and rapacious animal of the genus Tigris, which includes but a single species, T. regalis, found in the warmer parts of Asia, chiefly in India, and the Indian islands. The color of the tiger is of a bright orange-yellow ground; the face, throat, and underside of the belly being nearly white; the whole elegantly striped by a series of transverse black bands or bars. He has no mane, and his whole frame, though less elevated than the lion, is of a more graceful make. The animal is possessed of great strength, and in the East is considered as the emblem of power. — Webster, 1882
“Tigers are yellow with black stripes,” Mary objected. – By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 29, “The Shanty on the Claim”
The tigers mentioned in On the Banks of Plum Creek are part of Willie Oleson’s Noah’s ark toy. Laura Ingalls could have learned about tigers from reading about them in Pa’s big green animal book, The Polar and Tropical Worlds, written by George Hartwig. Hartwig devoted several pages to the tiger, although he included no illustrations of them. The illustration here is from the 1882 Webster’s Dictionary.
In The Long Winter, Chapter 22, “Cold and Dark,” Pa reads aloud from Hartwig’s book about the lions, and he tells the girls to imagine that they are surrounded by “lions and tigers and hyenas and [he guesses] a hippopotamus or two.”
In By the Shores of Silver Lake, Chapter 29, “The Shanty on the Claim,” Wilder describes the shanty as being “tiger-striped” because of the yellow lath against the darker tar-paper. Mary contradicts Laura by correctly pointing out that tigers are “yellow with black stripes.”
The Tiger. The lion reigns in Africa, but the Tiger is lord and master of the Indian jungles. A splendid animal—elegantly striped with black on a white and golden ground; graceful in every movement, but of a most sanguinary and cruel nature. The lengthened body resting on short legs wants the proud bearing of the lion, while the naked head, the wildly rolling eye, the scarlet tongue constantly lolling from the jaws, and the whole expression of the tiger’s physiognomy indicate an insatiable thirst of blood, a pitiless ferocity, which he wreaks indiscriminately on every living thing that comes within his grasp. In the bamboo jungle on the banks of pools and rivers, he waits for the approaching herd; there he seeks his prey, or rather multiples his murders, for he often leaves the carcass of the axis or the nylghau still writhing in the agony of death to throw himself upon new victims, whose bodies he rends with his claws, then plunges his head into the gaping wound to absorb with deep and luxurious draughts the blood whose fountains he has just laid open… — George Hartwig, The Polar and Tropical Worlds (Springfield, Massachusetts: Bill Nichols & Co., 1872), 705.
tiger (BW 5; SSL 29; TLW 22; PG)
in Noah’s ark toy (BPC 22)
tiger-striped (SSL 29), see batten