The Disposition of House Tigers


“The first tiger, or rather tigress, in my life was the beautiful Tara. She was sold from Edinburgh Zoo in 1958, and I found her in a pet store near Regent’s Park. She was nine weeks old and cost me two hundred pounds… Tara was a mind opener for me. We raised her on the bottle and she slept in my bed for the first eighteen months. So sound was her character and so sweet and affectionate her nature that I supposed at first I had an exceptional animal on my hands. Experience subsequently told me that her qualities were typical of her species. To some extent I must have been suborned by the age-old propaganda against the tiger, because I remember being surprised that she never bore malice or resentment. Instinctively a man strikes back if he is hurt by a claw or bite, and when I first cuffed her in annoyance at some pain, she hissed and bared her fangs. A few minutes later the incident was forgotten, and slowly, as time went by, she learnt to play with retracted claws and restrained teeth. Through agreeably disposed towards mankind in general, she was not prepared to put up with any familiarities from outsiders. My butler panicked one lunch-time when Tara was idly playing with his foot, and he lashed out at her with a savage kick. After this incident, Tara released such terrifying growls of angers whenever he appeared that he gave his notice.”

The Best of Friends, John Aspinall, 1976, Macmillan London Ltd.