In 1910 a missionary and amateur naturalist named Harry R. Caldwell sighted, just for a moment, an animal many believe to not exist. Reports are loose and sporadic, the only pictures available – artistic represenations. It is written of as a myth or cryptic animal. A feline bigfoot, haunting the jungles of southern China. The blue tiger.
One of Caldwell’s companions, Roy Chapman Andrews, wrote:
“The markings of the animal were marvellously beautiful. The ground colour seemed to be a deep shade of maltese, changing into almost deep blue on the under parts. The stripes were well defined, and so far as I was able to make out similar to those of a tiger of the regular type. […]
We hunted the animal for five weeks. The brute ranged in the vicinity of two or three villages about seven miles apart, but was seen most frequently near Lung-tao. He was as elusive as a will o’ the wisp, killing a dog or goat in one village and by the time we had hurried across the mountains appearing in another spot a few miles away, leaving a trail of terrified natives who flocked to our camp to recount his depredations. He was in truth the “Great Invisible” [referring to elusiveness of tigers] and it seemed impossible that we should not get him sooner or later, but we never did. Once we missed him by a hair’s breadth […]
The grass-filled lair lay shimmering in the breathless heat, silent save for the echoes of the bleating goats. Crouched behind the screen of branches, for three long hours we sat in the patchwork shade,–motionless, dripping with perspiration, hardly breathing,–and watched the shadows steal slowly down the narrow ravine. It was a wild place […] the only entrance was by the tiger tunnels which drove their twisting way through the murderous growth far in toward its gloomy heart. […] I knew it was six o’clock and in half an hour another day of disappointment would be ended. Suddenly at the left and just below us there came the faintest crunching sound as a loose stone shifted under a heavy weight; then a rustling in the grass.” -Roy Chapman Andrews, 1910
Should this animal actually exist it would be the result of a rare genetic defect, like the mutations that cause albino tigers or black leopards. It’s color would not actually be blue, instead this tiger would appear slate gray with a blue tinge, much like the Russian Blue cat.
Reports of sightings are primarily from the Fuxian province of China, although reports have come in from the DMZ between North and South Korea. Any populations would be the result of isolation and ancient inbreeding, what is known as genetic drift or founder effects. However, due to the rarity of sightings it is likely that this mutation is now extinct, if it ever existed at all.
Harry Caldwell never caught his tiger, although he came close many times. He documented his efforts in his book The Blue Tiger, which was published in 1924 with notes from Andrews. It is currently available on Amazon. The myth remains unconfirmed either way.
(Sources: The Blue Tiger, wikimedia commons, and http://www.messybeast.com)