|Country||China, Burma, Korea|
|Habitat||Remote Jungles and Mountainous Areas|
The Maltese tiger, or blue tiger, is a reported but unproven coloration morph of a tiger, reported mostly in the Fujian
Province of China. It is said to have bluish fur with dark gray stripes. Most of the Maltese tigers reported have been of the South Chinese subspecies. The South Chinese tiger today is critically endangered, due to their illegal and continued use in traditional Chinese Medicine and the "blue" alleles may be wholly extinct. Blue tigers have also been reported in Korea.
The term "Maltese" comes from domestic cat terminology for blue fur, and refers to the slate grey coloration. Many cats with such coloration are present in Malta, which may have given rise to the use of the adjective in this context.
Around 1910, Harry Caldwell, an American missionary and big game hunter, spotted and hunted a blue tiger outside Fuzhou. His search is chronicled in his book Blue Tiger (1924), and by his hunting companion Roy Chapman Andrews in his Camps & Trails in China (1925, chapter VII). Chapman cites Caldwell thus:
"The markings of the beast are strikingly beautiful. The ground color is of a delicate shade of maltese, changing into light gray-blue on the underparts. The stripes are well defined and like those of the ordinary yellow tiger."
—Caldwell, Chapman (1925)
A more recent report, given to Mystery Cats of the World author Karl Shuker, comes from the son of a US Army soldier who served in Korea during the Korean War. His father sighted a blue tiger in the mountains near
what is now the Demilitarized Zone. Blue tigers have also been reported from Burma. The black tiger was also long considered mythical, but several pelts have proven that pseudo-melanistic or hypermelanic tigers
do exist. They are not completely black, but have dense, wide stripes that partially obscure the orange background color.
In support of the blue tiger theory, Maltese-colored cats certainly do exist. The most common are a domestic cat breed, the Russian Blue, and a variety of the British Shorthair, the British Blue, but blue bobcats and lynxes have also been recorded, and there are genetic mutations and combinations that result in bluish hue, or at least in the impression of a blue-gray animal. Shuker suggested that blue tigers possessed two different pairs of recessive alleles — the non-agouti (s/s), and the dilute (d/d) which combine to produce a solid blue-gray colour as found in domestic cats such as the British blue and Russian blue, but would not produce the striped blue tigers reported.