“They’re not normally found,” Bass explained, noting that a white tiger likely couldn’t even survive in the wild because they’d stick out too much. “In order to get that [color], breeders have to breed tigers over and over again to get that gene to come forward.”
The result of that inbreeding is tigers like Kenny, whose parents were likely siblings. And he’s not alone; the populace as a whole has been bizarrely damaged by decades of inbreeding.
Bass said that almost all white tigers have crossed eyes – even if you can’t see it, their optic nerves are crossed – and a host of other medical problems.
“They don’t live as long [as other tigers],” she explained. “They have kidney problems, they have spine issues.”
Many white tigers also have cleft palates, counting one who lives at BCR. “Our white tiger Zabu has a missing upper lip and it looks like she’s always smiling,” Bass said.
Because white tiger litters are usually so damaged, most of them, and the orange siblings they’re born with, can’t be “used” by breeders. “Typically they have so many health problems, they’re not pretty enough to be in a Las Vegas show,” Bass said. (White tigers are a staple attraction in Vegas.)
While Kenny’s irregularities are more apparent than other white tigers’, it’s unclear whether he’s truly exceptional – or whether he was just one of the lucky ones to escape.