Do Tigers Have Opposable thumbs? Animalia Facts

Tigers have massive paws (from 10 to 16 centimeters). Each paw in the front has five toes, and each paw at the back has four toes. However, do tigers have opposable thumbs?

Tigers do not have opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs are a distinct feature of the primates, but some frogs and pandas have them too. Regardless, tigers are not included in the list.

We, humans, have opposable thumbs. It allows us to manipulate objects that we grab. Without them, our daily activities would have been limited.

Do Tigers Have Opposable thumbs

What Are Opposable Thumbs?

Opposable thumbs or digits are a pretty rare feature. It belongs to only an exclusive club of the animal kingdom. Humans and primates are included in that club. The fingers and toes that we have are called digits.

Just think of all the work you do every day using your thumb. Only a person without thumbs can understand the importance of it. Every day grabbing, driving, eating, writing, etc., couldn’t have ever been possible without using our thumbs.

Opposable digits are fingers that you can rotate in a way such that it touches the tip of other fingers, fingerprint to fingerprint. Why is this so rare, then?

It is because most animals have fingers directed only in one direction. Only a particular group of animals have thumbs touching the other fingertips in the opposite direction.

We can also manipulate different things that we grab, like twisting, turning, etc.

10 Animals That Have Opposable Digits

opposable thumb of ape

Surprisingly humans are not the only ones to have the advantage of thumbs. There are a whole group of animals that have opposable digits. They all belong to an elite club.

  1. Humans have opposable thumbs.
  2. Apes, such as gorillas and chimpanzees, also have them.
  3. Baboons and grivets also have opposable digits.
  4. Pandas have them.
  5. Lemurs
  6. Possums
  7. Tree dwelling frogs
  8. Night monkeys
  9. Koalas
  10. Chameleons

These are some of the members of the animal kingdom that have these rare traits. Other animals have opposable thumbs too. Such as, there are owl monkeys, opossums, capuchin, squirrel monkeys, etc.

Why Do Humans Have Opposable Thumbs?

Opposable human hand

When we look at our thumbs first, we think about grabbing something. This is because very early in human evolution, there was a need to use tools, grab the branches of the trees, or perhaps even live in trees. This developed the opposable digit on human hands. With the evolution of the grasping hand, claws disappeared gradually.

However, humans are not like monkeys who use all 4 of their limbs to move. Humans can walk on their back limbs only. This is why the feet didn’t develop the opposable digits.

This thumb developed about 2.6 million years ago when people started to use more stone tools. This allowed them to hunt more and eat more, further growing bigger brains. Hence, our species wouldn’t be where it is now without the thumbs.

Primates use their thumbs to use tools, such as using a stick to move or break something or poke something out. However, they don’t have the sophisticated brain we have, so they can’t further develop complex tools.

Besides, human thumbs are a lot bigger than any other primate group. It can easily touch the tips of the other fingers. This allows us to firmly grip objects and manipulate them as per need.

What if Tigers Had Thumbs?

Opposable digits are significant and are of versatile use. However, they were developed relatively recently. The opposable thumb is a unique characteristic of the primates who can’t fly, have no claws, but can grip branches,

Tigers do have a tiny thumb, after all. Though it is not opposable like humans. It is called the “dewclaw”.

A White tiger is climbing a tree

Nevertheless, tigers have claws, so their thumbs are not developed opposable. But what if they had opposable thumbs?

Tigers could grab things then. They probably could easily climb on the top branches of the trees and hunt monkeys. Their opposable thumbs would’ve been a curse for the primates.

Tigers are incredibly muscled and very strong. Perhaps they could also use various tools. For example, they could use a branch to catch fish in the water or throw a stone to kill a bird they want to eat.

Perhaps they could be an even more vicious opponent for the humans. More people were to die in their hands.

However, opposable thumbs with claws are contradictory to the evolution process. If tigers had developed opposable digits, their claws perhaps would have been diminished throughout the time.

As a result, their hunting instincts could have been manipulated differently also. This would turn them into a wholly different kind of species.


Tigers are one of the most powerful animals in the animal kingdom. They hunt to kill. Their paws have the power of a monster. However, do tigers have opposable thumbs as we do?

No, they don’t. Hence, they can’t grip things. They can blow your head away with one swipe, but they can’t hold your hand and shake it.

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Team Animalia Facts

"Team Animal Facts" is an expert group of wildlife enthusiasts who are impassioned for mysteries of animal life and dedicated to exploring them.

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