Tigre de Montagne is the French name, often used in the region, for a large cat in the Ennedi mountains of northern Chad in central Africa. In English we know this animal as the Ennedi Tiger. A large unknown cat, with stripes and dentition not seen in big cats since the last Ice Age, saber teeth. This animal isn’t exclusive to Chad, with alleged small pockets elsewhere in central Africa, and perhaps a very similar cat in South America as well. But, the most famous example, at least the few stories that have been reported in English speaking cryptozoological texts are of the Ennedi Tiger.
To be fair, this isn’t the most likely animal to still be around today. The data for them isn’t overwhelming, but there’s enough of it that we shouldn’t ignore it, especially if this is a specie on the brink of extinction. Based on the evidence, including stories I’ve heard personally, I think that this should be a priority in research. I mean, we have some fairly specific locations for these animals, and it’s a concept that I think the world at large can grab onto. So yes , we need more exploration here.
As far as the sabertooth trait, it doesn’t necessarily mean these animals are bona fide prehistoric survivors. That possibility is very much in play since it violates no biological rule but the idea of a more modern adaptation that parallels or mimics ice age sabertooth species should also be considered.
Some of the first descriptions of the Tigre de Montagne to reach outside Africa were in the 1960’s, thanks to hunting guide Christian Le Noel who heard about the animal from the Zagaoua tribe. They described the animal as large as a lion, very powerful, with a very short tail and red fur with white stripes. They also added that it had a pair of huge teeth that protruded from its mouth. Some specimens also exhibit melanism, black coat. The later isn’t unusual for big cats, and that gene is expressed in certain individuals that live in dense forest or jungle environments. Jaguars and Leopard are two most famous examples of that.
These mysterious cats while rare and difficult to spot, are fairly well known by local tribes in Chad and neighboring countries. The Hadjeray of southwestern Chad call this animal Hadjel. In the Central African Republic and more specifically in the Ouanda-Djaile region it is called the Vassako and also Tigre de Montagne. Sightings are also common in Sudan, or at least were, near the border with Uganda.
Translated into English, Tigre de Montagne means mountain tiger and the name is a reflection of where sightings have occurred. Part of that I feel is also because a mountainous environment provides a much better line of sight with less vegetation to get in the way. It doesn’t necessarily mean that this is where the majority of the population resides. I’ve been intrigued by sightings closer to rivers and water sources. Not only, does that make sense biologically but a number of large animals, including hippos, have allegedly been found dead with their flanc sliced open by unknown predators.
Christian Le Noel never saw a Tigre de Montagne, although he did hear a large roar in the mountains his guides identified as a Tigre de Montagne. He was also the one to bring back the first stories of hippos with their flancs sliced open by two long cuts native told him were done by the saber teeth of these cats, and he saw some tracks. At this point, Le Noel was understandably hooked. The lure of a living sabertooth cat is a potent narcotic.