Some dramatic tiger tussles have been caught on camera in recent months showing the big cats battling for coveted turf in one of the planet's most celebrated tiger reserves.

Last month, safarigoers in Ranthambore National Park in north-central India got front-row seats to a testy scrap between two Bengal tigresses: 

The lightning speed with which the brawl intensifies – and the full-throated roaring that ensues – are enough to raise goosebumps (which is a perfectly understandable primal response, given humans have occasionally landed on tiger menus for a long, long time.)

The tigresses in question are sisters – Riddhi and Siddhi, as they’re known – belonging to an illustrious Ranthambore matrilineage. They’re daughters of Arrowhead, or T-84, and great-granddaughters of a true celebrity, Machli (T-16), who during her reign as the “Queen of Ranthambore” was just about the most famous tiger in India.

According to The Times of India, Riddhi – injured in the sibling row – was later attended to by the park’s forest department, receiving 14 stitches in her tongue.

The filmed fight wasn’t the first observed tussle between Riddhi and Siddhi in January, and these scuffles come on the heels of some months of ornery familial relations – not only between the sisters, but also between mother and daughters. In December, an Arrowhead-vs.-Siddhi showdown was caught on film, with mom apparently coming out on top:

The sisters squared off in Malik Lake over a chital kill in late November:

And in October, Arrowhead and Riddhi were seen duking it out more than once.

It appears to be part of the messy business of divvying up a shared, and prized, territory, which includes some of the most famous acreage in Ranthambore, including the park’s lake area. It’s also part of a tradition of mother/daughter strife. Machli’s daughter T-19, also known as Krishna or the Jhalra Female, ousted her famous mother in 2014 – two years before Machli, also called the “Lady of the Lakes” and “Crocodile Killer,” died at a very venerable estimated age of 20, and two years before her daughter, Arrowhead, took over Krishna’s core territory.

Male tigers typically maintain large territories exclusive of other males and overlapping with the ranges of several tigresses, and young males usually disperse some distance from their mother’s territory.

Females, by contrast, don’t typically disperse far from their natal zone, and often either establish a domain close to or overlapping their mother’s or end up inheriting it entirely, sometimes forcibly. A study of Ranthambore’s tiger demographics published in 2017 found that “females either established their territory beside their mothers or occupied a part of their mother’s territory and gradually pushed their mother off.”

Ranthambore National Park, part of the core of the larger Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, is well saturated with tiger territories, and the prickliness with which Riddhi, Siddhi, and Arrowhead have been treating one another likely reflects that geographic coziness as well as typical matrilineal territorial inheritance. “As both [Riddhi and Siddhi] are grown up, the big cats should have marked some territory for themselves,” a forest department official told The Times of India. However, it’s tough for young tigers as there’s not much space.”

A 2010 study on Amur tigers in Russia’s Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve indicated that tigresses initially staked out somewhat larger territories than they needed strictly for themselves, then essentially passed on parts of these ranges to their daughters.

Top header image: Brian Mckay/Flickr