tiger on McCosh Hall
This tiger is one of a pair watching over McCosh Hall.

photo: Denise Applewhite

In focus: The tigers of Princeton's campus

Countless tigers can be found throughout Princeton University's buildings and grounds. The tiger emerged as a symbol of Princeton in the late 1800s and, by 1911, was firmly established as a Princeton symbol. The tigers of Princeton's campus are variously serene, ferocious, recumbent, rampant, defensive, aggressive, roaring, smiling, asleep, awake -- nearly always noble. Tigers also abound indoors on campus and can be seen in paintings, carvings and stained glass.


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The many campus homes of Princeton's tigers include:

  • Nassau Hall: Woodrow Wilson's class of 1879 obtained the stately tigers that flank the doorway of Princeton's historic administration building. The animals are symmetrical with each other -- the outside front paw of each tiger is extended.
  • Holder Hall: The dormitory's tower section, modeled after the crossing tower of Canterbury Cathedral, includes the bast rampant tiger weather vanes on each of the tower's four corners. These tigers appear to be climbing up their poles. Projecting out to Nassau Street is a bay window, the pilasters of which are topped by slender, mustached tigers sitting up and holding severely elongated shields in meaty paws.
  • Hamilton Hall: High overhead outside the dormitory, a tiger's head growls atop a shield surrounded by scrollwork. Below, holding a Princeton shield, are two apparently undernourished but muscular tigers.
  • Graduate College: The college's Procter Hall boasts two turrets at its western end, each crowned by roaring tigers. They peer over the edge, as though planning to spring to the rooftops below.
  • Dillon Gymnasium: Several figures burst forth above the main entrance, including a striking tiger jutting forward and holding a shield parallel to the ground. The beast has a bit of a grin on its face and a small wing on its back, aiding his flight should it become necessary to flee his perch. Three rows of many small tigers on shields can also be found at Dillon.
  • McCosh Hall: On the north side of McCosh, a pair of tigers rest comfortably on a buttress. The right tiger bellows, but the quieter left one has been in repose so long that moss creeps up its side. On the ceiling of Jackson passageway (connecting McCosh and Dickinson halls) is a boss composed of two wrestling tigers forming a curlicue.

More information can be found in "The Tigers of Princeton University: A Campus Safari and Photo Essay," published by the Office of Communications. (This file is in .pdf format and requires Acrobat Reader.)