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This is sweet music to the ears of WoW players – a rare mount, only known by the few and initiated. Imagine the woosh of characters turning as you toggle on walk and sashay through the streets of the capital cities, reclined on a spotted leopard… “leopard?” you might say, and I understand your confusion.
It doesn’t help when pictures like the one above are linked to the Stranglethorn Vale mount vendor myth as evidence. It’s not bengal, but it’s nice looking and nothing anyone has ever seen as a mount in the game, so I guess for some it counts. We all know the saying “screenshot or it didn’t happen”, and with this in the bag, no wonder this rumour lived on for a long time.
Added to this, if you search around the Zul’Gurub mountain chain, you can indeed find a small cave, and numerous videos on Youtube will gladly show you how to get to the empty spot (in a pre-shattered world), where this vendor is supposed to appear like a lunar clock.
If you listen to the Warcraft Less Traveled #12, you can hear expert explorer Skolnick seek out this specific location back pre-shattering, before Deathwing reshaped Azeroth. Back then we couldn’t just fly around like we can now, so it took some skilled wall climbing to get there, a fact that made the place very inaccessible and served to intensify the myth as not everyone was able to check for themselves.
The cave is still there and there’s a whole area around it, largely undeveloped but oh so promising when you first arrive.
The yellow circle on this map marks the cave and area around it. From the lake there’s a lit path leading up to the cave. The orange line denotes another pathway that leads towards the lower corner of the Blasted Land, I marked it on the map because it looked so purposeful, but there really isn’t much to it.
Several boxes and what looks to be dried hides are scattered around, the cave itself is not very deep but illuminated with an intense orange light.
The impression of the atmosphere, the emptiness of the area and all the objects strewn around did however leave me chilled, maybe I should have visited during day light.
The Bengal Tiger myth has all the ingredients for a really sturdy long-lived legend – Old alpha pictures, suggestive features in the game, the cave is actually there! A one month spawn timer, of course, makes this stealthy vendor a bit tricky to track down, it’s harder to prove her nonexistence.
On Wowhead you can still find the item “Reins of the Bengal Tiger“. Notice that tauren is missing in the races listing, which suggests that this item is a very old alpha curiosity.
This mount also required its own special “Tiger Riding Skill 1″, which suggested that maybe in early testing you needed riding skill for every type of mount.
Underneath you can also see what the actual Bengal Tiger looked like (although a real life bengal is still striped), but I have not been able to find any pictures of characters mounting it.
The Bengal Tiger story is so classic in it’s features, someone lined the facts up and the community started brewing about the connections. Somewhere along the line, someone must have added the mysterious spawn-time, which is the part of the legend that differs the most, from once a month for 5-30 mins, to once a week for 1 hour. One part of the story is about how people have asked game masters who have replied that the mount exists, but the vendor is hidden – how ambiguous!
Some people have also added extra spice by saying that the game crashed when they clicked the vendor. Others have suggested that only one person gets it per realm (like the AQ mount), and then the vendor would never spawn again.
The one but crucial thing I have not been able to find much evidence on, is the vendor herself. Yes, the rumors surrounding the vendor usually denotes her as female, but no race was established and the name of this NPC never surfaced either. Unlike the various cat mounts, the vendor never existed.
When reading all the various forum threads, several people point to Allakhazam as a source of what they know about the mount, so it’s possible the rumor originated there. It’s also likely that it spread from a private server and when people investigated further, they would find suggestive pictures and mistake it for existing in the live game as well.
But despite the hard “evidence”, sometimes featuring a leopard or cheetah instead of a tiger, an actual bengal tiger could be acquired by players, just not by hunting down an invisible vendor.
The “real” bengal was called Swift Zulian Tiger and dropped within old Zul’Gurub, not outside it! I think most players are familiar with this kitty, if not by owning it themselves (lucky bastards), then by admiring the players whose grinds were eventually rewarded by lady RNG.
Another feature related to this myth was added with patch 4.1.0 (April 2011): The questline where the final part involves you traveling to this exact cave to pick up your very own panther cub. Again not a bengal tiger, and not handed over by a vendor, but nevertheless I interpret this as a nod to this old myth, which probably is amongst the most famous and persistent myths in WoW.