Tigress and Cubs was created by the French sculptor Auguste Nicholas Cain who became well-known for his depiction of animals and animal themes. After seeing the sculpture at the Paris Universal Exposition of 1867, a group of 12 New Yorkers and art enthusiasts commissioned a new version of the sculpture for Central Park. It was unveiled in 1867, making it one of the earliest artworks in the Park. Other casts of the sculpture are installed in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris and at Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow.
Tigress and Cubs was originally located at Cherry Hill, which was a carriage concourse, allowing early Park visitors to encounter the work from their carriages. It was moved to its current location as part of the construction of the Zoo in 1934. Two other sculptures in the Park depict animals hunting: Still Hunt and Eagles and Prey.