Liger is the biggest feline globally, estimated to grow up to 12ft tall while standing on its hind legs. They can be created by mating a male lion with a female tiger.
Ligers tend to surpass each of their parents’ size, and while they share identical traits with both of them, the liger appears to be more like a lion rather than a tiger.
The product of mating a female lion with a male tiger is a ‘Tigon,’ with this species appearing to be less like a lion with more tiger-like characteristics.
It is quite doubtful that ligers (or tigons) will occur naturally in the wild because lions and tigers live in separate areas of the globe.
Today, a handful of ligers that are found in zoos worldwide are the product of either accidental or direct human activity.
Table of Contents
- Scientific classification
- Anatomy and appearance
- Distribution and habitat
- Behaviour and lifestyle
- Reproduction and life cycle
- Diets and prey
- Life span
- Human relationship
- Zoo policies
|Scientific name||Panthera leo × Panthera tigris|
Anatomy and appearance
The liger is a massive beast with a large muscular body and a big head. They appear to have sandy or dark yellow hair that is decorated with their mother’s distinctive faint stripes.
While other fur colour variations (including white when their mother is a white tiger) have been recognized, the liger typically has a more lion-like look, including a males’ manes.
Although the mane of a Liger is not as large or as spectacular as that of an adult Lion, some individual liger can grow very large. Nonetheless, it is not unusual for a male liger to have no mane at all.
The liger can also inherit the spots found on the backs of tiger’s ears along with the tufted fur around their chins, in addition to their markings that appear to be most visible around their hindquarters.
Distribution and habitat
Although uncommon, it may have been possible for a male lion to mate in the wild with a female tiger to produce liger descendants.
This is because a much greater part of Asia was once roamed by the Asian lion, which means that they may have stumbled more easily into the territories of a tiger.
However, tigers are only found today in Asia’s thick jungles, where they are forced into smaller and smaller pockets in their natural habitat.
Lions are found patrolling the African grasslands except for the few remaining Asian lions found in India’s remote forest where there are no tigers.
Unfortunately, while the liger’s natural habitat would possibly be somewhat close to that of a tiger, the only known ligers in the world are found in caged enclosures.
Behaviour and lifestyle
The liger, particularly when engaging with handlers, are known to have a surprisingly gentle and timid temperament despite their enormous size and the fact that their parents are two of the most fearsome predators on the planet.
However, they have been recorded to be somewhat confused about whether they are lions or tigers, and the fact that they seem to love water is their most bewildering characteristic.
It is not unusual for tigers to enter the water either to capture prey or to cool down in the sun in the wild. Therefore, tigers are naturally strong swimmers, which the liger seems to have inherited.
However, Lions do not like water, and so it is also stated that the liger needs some time to take to its water-loving lifestyle. The liger also makes both lions and tigers sounds, but it is more like a lion’s roar.
Reproduction and life cycle
The accidental introduction of lions and ligers in the same enclosure creates ligers, but it can take up to a year for the two to mate.
The tiger gives birth to a litter of between 2 to 4 liger cubs after a gestation period that lasts for about 100 days after pairing the male lion with the female tiger.
The liger cubs are born blind and are incredibly vulnerable, as with the young of other large felines. They also depend heavily on their mother for their first six months of life.
As with lion cubs, young ligers have darker spots on their fur that help provide them with extra camouflage. Such spots also remain on ligers as with some adult lions and are most common on their underside.
Unfortunately, many liger cubs are born with congenital disabilities and do not always survive more than a week.
Diets and prey
The liger is a carnivorous species, like the rest of the world’s felines, meaning that it hunts and kills other creatures to obtain nutrition.
Although the liger’s wild diet can only be inferred, it is thought to be comparable to that of a tiger primarily hunting larger herbivores such as deer, wild boar, and probably small or vulnerable Asian elephants (due to their immense size).
They prefer to eat an average of 20lbs of meat a day in captivity, but it is believed that a Liger can comfortably devour 100lbs of food in one sitting.
The liger has a massive and firm jaw with sharp pointed teeth that is perfect for tearing through flesh.
Ligers also have very muscular bodies and sharp claws that allow their prey to be captured and eaten.
The liger would be the most dominant predator in their world and would thus have no natural predators to worry about if they were found in the wild, with the apparent exception of humans.
Ligers, similar to lions and tigers, will be exposed to both trophy hunting and their fur, along with significant loss of habitat in most of their natural range.
Several liger cubs are born with fatal congenital disabilities in captivity because it results from two separate animals’ cross-breeding. The unnatural manner in which ligers are both bred and retained all over the world is another thing to consider.
As today’s ligers are extremely unlikely to exist in the wild, they are merely being raised and preserved by zoos to make money.
There is no conservation status for the liger since it is only bred artificially and can’t be found in the wild.
The liger is seen in only a handful of enclosures on the earth, but many remain frowned upon as they do not exist in the wild and thus have little conservation value as such.
Tigons are more rarely seen than ligers today, but more of them were in the late 19th and early 20th centuries than ligers. Ligers are also prohibited from breeding in a range of countries around the world.
Ligers usually have a life expectancy of between 13 to 18 years. They are often known to live in their 20s. A ligress named Shasta was born on 14 May 1948 at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City and died at the age of 24 in 1972.
Another liger, Nook, died at the age of 21 in 2007. Hobbs, a male liger at the Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno, Nevada, lived nearly 15 years until he succumbed.
Hybrids of Panthera tend to suffer a higher injury and neurological condition incidence than non-hybrids. Although not universal, ligers and tigons can develop health problems.
In addition to neurological deficits, sterility, cancer, and arthritis, organ failure issues have also been documented in ligers.
Since the beginning of the 19th century, humans had raised the liger when a litter of liger cubs was born in Asia in 1824.
However, it was more than 100 years until the next recorded litter, which was just before World War II in a zoo in South Africa.
Although ligers are known to be relatively even-tempered, there is still a great deal of controversy over the cross-breeding of two different animal species, especially when it is highly unlikely to occur without human intervention.
There are now various ligers found worldwide in zoos and animal institutes, bred (usually by accident) and preserved as a money-making attraction.
It is a common practice to hold the two species separate. Nonetheless, ligers have occurred and do occur in captivity by mistake.
There are many AZA zoos known to have ligers. The largest population of about 30 ligers is in the USA. China has around 20 ligers in its possession.
A few nations around the world possess a few, but there are typically fewer than 100 worldwide.
- Although ligers appear to be sterile like many other hybrids, it has been recognized that a female liger can produce offspring.
- However, a fertile male liger has never been recorded. The female liger will either be bred with a male lion or a male tiger to produce, depending on the father’s species, a litter of ‘Li-Liger or Ti-Liger’ offspring.
- A Hollywood creation called ‘Hercules’ is one of the most famous ligers, who is the offspring of a male lion and a female tiger at a Florida school. The liger stood 10ft tall at three when it was on its hind legs and weighed half a ton.
- Another explanation why ligers are rarely created in the wild is that if a male lion and a female tiger encounter each other, they are far more likely to fight to protect their territories or entirely avoid each other to prevent the risk of getting injured.