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Ligers - Big Cats That Weren't Meant To Be

Updated on May 22, 2012

Ligers - Not an Act of Nature

A Liger, the largest of all cats, is the offspring of a male lion and a female tiger. These hybrids do not occur in nature because Lions and Tigers are two different species and their ranges seldom overlap.

Ligers do occur in zoos and wild animal preserves where cross-species mating has occurred between a male lion and a female tiger. The results are hybrids of both. This is usually done for money because people like to see the unusual, the strange, the oddity. Less frequently, when a male tiger and female lion mate, the offspring are called Tigons.

I've included here the facts I've gathered about Ligers: their history, traits, and why crossbreeding of Lions and Tigers goes against nature. I've included photos, videos, other information about Ligers.

Photo: Freckles, the rescued Liger at Big Cat Rescue

Ligers: Scientific Classification and History

Ligers are Aborations in Nature

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Carnivora

Family: Felidae

Genus: Panthera

Liger History:

According to Wikipedia: "A color plate of a Liger was made of a Liger in 1799 by Geoffrey St Hilaire. In 1824, the first Liger litter were born and died within a year. the following year, the second litter was born and survived a very short time. The third litter, born in 1826 died after a few months."

"The history of ligers dates to at least the early 19th century in Asia. In 1799, Geoffrey St Hilaire (1772-1844) made a color plate of the offspring of a lion and a tiger."

"In 1825, G.B. Whittaker made an engraving of liger cubs born in 1824. The parents and their three liger offspring are also depicted with their trainer in a 19th Century painting in the naïve style."

Two liger cubs which had been born in 1837 were exhibited to William IV and to his successor Victoria. On 14 December 1900 and on 31 May 1901, Carl Hagenbeck wrote to zoologist James Cossar Ewart with details and photographs of ligers born at the Hagenbeck's Tierpark in Hamburg in 1897.

In 1935, four ligers from two litters were reared in the Zoological Gardens of Bloemfontein, South Africa. Three of them, a male and two females, were still living in 1953. The male weighed 750 lb. and stood a foot and a half taller than a full grown male lion at the shoulder."

Photo: Female and Male Ligers - Wikimedia

Photos: Lion and Tiger - Wikimedia

Ligers: Characteristics

Ligers are the Largest of all Cats

Ligers are huge cats. In fact, they are the largest of all big cats. In nature, Tigers are the largest big cats and Lions are the 2nd largest but the liger offspring grows much larger than either of their parents with females often weighing over 700 lbs and reaching 10 feet long.

The largest male liger, which can be found in the Guinness Book of World Records, is Hercules who weighed in at 900 lbs.

Ligers love to swim like tigers and are social animals like lions.

Most Ligers are sterile, but at least one was mated with a lion and produced a live female cub who lived to adulthood according to Guggisberg, C. A. W. "Wild Cats of the World." (1975).

Photo: Freckles, the rescued Liger at Big Cat Rescue

It's Not Nice To Fool Mother Nature

Ligers Do Not Occur In Nature

Ligers, a breeding of 2 different species was not in nature's plan. The results of the union of these two species creates a weak hybrid. Some of the issues that face ligers are:

- The tiger mother often requires a C-Section due to the large size of a liger which can be fatal.

- Many ligers die within a few days or weeks of birth.

- Ligers are known to have unstable temperaments.

- Ligers are prone to gigantism due the lack of a growth-inhibiting gene which means they grow throughout a very large portion of their lives.

- Ligers have many health problems due to genetic abnormalities and neurological defects associated with hybridization.

- Ligers are genetically weak and typically live much shorter lives than either of their parents.

- Ligers are prone to diseases such as cancers and arthritis.

Photo: Freckles, the rescued Liger at Big Cat Rescue

Meet Freckles The Liger - Read Freckles Story

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    • profile image

      Ken 2 years ago

      "Although I agree there have been some natural hybrids -- that's just it, they are "natural" where what zoos and others do is not. And, yes, humans want to see something unusual, that doesn't make it right."

      What zoos and other people do with lions and tigers is little different from what humans have done with small domestic cats, dogs, birds, livestock, plants, and even bacteria, both for medicinal and military purposes.

      Who do you think you are to say what is right or wrong just because what happens now is flawed? I find such self-righteousness offensive sir. In a time where big cats are growing more and more endangered, I welcome the idea that we try to perpetuate some if not all species for all purposes, as should you.

      We as human beings are apart of nature too. We are becoming, if we haven't already become, a force of nature in our own right. What we do with the rest of nature, isn't to be judged based on subjective morality as you would have us do.

    • profile image

      tiffanie-mair 4 years ago

      You do know many big cat rescues keep lions and tigers together especially if they are raised together as cubs. Further more how do we know it never happens in the wild in india there are lions and tigers and i Highly doubt that someone is chasing the lions and tigers around to find out. while it is unlikely it is unknown weather it has happen. A lot of freak accidents happen(in canada they found a hybrid of a polar bear and a grizzly that had been shot there) and honestly if it wasn't meant to happen they would not be able to mate with one another it wouldn't have even be possible. the things people don't think about is this might also be evolution.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 4 years ago from California

      @anonymous: I wasn't going to post your comment, not because you disagree with my research but because of your foul language. If you truly want to change hearts and minds, you should consider being civil and listing your points in a persuasive manner rather than basically calling a person stupid when they disagree with you. Some references to resources and facts would be helpful as well. I'm open to learning more about the subject. Are you?


      1. You say Ligers are a result of "accidental mating between male lions and female tigers in captivity." Zoos keep these species separated, how are there are "accidental matings?"

      2. There are many cases where "private" zoos have purposefully mated Lions and Tigers just so they have an "oddity" to attract more people and make more money.

      3. Although mating between Lions and Tigers happens once in a great while in the natural world, the species (both Ligers and Tigons) don't survive long because most are sterile. Check out the PBS article and Biologist Ernst Mayr has to say on the evolution of Ligers at

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Bullshit. Ligers are not like this. They have an average life span of 12-15 years (a female exemplar hit 24 years). No heart problems or genetic issues whatsoever, at least not like normal lions who tend to have heart failures very often. Mortality in cubs is 1/3 of lions (17% of liger cubs die at birth against 50% of lion cubs). And THEY ARE NOT AN ABORTION, THEY ARE THE RESULT OF ACCIDENTAL MATING BETWEEN MALE LIONS AND FEMALE TIGERS HELD IN CAPTIVITY. No one is throwing felines together in dark room just to see what happens. Please stop this nonsense and go bullshit about something you know more about.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 4 years ago from California

      @anonymous: You might contact Big Cat Rescue and see what has been done. Check with Big Cat Rescue in Florida --- -- they would know more about has been done already and how to proceed. I know they are against the practice of cross breeding too.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 4 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Although I agree there have been some natural hybrids -- that's just it, they are "natural" where what zoos and others do is not. And, yes, humans want to see something unusual, that doesn't make it right.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Frankie -- I love how you colorized this lens with the brown color -- and your pictures are remarkable -- particularly in that opening introduction module. Nicely done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Can't we start a petition to make it illegal to breed a lion and a liger?

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @Franksterk: Once upon a time, lions had a much larger range of territory, including well into Europe. The Asiatic lion would have shared some territory with tigers and natural hybrids could be possible. While you're probably right that that they might have had shorter lives (if they even survived birth), that's true for many wild animals who die a lot sooner than they do in zoos where they can get plenty of food, vaccinations, and other medical treatment.

      Maybe humans shouldn't breed them for profit, but zoos also need funds, and people are (unfortunately) more likely to come if they know they'll see something unusual than otherwise.

    • profile image

      Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

      This is sad. I never knew about this before.

    • Just4Luck profile image

      Justin 5 years ago from Slovenija

      I didn't know ligers are the biggest cats. Your explanation about growth is logical and you presented the sad story about ligers very well. I hope greedy people will stop messing with nature and big cats will live better live.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Some humans are so selfish and thoughtless. Shame on people who thrive on this. It is sad that the animals are the ones to suffer and all for someone's curiosity. Isn't it enough that we take away their habitats to build shopping malls and wal-marts etc...?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Some humans are so selfish and thoughtless. Shame on people who thrive on this. It is sad that the animals are the ones to suffer and all for someone's curiosity. Isn't it enough that we take away their habitats to build shopping malls and wal-marts etc...?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      it's a crime against nature !!!! its not right , its not meant to be ....... why don't they breed a frog and a toad or a gibbon and a chimp ....... im i getting across to any one..... they not a real animal well they are but not ment to ....... you are dustgting people if u think its right !!! i willl not stop fighting to they stop this crime against nature !!!1

    • potovanja profile image

      potovanja 5 years ago

      Hay... I really love many of your great lens, my big cat friend:). Thank you 4 visit my...

    • jejoju profile image

      jejoju 5 years ago

      Wow! They do look good these liger cats. Thank you for sharing another interesting and wonderous lens.

    • BuckHawkcenter profile image

      BuckHawkcenter 5 years ago

      Frankster - what a great bit of information. Fantastic lens with stuff that is valuable to learn about - from one animal lover to another, thanks!

    • vanidiana24 profile image

      vanidiana24 5 years ago

      It's truly unique!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Ligers are awesome looking big cats. Beautiful lens. :)

    • yourselfempowered profile image

      Odille Rault 5 years ago from Gloucester

      What an interesting, and important lens! I didn't know much about Ligers at all, only that they were a cross between lion and tiger. I had no idea of the details though. Heartily blessed by a Squid Angel! :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      great lens, lots of really good info here!

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 6 years ago from Idaho

      Isn't it weird how they can create new breeds of animals, amazing information.

    • EcoGecko LM profile image

      EcoGecko LM 6 years ago

      @EcoGecko LM: Sorry I realise that this was a bit of a rubbish comment (I'm trying to cut down on those just so easy to say nice lens all the time lol). I can remember a few years ago when some ligers were born in a zoo and people were excited about it. I'm not sure if agree with animals being breed when the breeders know what they produce will be "weak" and that they may have many problems early and latter in life as cool looking as these cats are. Often most people tend to glorify animals such as this and don't really focus on the not so good aspects of them so it's great that your lens doesn't do this and does focus on the bad aspects. That's what I meant but didn't really say by great lens.

    • EcoGecko LM profile image

      EcoGecko LM 6 years ago

      great lens

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 6 years ago from Canada

      Very interesting, what a unique topic.

    • hunksparrow profile image

      hunksparrow 6 years ago

      What a cool lens about a species I had heard of before but never researched.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i think ligers are a nice species

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Hmmm... people need to stop.

      I am lensrolling this to Mabel Stark Tiger Whisperer (you would love the book, BTW)

    • imolaK profile image

      imolaK 6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your lens. Blessed by an Angel!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 7 years ago from Australia

      I have heard of ligers before but I learned something new from your fascinating lens.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 7 years ago from California

      @Akitajitsu: Thanks for sharing. I'll check out the site to get more info for my research on ligers.

    • Akitajitsu profile image

      Jen 7 years ago from California

      The Barry Kirshner Wildlife Foundation has a liger named Maya. She's gorgeous! The Foundation is studying her (non-invasively) to help round out the scientific knowledge about ligers. You can see her bio here -

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 7 years ago from California

      @anonymous: Thank you for your comments. I will research your input and others on Ligers. If I find the research to back up your claims, I most definitely will include the info in this lens. BTW, I really do appreciate your response as I love animals and do not want to be perpetuating any misinformation. I understand your frustration with some things animal rights people and groups say and do. I have some of the same frustration with the more, shall we say, militant stances. A suggestion though: using words like "shitty" changes the discourse to adversarial. People have differences of opinions and using foul language can gum up the process, thus the information exchange. Thank you again for your input. Please give me a little time due to the holidays and I have 2 family moves I have to do. Thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I think the time has come when even the animal rights activists are on the wrong turn as well and want the people to blindly follow them. The liger is the case of cross-breeding here. I am neutral here. They say cross-breeding is not natural. They need to enlarge their knowledge because 10% of the animals in the wild are the product of cross-breeding. 30% of the animals in the nature are the product of the cross-breeding. That gives us enough sense to cross-breed lion and a tiger. Even the ligers population has increased as well. There are nearly 90 ligers in the world. People tend to say they don't live long? the longest living liger in the world was Shasta the liger which lived for 24 years. A trio of ligers in Germany are 17 to 19 years old. This average age is much larger than the average age of lions and tigers in the captivity. Don't abuse me back. If you have strength just come up with the strength and justify your answers with research not through the shitty animal rights claims...


    • indigoj profile image

      Indigo Janson 7 years ago from UK

      I had heard of Ligers but it was good to be educated on the facts... I don't think this kind of thing should happen at all. Humans interfering in the natural breeding choices of animals rarely leads to good, just look at all the defects present in pedigree dogs. We should stick to our own affairs, and only breed captive animals where it is to preserve their species and ultimately to help them.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      i feel so sad

    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 7 years ago

      How sad that this happens. I'm sure they are spectacular to see but at a cost to their health. Thanks for the education.

    • profile image

      Themiscorkscrew 8 years ago

      Cool lens it reminded me of an episode from southpark where they sang pig and elephant dna just don't mix. Ligers are the same in my book. i think they are cool but the dna just doesn't mix

    • Commandrix profile image

      Heidi 8 years ago from Benson, IL

      These cats are pretty but their existence isn't really fair to both tigers and lions, especially the lion mother who then can't raise a litter of purebred lions and help save her species. Awesome lens!

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 8 years ago

      I have never heard of these cats before. They are so beautiful. You did a great job putting this lens together because it is so informative. Very nice!! WhiteOak hugs!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Yet anither great lens - they may look beautiful, but they should never have come into existence. This messing around with the natural order of things always worries me and I am glad that you have published the lens from that standpoint..

      SquidAngel Blessings for you

    • mysticmama lm profile image

      Bambi Watson 8 years ago

      Very interesting info ~ thanks

    • profile image

      BeerBrewingSupplies 8 years ago

      I enjoyed reading about these big cats. Too bad they go against nature and so they suffer for it.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 8 years ago from California

      [in reply to spirituality] Thanks for the question. I added the info above under Ligers: Characterisitics. Most are born sterile, but at least 1 was mated with a lion and produced a live female cub who lived to adulthood.

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 8 years ago

      Great lens - I missed the one thing hybridisation always makes me wonder: are the offspring (ligers in this case) capable of reproduction themselves? Blessed by a squidangel :)

    • clouda9 lm profile image

      clouda9 lm 8 years ago

      Beautiful lens and great resource of information! WTG!

    • CherylK profile image

      Cheryl Kohan 8 years ago from Minnesota

      I had no idea! I feel really sad that this sort of thing is happening. You've done a beautiful job on this lens, however, and this is just the kind of abuse that needs to be publicized.

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago


    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 8 years ago

      Even if they are not meant to be they are still beautiful. The big cats are truly gorgeous.

    • Franksterk profile image

      Frankie Kangas 8 years ago from California

      [in reply to] You are right, we really don't know if any have been born in nature. But if it did occur, the offspring probably lived very short lives. I agree, they are still beautiful. Humans should not be breeding them for all of the reason I mention above. But there are humans who do breed them out of greed. Bear hugs, Frankie

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 8 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      If their ranges seldom overlap, it means they do overlap some. It could then be said, we do not know of any born in nature.

      Ah, who cares. They are beautiful.

    • Holley Web profile image

      Holley Web 8 years ago

      I spent hours on the Big Cat Rescue site a few nights ago. The cruelty these cats have lived through is unimaginable. Everyone should at least see what this wonderful organization is doing to help all these beautiful cats. PS: Though Shadow was no Liger, he was my favorite. Wonderful job on this lens!

    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 8 years ago from USA

      Interesting topic.