Liger

Liger

Overview
The liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

 (Panthera leo) and a tigress
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

 (Panthera tigris). Thus, it has parents with the same genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 but of different species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

. It is distinct from the similar hybrid tiglon
Tiglon
A tiglon , tigon, and tion is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness . Thus, it has parents with the same genus but of different species. The tiglon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tiglons were more...

. It is the largest of all known cats and extant felines
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

.

Ligers enjoy swimming, which is a characteristic of tigers, and are very sociable like lions. Ligers exist only in captivity because the habitats of the parental species do not overlap in the wild.
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Encyclopedia
The liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion
Lion
The lion is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger...

 (Panthera leo) and a tigress
Tiger
The tiger is the largest cat species, reaching a total body length of up to and weighing up to . Their most recognizable feature is a pattern of dark vertical stripes on reddish-orange fur with lighter underparts...

 (Panthera tigris). Thus, it has parents with the same genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 but of different species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

. It is distinct from the similar hybrid tiglon
Tiglon
A tiglon , tigon, and tion is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness . Thus, it has parents with the same genus but of different species. The tiglon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tiglons were more...

. It is the largest of all known cats and extant felines
Felidae
Felidae is the biological family of the cats; a member of this family is called a felid. Felids are the strictest carnivores of the thirteen terrestrial families in the order Carnivora, although the three families of marine mammals comprising the superfamily pinnipedia are as carnivorous as the...

.

Ligers enjoy swimming, which is a characteristic of tigers, and are very sociable like lions. Ligers exist only in captivity because the habitats of the parental species do not overlap in the wild. Historically, when the Asiatic Lion was prolific the territories of lions and tigers did overlap and there are legends of ligers existing in the wild. Notably, ligers typically grow larger than either parent species, unlike tiglon
Tiglon
A tiglon , tigon, and tion is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness . Thus, it has parents with the same genus but of different species. The tiglon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tiglons were more...

s which tend to be about as large as a female tiger.

History


The history of ligers dates to at least the early 19th century in, India Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. In 1798, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire
Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire was a French naturalist who established the principle of "unity of composition". He was a colleague of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and expanded and defended Lamarck's evolutionary theories...

 (1772–1844) made a colour 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
Naïve art
Naïve art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique. While many naïve artists appear, from their works, to have little or no formal art training, this is often not true...

.

Two liger cubs born in 1837 were exhibited to King William IV
William IV of the United Kingdom
William IV was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of Hanover from 26 June 1830 until his death...

 and to his successor Queen Victoria
Victoria of the United Kingdom
Victoria was the monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India....

. On 14 December 1900 and on 31 May 1901, Carl Hagenbeck
Carl Hagenbeck
Carl Hagenbeck was a merchant of wild animals who supplied many European zoos, as well as P.T. Barnum. He is often considered the father of the modern zoo because he introduced "natural" animal enclosures that included recreations of animals' native habitats without bars...

 wrote to zoologist James Cossar Ewart
James Cossar Ewart
James Cossar Ewart FRS was a Scottish zoologist. He was the son of John Ewart, a joiner, and Jean Cossar....

 with details and photographs of ligers born at the Hagenbeck's Tierpark in Hamburg in 1897.

In Animal Life and the World of Nature (1902–1903), A.H. Bryden described Hagenbeck's "lion-tiger" hybrids:

It has remained for one of the most enterprising collectors and naturalists of our time, Mr. Carl Hagenbeck, not only to breed, but to bring successfully to a healthy maturity, specimens of this rare alliance between those two great and formidable felidae, the lion and tiger. The illustrations will indicate sufficiently how fortunate Mr. Hagenbeck has been in his efforts to produce these hybrids. The oldest and biggest of the animals shown is a hybrid born on the 11th May, 1897. This fine beast, now more than five years old, equals and even excels in his proportions a well-grown lion, measuring as he does from nose tip to tail 10 ft 2 inches in length, and standing only three inches less than 4 ft at the shoulder. A good big lion will weigh about 400 lb [...] the hybrid in question, weighing as it does no less than 467 lb, is certainly the superior of the most well-grown lions, whether wild-bred or born in a menagerie. This animal shows faint striping and mottling, and, in its characteristics, exhibits strong traces of both its parents. It has a somewhat lion-like head, and the tail is more like that of a lion than of a tiger. On the other hand, it has no trace of mane. It is a huge and very powerful beast.


In 1935, four ligers from two litters were reared in the Zoological Gardens of Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein
Bloemfontein is the capital city of the Free State Province of South Africa; and, as the judicial capital of the nation, one of South Africa's three national capitals – the other two being Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Pretoria, the administrative capital.Bloemfontein is popularly and...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

. Three of them, a male and two females, were still living in 1953. The male weighed 340 kg (750 lb) and stood a foot and a half (45 cm) taller than a full grown male lion at the shoulder.

Although ligers are more commonly found than tiglons today, in At Home In The Zoo (1961), Gerald Iles wrote "For the record I must say that I have never seen a liger, a hybrid obtained by crossing a lion with a tigress. They seem to be even rarer than tigons."

Size and growth


The liger is the largest known cat
Cat
The cat , also known as the domestic cat or housecat to distinguish it from other felids and felines, is a small, usually furry, domesticated, carnivorous mammal that is valued by humans for its companionship and for its ability to hunt vermin and household pests...

 in the world. Imprinted
Imprinting (genetics)
Genomic imprinting is a genetic phenomenon by which certain genes are expressed in a parent-of-origin-specific manner. It is an inheritance process independent of the classical Mendelian inheritance. Imprinted alleles are silenced such that the genes are either expressed only from the non-imprinted...

 genes may be a factor contributing to huge
liger size. These are genes that may or may not be expressed on the parent they are inherited from, and that occasionally play a role in issues of hybrid growth. For example, in some dog breed crosses, genes that are expressed only when maternally-inherited cause the young to grow larger than is typical for either parent breed. This growth is not seen in the paternal breeds, as such genes are normally "counteracted" by genes inherited from the female of the appropriate breed.

Other big cat hybrids can reach similar sizes; the litigon, a rare hybrid of a male lion and a female tiglon
Tiglon
A tiglon , tigon, and tion is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness . Thus, it has parents with the same genus but of different species. The tiglon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tiglons were more...

, is roughly the same size as the liger, with a male named Cubanacan (at the Alipore Zoo in India) reaching 363 kg (800 lb). The extreme rarity of these second-generation hybrids may make it difficult to ascertain whether they are larger or smaller, on average, than the liger.

It is erroneously believed that ligers continue to grow throughout their lives due to hormonal issues. It may be that they simply grow far more during their growing years and take longer to reach their full adult size. Further growth in shoulder height and body length is not seen in ligers over 6 years old, same as both lions and tigers. Male ligers also have the same levels of testosterone on average as an adult male lion, yet are azoospermic
Azoospermia
Azoospermia is the medical condition of a male not having any measurable level of sperm in his semen. It is associated with very low levels of fertility or even sterility, but many forms are amenable to medical treatment...

 in accordance with Haldane's rule
Haldane's rule
Haldane's rule or Haldane's law was formulated in 1922 by the British evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane. It describes hybrid sterility in species and is extended to describe speciation in evolutionary theory, in two parts: the rule of hybrid sterility and the rule of hybrid inviability...

. In addition, female ligers may also attain great size, weighing approximately 320 kg (705 lb) and reaching 3.05 m (10 ft) long on average, and are often fertile. In contrast, pumapard
Pumapard
A pumapard is a hybrid of a Puma and a Leopard. Both male puma with female leopard and male leopard with female puma pairings have produced offspring...

s (hybrids between pumas and leopard
Leopard
The leopard , Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. The leopard was once distributed across eastern and southern Asia and Africa, from Siberia to South Africa, but its...

s) tend to exhibit dwarfism
Dwarfism
Dwarfism is short stature resulting from a medical condition. It is sometimes defined as an adult height of less than 4 feet 10 inches  , although this definition is problematic because short stature in itself is not a disorder....

.

Ligers are the same size as the prehistoric American lion
American lion
The American lion — also known as the North American lion, Naegele’s giant jaguar or American cave lion — is an extinct lion of the family Felidae, endemic to North America during the Pleistocene epoch , existing for approximately...

.


Hercules and Sinbad


Jungle Island
Jungle Island
Jungle Island is an interactive zoological park in Watson Island, Miami, Florida, United States. It was originally Parrot Jungle and moved from its original suburban Pinecrest to its present location just east of Downtown Miami renamed as Parrot Jungle Island...

, an interactive animal theme park in Miami, is home to a liger named Hercules, the largest non-obese liger, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records
Guinness World Records
Guinness World Records, known until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records , is a reference book published annually, containing a collection of world records, both human achievements and the extremes of the natural world...

 as the largest living cat on Earth, weighing over 410 kg (904 lb). Hercules was featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America
Good Morning America
Good Morning America is an American morning news and talk show that is broadcast on the ABC television network; it debuted on November 3, 1975. The weekday program airs for two hours; a third hour aired between 2007 and 2008 exclusively on ABC News Now...

, Anderson Cooper 360, Inside Edition
Inside Edition
Inside Edition is a thirty-minute American television syndicated news program, first aired on CBS on October 9, 1988. It was originally similar to the programs Hard Copy and A Current Affair, but now more closely resembles a condensed version of breakfast television, exclusively with pre-recorded...

 and in a Maxim
Maxim (magazine)
Maxim is an international men's magazine based in the United Kingdom and known for its pictorials featuring popular actresses, singers, and female models, sometimes pictured dressed, often pictured scantily dressed but not fully nude....

 article in 2005, when he was only 3 years old and already weighed 408.25 kg (900 lb). Hercules is completely healthy and is expected to live a long life. The cat's breeding is said to have been a complete accident. Sinbad, another liger, was shown on the National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel, also commercially abbreviated and trademarked as Nat Geo, is a subscription television channel that airs non-fiction television programs produced by the National Geographic Society. Like History and the Discovery Channel, the channel features documentaries with factual...

. Sinbad was reported to have the exact weight of Hercules.

Longevity


Shasta, a ligress (female liger) was born at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City on May 14, 1948 and died in 1972 at age 24. The 1973 Guinness world records reported an 18-year-old, 798 kg (1,759 lb) male liger living at Bloemfontein zoological gardens, South Africa in 1888 (it is unclear whether these statements are accurate, as there are claims the liger was 756 lbs and the year was actually 1953). Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary in Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

 had a male liger named Nook who weighed around 550 kg (1,213 lb), and died in 2007, at 21 years old. Hobbs, a male liger at the Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno, Nevada, lived to almost 15 years of age before succumbing to liver failure and weighed in at 900 pounds (408.2 kg).

Fertility


The fertility of hybrid big cat females is well documented across a number of different hybrids. This is in accordance with Haldane's rule
Haldane's rule
Haldane's rule or Haldane's law was formulated in 1922 by the British evolutionary biologist J.B.S. Haldane. It describes hybrid sterility in species and is extended to describe speciation in evolutionary theory, in two parts: the rule of hybrid sterility and the rule of hybrid inviability...

: in hybrids of animals whose sex is determined by sex chromosomes, if one sex is absent, rare or sterile, it is the heterogametic sex (the one with two different sex chromosomes e.g. X
X chromosome
The X chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in many animal species, including mammals and is common in both males and females. It is a part of the XY sex-determination system and X0 sex-determination system...

 and Y
Y chromosome
The Y chromosome is one of the two sex-determining chromosomes in most mammals, including humans. In mammals, it contains the gene SRY, which triggers testis development if present. The human Y chromosome is composed of about 60 million base pairs...

).

According to Wild Cats of the World (1975) by C. A. W. Guggisberg, ligers and tiglons were long thought to be sterile: In 1943, a fifteen-year-old hybrid between a lion and an 'Island' tiger was successfully mated with a lion at the Munich Hellabrunn Zoo
Tierpark Hellabrunn
Hellabrunn Zoo is a zoological garden in the Bavarian capital of Munich. The zoo is situated on the right bank of the river Isar, in the southern part of Munich near the quarter of Thalkirchen...

. The female cub, though of delicate health, was raised to adulthood.

Colours



Ligers have a tiger-like striping pattern on a lion-like tawny background. In addition they may inherit rosettes
Rosette (zoology)
A rosette is a rose-like marking or formation found on the fur and skin of some animals, particularly cats of the family Felidae. Rosettes are used to camouflage the animal, either as a defense mechanism or as a stalking tool. Predators use their rosettes to simulate the different shifting of...

 from the lion parent (lion cubs are rosetted and some adults retain faint markings). These markings may be black, dark brown or sandy. The background color may be correspondingly tawny, sandy or golden. In common with tigers, their underparts are pale. The actual pattern and color depends on which subspecies the parents were and on how the genes interact in the offspring.

White tiger
White tiger
The white tiger is a recessive mutant of the Bengal tiger, which was reported in the wild from time to time in Assam, Bengal, Bihar and especially from the former State of Rewa.-Color comparison:...

s have been crossed with lions to produce "white" (actually pale golden) ligers. In theory white tigers could be crossed with white lions to produce white, very pale or even stripeless ligers. There are no black ligers. Very few melanistic tigers
Black tiger (animal)
A black tiger is a rare colour variant of the tiger and is not a distinct species or geographic subspecies. There are reports and one painting of pure black non-striped tigers . Most black mammals are due to the non-agouti mutation. Agouti refers to the ticking of each individual hair...

 have ever been recorded, most being due to excessive markings (pseudo-melanism or abundism) rather than true melanism; no reports of black lions have ever been substantiated. As blue or Maltese Tiger
Maltese tiger
The Maltese tiger, or blue tiger, is a sub species coloration morph of a tiger, reported mostly in the Fujian Province of China. It is said to have bluish fur with dark grey stripes. Most of the Maltese tigers reported have been of the South Chinese subspecies. The South Chinese tiger today is...

s probably no longer exist, gray or blue ligers are exceedingly improbable. It is not impossible for a liger to be white, but it is very rare.

Zoo policies


Keeping the two species separate has always been standard procedure. However, ligers have occurred and do occur by accident in captivity. Several AZA
Association of Zoos and Aquariums
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums was founded in 1924 and is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and public aquariums in the areas of conservation, education, science, and recreation.The AZA headquarters is located in Silver...

 zoos are reported to have ligers.

See also

  • Hybrid growth disorders
    Hybrid growth disorders
    Hybrid growth disorders refer to reduced growth or overgrowth in an organism that is a hybrid of two different species. In some sense, it is a type of hybrid dysgenesis when the growth disorder proves deleterious, thus making it the opposite of heterosis or hybrid vigour.Hybrid growth disorders may...

  • Tiglon
    Tiglon
    A tiglon , tigon, and tion is a hybrid cross between a male tiger and a lioness . Thus, it has parents with the same genus but of different species. The tiglon is not currently as common as the converse hybrid, the liger; however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, tiglons were more...

  • List of portmanteaus
  • Panthera hybrid
    Panthera hybrid
    The four living species of Panthera genus may produce a number of hybrid crosses...


Further reading

  • Peters, G. "Comparative Investigation of Vocalisation in Several Felids" published in German in Spixiana-Supplement, 1978; (1): 1–206.
  • Courtney, N. The Tiger, Symbol of Freedom. Quartet Books, London, 1980.

External links

  • Liger Cub – Liger Cub at Taiwan Zoo
  • Hercules – The Largest Cat On Earth
  • Hobbs – Liger at the Sierra Safari Zoo
  • Patrick – Liger at the Shambala Preserve
  • Baby Ligers – Cubs at Noah's Ark Zoo
  • Sinbad – Video of Sinbad the 900 lb Liger
  • Liger Pictures – Liger Pictures from the Animal Safari in Pine Mountain Georgia