Liger Facts

Liger Profile

The Liger is a hybrid. It is the offspring of a male Lion and a female Tiger. This means that the Liger has parents that are different species, but the same genus.

Ligers only exist in captivity today, because the habitats of the parental species do not overlap out in the wild. They typically grow much larger than either parent species.

Another hybrid from the mating of the same animals – only reversed, a male Tiger and a female Lion – is known as the Tigon, and are often much smaller.

Liger Facts

Liger Facts Overview

Habitat: Do not occur naturally in the wild.
Location: Zoos.
Lifespan: 15- 25 Years
Size: 9.8 – 12 ft (3 to 3.6 m)
Weight: 705 – 1,200 pounds (320 – 550 kg)
Color: Tawny, with feint tiger stripes.
Diet: Wild deer, boar
Predators: No natural predators, but potentially other big cats.
Top Speed: 80 kph (50 mph)
No. of Species:
Conservation Status:
Not listed

Ligers tend to be more like a lion, than a tiger.

They are large, muscly and male ligers will have a mane, like a male lion, but often shorter than their father’s. They have dark tawny fur, with broad heads. They often have feint tiger stripes, inherited from their mother. Ligers are fond of swimming, just like Tigers (lions don’t like water), and are also quite sociable, just like lions.

The Liger is not a new hybrid as they date back to the early 19th century in India. The name was coined to describe the creature in the 1930s. The Liger has appeared in art as far back as 1798 when a color plate depicted one and in 1825 a Liger and its parents appeared in an engraving. A pair of Liger cubs born in 1837 was even put on display for King William IV and Queen Victoria who succeeded him.

While thought to be extremely rare, historically lions and tigers may have interbred to produce ligers in the wild. The Asiatic lion once inhabited a much larger area of Asia, that may have meant it shared some territory with tigers. However, today, they are very much only cross bred in captivity, either accidentally or more often, purposefully as a rare attraction.

Interesting Liger Facts

1. The Liger is the largest known cat in the world.

Male Ligers can reach a length of 10 to 12-feet which makes them slightly larger than even large male lions or tigers in length. They weigh considerably more than a Tiger or Lion. A non-obese male Liger named Hercules was recognized as being the largest living cat on Earth in 2013, when he weighed a total of 922 pounds. He measured 3.33 m (131 in) and stood at 1.25 m (49 in) at the shoulder. 1

2. Ligers often suffer from obesity because they don’t get enough exercise in their small habitats and cages.

This makes them even larger. A Liger named Nook living in the Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary in Wisconsin weighed over 1,200-pounds (before dying in 2007).

3. Ligers can experience gigantism while dwarfism is known to occur in Tigons.

Animals species have a natural hormone that stops them from over growing in one of their parents. A slight mutation can stop them having it. But in the case of a liger, it’s the female lion which carries the hormone to stop growth. So a male lion genes combined with female tiger, results in a much larger cat in the form of a liger.

4. The Liger is not alone as being a large cat hybrid.

There are other big cat hybrids that can measure up close to the size of the Liger. The Litigon, which happens to be a rare hybrid from a male Lion and female Tigon, can grow to just about the same size at the Liger. One such example was a male Litagon named Cubanacan who weighed a total of 800-pounds. He lived in the Alipore Zoo in India.

5. Ligers appear to have a growth spurt early in the lives.

Hormonal issues probably contribute to this. The Liger grows fast when very young and then slows down as it approaches their adult size. By the time they reach six years of age, all the growing has taken place. The female Liger is also large in size growing up to 700-pounds and a length of 10-feet. Typically the female Liger are fertile.

6. Ligers have relatively long lives.

A female Liger named Shasta born in 1948 at the Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah lived to the age of 24. Hobbs, a male Liger lived to just about 15 years. He was in the Sierra Safari Zoo in Reno, Nevada and succumbed to liver failure.

7. Hybrid big cats are known to be fertile.

There is a great deal of documentation on this subject. In fact, the fertility of big cat females includes many different hybrids. There is actually a rule that describes it: in hybrid animals, where their sex is determined by sex chromosomes, if one sex is absent, rare or happens to be sterile, the animal will be born heterogametric – the sex that had two different sex chromosomes. It is called Haldane’s Rule. There are other hybrids in the animal kingdom that are actually sterile.

8. The Liger can turn on some jets.

The Liger is fast, which may be rather interesting considering the size of the animal. In full run, Ligers have been clocked at travelling up to 50 mph. If you were being chased by one, the weight of the animal hitting you would probably knock the wind out of you or render you unconscious.

9. The Liger shares more traits with a lion, than a tiger.

As a Liger is the hybrid offspring of a Lion and a Tiger, it carries many different traits from both parents. However, the Liger has far more traits from the Lion parent than it does from the Tiger parent. Or at least that is the findings of several researchers who have observed Ligers both in the wild and in captivity. Naturally, they live longer in captivity than in the wild.

10. There are many more interesting facts about the Liger.

The majority of Ligers born until recent decades, were actually the result of accidents. That is to say, the breeding was not intentional. The Liger roars. However, the sound of that roar differs somewhat. As the Liger is essentially a cross between a Tiger and a Lion, the Liger roar sounds a lot like the roar of a Lion. However, there are circumstances when the Liger roar will sound much like the roar of a Tiger. One of the downsides to being a hybrid is that the immunity system gets compromised somewhat. This means that Ligers are more likely to contract diseases than Lions or Tigers would be. It also means their lifespan will be shorter of that of their parents. As the Liger is considered one of the biggest cats on the planet, the Tiger mother usually requires a C-section in order to properly deliver the Liger cub as it will be larger than a normal Tiger cub.

Liger Fact-File Summary

Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Pantherinae
P. Leo × P. Tigris

Fact Sources & References

  1. “Largest Living Cat”, via Guiness Book of Records.