The liger is a hybrid cross between a male lion and
a female tiger. They are the largest cats in the world, although the
Siberian Tiger is the largest "pure"
taxon. A similar hybrid, the offspring of a male tiger
and a female lion is called a tigon.
Despite being sterile, many male ligers become
sexually mature and mate with females. Male ligers also have the
same levels of testosterone on average as an adult male lion. Female
ligers attain greater size, weighing approximately 700 lb (320 kg)
and reaching 10 feet (3.05 m) long on average, and are often
fertile. Because only female ligers and tigons are fertile, a liger
cannot reproduce with another liger or with a tigon.
Jungle Island in Miami, USA is home to Hercules, said to be
the largest liger. He is said to weigh over 900 lbs, this is more than twice the
size of a male lion. Hercules was in the Guinness Book of World Records as being
the largest cat.
A ligress (female liger) named Shasta was born at the Hogle
Zoo in Salt Lake City on May 14th, 1948 and died in 1972 at age 24. The 1973.
Valley of the Kings animal sanctuary in Wisconsin had a
male liger named Nook who weighed around 550 kg (1210 lb.) He passed away in
2007, at the age of 21 years.
painting of two liger cubs was made by Étienne
Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1772−1844). In 1825, G. B. Whittaker made an engraving
of liger cubs born in 1824.
According to worldwide experts the breeding of
ligers as an unhealthy practice. Most animal captivity programs and zoos
around the globe never try to mate lions with tigers.
"Keeping the two species separate has always been standard procedure,"
according to a spokesperson for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple
Valley is quoted as saying: " Interspecies breeding tends to result in
diminished fitness of the offspring."