Largest cat hybrid
Who
liger
Where
When
2004
The largest hybrid of the cat family (Felidae) is the liger (no scientifc name), which is the offspring of a male lion and a tigress. Ligers typically grow larger than either parent, reaching lengths of 3 m-3.6 m (10-12 ft). The size and appearance of the liger can vary, depending upon which subspecies of lion or tiger is involved. Although these hybrids could occur in the wild (where lions and tigers inhabit the same territory, such as the Gir forest, India), such cross-breeding usually happens in zoos or private menageries. Hobbs, a liger at Sierra Safari Zoo, Nevada, USA weighs approximately 450 kg (992 lb) - double that of a male Siberian tiger. His father was an African lion, his mother a Bengal tigress and his appearance is predominantly male lion (with leonine mane), but also has tiger stripes and retained the juvenile spots of lions.

Interestingly, ligers exhibit behaviour of both species. For example, they can make the noise of both, they like swimming (as do tigers), females enjoy the company of others (typical of lionesses) as well as solitude normally associated with tigers.

The reason they are bigger than the parents is due to breeding strategy and behaviour. In a pride of lions, many males will mate with a lioness, each transmitting a growth-promoting gene so that their offspring will out-grow competitors in the womb; lionesses have a growth-inhibiting gene to compensate. Tigers are solitary animals. A tigress will usually only mate with one tiger. Without this competition for space in the womb, there is no biological need for a growth-promoting or growth-inhibiting genes in the male or female, respectively (and therefore these genes do not exist).

Tigons (tion, tigron, tiglon) are the offspring of a male tiger and a lioness. They are smaller than either parent due to the absense of the growth-promoting gene in the tiger and the existence of a growth-inhibiting gene in the lioness.

Unusually for hybrids, the female ligers are often fertile.