Although it rarely occurs in the wild, a liger, a cross between a male lion, and a female tiger has been known to happen.
What the result is, is a lion with stripes that are diffuse in nature.
They are also the largest cats in the world, although the Siberian Tiger is the largest “pure blood” big cat.
The Liger also enjoys swimming, as the tiger does, whereas Lions absolutely do not. There are similar hybrids that come from the mating of a male tiger and a female lion, which are called tigons, but do not have all of the more interesting characteristics of the Liger.
The Liger, a Hybrid Cross, whose males are born sterile
There have been only rare reports of the female tiger mating with a male lion in the wild. This may have taken place when some uncommon circumstances made it possible, such as tigers being forced into the range of the Asiatic lion, however it is considered very rare, and generally that such species interbreeding would not normally take place.
Ranges of Tigers and lions only rarely intersect and breeding between the two is even more uncommon, however when it does take place the liger which results will have some characteristics that are truly remarkable.
They appear to lack the gene that prevents them from growing to nearly giant proportions, the largest of these, weighing in currently at about 900 pounds has been featured in several magazines and in the Guiness book of records as the largest cat in the world, weighing about two times what a normal male lion would weigh.
While male ligers are sterile, the female ligers can reproduce and have done so, but because only the female ligers and tigons are fertile, the liger cannot be crossed with another liger or with a tigon to proliferate the species. They can however and have been bred with other tigers or lions.
Their fertility is well documented as fact, according to science, specifically Haldanes rule in genetics, which is to say that if one gender is sterile, it is the one with two different sex chromosomes e.g. X and Y.
In Wild cats of the world, written in 1975, CAW Guggisberg states that ligers and tigons were thought to be sterile in both sexes however in 1943 this was proven false when a fifteen-year-old hybrid between a lion and an ‘Island’ tiger was successfully mated with a lion at the Munich Hellabrunn Zoo. The female cubwas raised to adulthood.
According to the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, accredited zoos frown on mixing two different species and have never bred ligers.however they have admitted that ligers have occurred by accident. Several AZA zoos are reported to have ligers.
According to the zoos many of these animals are unhealthy, however since a liger appeared in Napoleon Dynamite and the article below was written, there have been breedings of several done on purpose.
Ligers Make a “Dynamite” Leap Into the Limelight
by: Maryann Mott August 5, 2005
It’s half lion, half tiger, and completely real. Now thanks to a cameo in the 2004 cult movie Napoleon Dynamite, the liger has leaped into the limelight, prompting fans to ask, What are they really like?
The faintly striped, shaggy-maned creatures are the offspring of male lions and female tigers, which gives them the ability to both roar like lions and chuff like tigers-a supposedly affectionate sound that falls somewhere between a purr and a raspberry.
Weighing in at about a thousand pounds (450 kilograms) each, they typically devour 50 pounds (23 kilograms) of raw meat in a meal.
“For the most part they’re really laid back,” said Jason Hutcherson, vice president of Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain , Georgia . “They like to swim and play in the water.”
The drive-through wildlife park is believed to have the country’s largest concentration of ligers, housing ten of the massive cats.
Since 1999 the park has bred its male lion and female tiger many times, producing about 24 cubs.
Not all of them have been healthy, though.
“We’ve had 3 out of 24 that, for all practical purposes, were normal but developed as they grew older some kind of neurological disorder,” Hutcherson said.
Autopsies didn’t reveal what caused the cubs to develop “head shakes,” so park staff “chalked it up to a genetic defect,” Hutcherson said.
Accredited zoos frown on the practice of mixing two different species and have never bred ligers, says Jane Ballentine, a spokesperson for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, based in Silver Spring , Maryland