Ligers are real but unnatural. The liger is a hybrid from a mating between a female tiger and a male lion. The lion and tiger don’t meet in the wild. They only have the opportunity to mate when they are brought together by somebody. And the kind of people who bring them together are those men (always men) who run private zoos in America. These are the people featured in the Netflix series which is so popular called Tiger King.
I’m referring to people like Joe Exotic. Another exploitative individual connected with ligers is “Doc Antle”. You may have seen photographs of him with two enormous ligers, Hercules and Apollo (see below). He exploited his “product” to make a lot of money. The only reason why the liger has been created by these people is to make money. It is the commercialisation of the big cats.
And the reason why the liger is so commercially successful is because they are the world’s largest cat. They tend towards gigantism, especially the males. Sarah Hartwell, an expert on this topic, tells us that the males can be the size of a pony and they can weigh over half a ton. People love big, big cats. And this artificially created product is just that.
World’s largest cat albeit artificial
The extraordinary size of the liger is down to “growth dysplasia”. The world’s largest cat is or was a liger. It was owned by the infamous Doc Antle who, incidentally, was arrested with his daughter when facing a slew of 15 charges of animal abuse as reported on October 12, 2020. He owned or perhaps still owns the Myrtle Beach Safari. This is or was a cub-petting zoo. Another form of exploitation and a particularly nasty one in which vulnerable lion and tiger cubs are exploited for photo sessions with paying customers. Joe Exotic did exactly the same thing.
The whole big cats scene is open to exploitation because of a worldwide fascination with these animals both because of their size when adults and their cuteness when cubs.
Not all lion-tiger matings are planned although nearly every one of them was arranged. In September 1975, in Osaka, Japan, a tigress was sharing a cage with a lion. She gave birth to 3 cubs which were described as having the heads of a tiger and the bodies of a lion. Two died soon after birth. The third was very poorly.
Ligers can be so big that they can be ridden like a horse and there’s a picture of a circus owner doing just this.
Sterile – no testosterone
The male liger is a calm individual with a pleasant disposition because it is believed they have no testosterone. That’s an interesting thought because many years ago I wrote an article about how the castration of domestic cats i.e. their neutering, affected the male domestic cat behaviour. I wanted to know how they felt and so I researched how humans feel when they been castrated. The bottom line is that they feel calmer because the hormone testosterone is removed from them or largely removed. This obviously applies to the male liger as well.
Although the liger is relatively docile, they can be dangerous when excited or defensive. This is evidenced by a handler at an animal sanctuary near Tulsa being killed by a 1,000-pound liger called Rocky. The person entered his enclosure during feeding in violation of policy. The handler was bitten on the neck and back and died in hospital the next day.
The liger is more common than the tigon which are also very real. The tigon is a mating between a male tiger and a female lion.
Variation in appearance
There is a variation in the appearance of ligers depending upon how the genes interact from these two distinct species of big cat. The photograph of a couple of ligers from a zoo in South Korea which is freely available under Wikimedia Commons provides us with a very clear picture of their typical appearance. To me, it is very much a half lion, half tiger appearance with tiger spots on the forehead but the usual tawny overall coloration of the lion.
As the vocalisations they roar like lions and chuff like tigers. RELATED: Cat sounds: how to spell them
An interesting outcome is the conflict in the mental state of the female liger. We know that female lions are sociable and live in prides i.e. groups. We also know that female tigers are solitary. It makes me wonder how they feel emotionally.
No scientific name
As the liger is entirely artificially created by humankind, they are not classified taxonomically like other wild cat species. As a result, they don’t have a scientific name.
Ligers are synonymous with America. This is because of lazy laws regarding the possession and breeding of these animals and other wild animals. Carole Baskin, the nemesis of Joe Exotic, and the founder and owner of Big Cat Rescue, in Florida, USA, has been fighting for years to tighten up the law regarding the ownership and exploitation of big cats. She strongly campaigns for the introduction of her new law: Big Cat Public Safety Act.
Charles Darwin wrote about ligers in his book The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication. He said at the time that “there are several well-authenticated instances of the female tiger breeding with the lion. Strange as the facts may appear, many animals under confinement unite with distinct species and produce hybrids quite as freely as, or even more freely than, with their own species”.
The liger has been around for a long time; they have quite a long history. Sarah Hartwell on her website discusses this history in detail. You might like to dip in and have a look by clicking on this link.
For instance, The Globe, on 19 June 1902, carried a piece about a lion-tigress hybrid. It is headed: LION-TIGER HYBRIDS. A SUCCESSFUL EXPERIMENT. An extract of the textreads: Although the possibility of breeding lion and tiger hybrids in captivity has long been known, the results of the experiments have not been very successful, the animals rarely reaching to their full size and development. More recently, says Mr. W. B. Tegetmeier, in ‘the field’ my friend Mr. Hagenbeck has obtained some extraordinary results, and has supplied me with particulars. The article is illustrated with some excellent photographs. One is of a mature animal which was born on May 11, 1897, it is now rather more than five years old. It is male. Its height across the withers as stands erect is 45in.
Sarah Hartwell also has some pictures of a tigress-lion couple including them mating. I think that it is worth showing that picture. I made a montage out of it. I thank Sarah Hartwell for providing it. Please click on the link below to see the montage which I can’t show on this page because it includes a photograph of cats mating and Google’s advertisers don’t like to see those sort of photographs 😢.
You can also have white ligers. These are the product of a mating between white tigers and lions. Everland Zoo in Seoul, Korea claimed to have created white ligers. And there have also been golden ligers which is a cross between a male lion and a golden tigress. The same will apply to snow-white ligers. To the best of my knowledge there are none but it is theoretically possible.
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