Can tigers mate with: leopards, jaguars and lions?

Can tigers mate with lions, leopards and jaguars?
Can tigers mate with lions, leopards and jaguars? Infographic by MikeB.
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The best source for information of this kind is Sarah Hartwell’s messybeast.com.

She is quite clear on this. While lions, jaguars and leopards can all mate with each other to ‘form viable hybrids’, the tiger can only successfully mate to produce viable offspring with the lion. When a tiger mates with the leopard the cubs are non-viable and the foetuses are aborted.

  • Tiger mating with the leopard – NO
  • Tiger mating with the lion – Tigon (male tiger and female lion)
  • Tiger mating with a lion – Liger (male lion and female tiger)

There have been attempts (Carl Hagenbeck 1990) at creating a Bengal tiger/leopard hybrid called a ‘tigard’ or ‘leoger’ but as mentioned the offspring were stillborn. The coat contained spots, rosettes and stripes.

“[The] convention would term the offspring of a leopard x tigress mating a ‘leoger’ and the offspring of a tiger x leopardess mating a ‘Tigard’.” – Hartwell.

There was and perhaps still is a traditional belief in India that female tigers mated with leopards with stories (anecdotal reports) of naturally occurring hybrids. They must be untrue. There is a fair amount of superstition surrounding these sorts of animals.

For example, Frederick Codington Hicks, who wrote Forty Years among the Wild Animals of India (1910) writes:

“There is a persistent idea among the natives all over India that the largest males of this species frequently mate with tigresses, who point as proof to the excessively prominent stripes with which some of these largest panthers are marked in the lower portions of the body about their stomach, calling them ‘doglas’ or hybrids [note: dogla is the Hindi word for any type of hybrid]. But this I think is a mistake, for I once, and once only, had the fortune to shoot a true hybrid, between a panther and a tigress I think, which was a vastly different looking animal to that referred to by the natives as a ‘dogla’. It happened shortly before I was mauled that I beat for what I thought was a tigress, the footmarks of the animal being like that of a female feline. During the beat the spotted head of a panther of extraordinary size pushed its way through the grass, followed by the unmistakable striped shoulders and body of a tiger, though looking a bit dirty as if it had been rolling in ashes. I succeeded in dropping this extraordinary creature dead with a shot in the neck, and, on examining it, I found it to be a very old male hybrid, with both its teeth and claws much worn and broken; its head and tail were purely that of a panther, but with a body, shoulders, and neck-ruff unmistakably that of a tiger, the black stripes being broad and long though somewhat blurred and breaking off here and there into a few blurred rosettes, the stripes of the tiger being the most predominant on the body. “

The term ‘dogla’ means mixed race.

Here is a chart I have used on another page.

Big Cat Hybrids infographic
Big Cat Hybrids infographic by MikeB with thanks to Sarah Hartwell.

Ligers are larger than tigons due to ‘genomic imprinting’. The size depends on whether the growth genes are inherited from the male or female. Whether the female engages in non-competitive mating (with one male) or competitive mating (many males) influences the process. It results, according to Hartwell in growth dysplasia.

P.S. the big cat hybrids are human selective breeding creations borne out of inquisitiveness. They happen in captivity and not in the wild.

Below are some more pages on hybrids.

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