Get Our Updates!

Ligers – what’s the reality for these big cat hybrids?



We’re seeing more and more instances of ligers being intentionally bred by those who want to exploit wild animals for profit. So, what exactly is a liger?

A cross between a female tiger and a male lion, ligers can grow to be around 900 pounds.  Contrast this to a lion weighing about 450 pounds and tigers weighing about 550 pounds. While lions or tigers have a length of about 8-9 feet, ligers can grow to be 11 feet long. With bigger muscles, heavier weight, and bigger body structure, it’s not surprising their hearts and organs give out, unable to sustain this gigantism.

So why are they bred by exhibitors? There’s no wild for these cats. There’s no conservation value.  Lion-tiger mating doesn’t happen in the wild.

“Crossing the species line” does not generally occur in the wild, because “it would result in diminished fitness of the offspring,” Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, once said. Lions and tigers are found on different continents.

These big cats are cross-bred in captivity simply out of greed, with no concern about what the future holds for the poor offspring of these forced matings.

Behaviorally, these cats are trapped in a body with conflicting genetic makeups. Tigers are solitary in the wild while lions live in social matriarchal groups. Tigers enjoy swimming and water, while lions swim only in extreme and rare situations.

Ligers can suffer from birth defects and many times die young. Because ligers are usually larger than either parent, the mother tigress can be at great risk during the birthing process, requiring a C-section delivery or dying during birth.

What should you do when you see a liger being advertised or promoted? As with all hybrids, we hope you’ll share this article to help educate why hybrid breeding should not be supported. When the general public learns how these animals truly suffer, they will stop supporting exhibitors who exploit animals this way.

As with everything, education is the key.

Photo source – Julie Hanan and Big Cat Rescue

Join The Conversation