Is Liger a real animal or not? Their very existence is a question in itself as they are a rarely known species. We have all heard about different big cats, namely lions, panthers, tigers, jaguars, cheetahs, etc. The cross-breeding of two different breeds of the same animal is quite common in cats and dogs, but in big cats, it is not so common. Liger is a totally different creature having the characteristics of a big cat.
1. What is a Hybrid?
Every animal mates with the other counterpart of its species. However, when two different parents from the same species but different breeds are involved in the mating process then the process is known as hybridization. And the offspring thus produced is termed a hybrid.
Ligers are hybrids that are born with parents being a female tiger and a male lion. Another example of a hybrid is the cousin Tigon is a species having a female lion and a male tiger as parents. Hybrids have features of both the parents including appearance, habits, and shortcomings. (See What is a Female Lion Called?)
People often wonder: Is Liger a real animal? Ligers are said to be first discovered in India somewhere between the late 1700s to early 1800s. Ligers are not naturally born animals. They were born as the result of force cross-breeding and hybridization process. A cross between a male lion and a female tiger. The liger is the world’s largest big cat, growing up to 12 feet long and 1,200 lbs. Ligers resemble large lions with stripes; like tigers, and they are comfortable in the water.
Unlike other big cats, ligers are born and brought up in zoos or captivity only. They are not left open in the wild with the fear that they might not survive as they cannot enter the territory of lion or tiger eventually not being of their kind. Their maternal and paternal relatives still wonder is liger a real animal?
They are born in cages and they did in cages as well. But as compared to their parents, ligers are considered stronger and can withstand extreme conditions than their parents. Having the genes of tiger and lion, a liger has the survival instincts of both species.
Ligers are believed to be nearly about 100 in population worldwide. The United States has about 30 of them while India has about 20. However, it is believed that ligers are over 100 all over the world if privately owned ligers are included in the total count. They are not given protection as extinct or endangered species because they are not considered unique species.
5. Appearance & Features
Now that you know that is liger a real animal or not, let us discuss what they look like. Owing to the genetics of the two distinctive species, a Liger possesses the physical features of both of them. It has stripes on his forehead and upper body but maybe has little or no mane, hairs around the neck and head, like a lion. There can be light yellow, dark brown, pale brown, and even white ligers. Their growling can be as loud as a lion but they can also give a soft grunt like a tiger. (See Why are some Tigers White?)
They love lying around like a lazy papa lion but also love to swim in water like the mommy tiger. In spite of their giant body, they can catch speeds up to 50 mph. They are much larger than their parents. An adult Liger has a height that is one and a half times more than that of a lion. Is Liger a real animal? Yes, they are quite real and weigh somewhere between 400-600 kilograms. They have larger fangs and claws than their parents. An adult liger can be larger than a fully grown Siberian Tiger. So when ligers are considered to cross their size limit even so they are our new bigger cat among others.
6. Health Issues
A Liger is a hybrid so it possesses the genes of both the parents. But a liger lacks an important gene which is considered as the growth controller in big cats. Because of this a liger often becomes obese. They also face other health issues but the major one is obesity. Since they lack the growth gene, therefore, their growth and weight are not controllable. Due to lack of physical activity, because they are bred and kept in zoos, cages, etc., and ligers have obesity problems which become the basis for all other health issues. (See 7 Fun Facts About White Lions)
7. Average Life Span
As opposed to its parents, the tigress and the lion having 10-15 years and 8-10 years respectively, the average life span of a liger is between 12 years to 24 years. A female ligress named Shasta is the longest-lived liger. She was born on 6th May 1948 at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. She died at the age of 24 years and 74 days, on 19th July 1972.