When you walk into a pet shop, it’s common to see cross breed dogs on sale. But have you heard of cross breed lions and tigers? Yes, Napoleon Dynamite’s( an American film character) favourite animal is real as cross breeding between lions and tigers is possible and the results are Ligers and Tigons. Liger occur when a male lion mates with a tigress. When a male tiger mates with a lioness, the result is a Tigon.
Ligers are known for their enormous size, where some have been reported to be as heavy as the parents combined. A normal Liger can measure up to 10-12 feet in length and weigh up to 1,000 pounds. The reason that has been suggested for the astonishing huge physique is due to the condition of growth dysplasia. Growth dysplasia occurs when the male lion’s growth-promoting genes are passed to the liger, with no growth-inhibit genes in the mother tiger. In normal mating processes of lions, male lions pass growth-promoting genes to ensure that their offspring are bigger than other cubs to compete, this is the competitive breeding strategy of the male lion. On the other hand, female lions would want to increase the survivability of all their cubs and inhibiting their size would be ideal, hence resulting in growth-inhibiting genes. However, tigers do not have such inhibiting or promoting genes, thus when a lion and a tigress mate, the result is an offspring with growth-promoting genes with no inhibits, explaining the extraordinary size of a Liger. Tigons, a mix between a male tiger and a lioness, hence will be born as dwarfs.
Ligers also inherit other characteristics of their parents. Ligers can roar like lions and they swim like tigers as compared to the normal lions which are known to be not as well acquainted with water. However, male Ligers are known to be less fertile than their female counterparts due to the cross breeding, and most reports of Liger offspring are of female Ligers successfully reproducing with normal male tigers and lions. An offspring of a Liger and a tiger is called a Ti-Liger and one with a lion is a Li-Liger.
Ligers and Tigons do not occur in the wild, or at least there are no actual records of it happening in the wild. This is most likely due to the fact that lions and tigers do not live in a common natural habitat, hence very rarely crossing paths in the wild. Currently there are only about a dozen of Ligers and Tigons in the world and they are all bred in captivity and Ligers constitute most of that number as their size entices the interest of breeders.
There have been many activists out there who challenge the actions of cross breeding of lions and tigers, accusing the breeders that their actions are money-oriented and also that Ligers and Tigons create inferior species which are prone to diseases. However, healthy Ligers have been proven to be possible as seen in the celebrity Liger Hercules which was a result of accidental mating in the Institute of Greatly Endangered And Rare Species, Miami, Florida. The contest on the ethical aspect of the breeding of the animals will definitely be never-ending and it is all up to YOU to decide. 🙂
“Ligers“, November 2008.
URL: http://www.messybeast.com/genetics/hyb–liger.htm (accessed on 3 April 2010)
“What’s a liger?”, Carole Park, The Strand Newspaper, Victoria College, University of Toronto, 17 Mar 2005.
URL: http://media.www.thestrand.ca/media/storage/paper404/news/2005/03/17/Features/Whats.A.Liger-891726.shtml#cp_article_tools (accessed 4 April 2010)
“Lions and Tigers, Ligers and Tigons. For Hybrid Cats, Size Depends on the Parents’ Genes”, Richard Freeland, 8 May 2009.
URL: http://geneticsevolution.suite101.com/article.cfm/lions_and_tigers_and_ligers_oh_my (accessed 30 March 2010)
“ABC Nightline, Featuring Hercules the Liger“, ABC News, 10 March 2010.
URL: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE8Z5Es-M0E&feature=player_embedded (accessed 3 April 2010)