What Happens When Lions and Tigers Interbreed?

Big cat hybrids have different characteristics depending on which parent was the tiger and which was the lion.
Big cat hybrids have different characteristics depending on which parent was the tiger and which was the lion.

Lions and tigers and ligers ... oh my, what are we talking about? Well, there are the well-known "big cats" – lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, and leopards – and then there are hybrids like the liger and the tigon that might be unfamiliar to even the most ardent cat fancier.

Interestingly, the liger and the tigon have clear differences, such as whether there are prominent stripes or manes. And it all comes down to parentage. When a male lion breeds with a female tiger, we call the offspring a liger. A tigon is, well, you guessed it: the offspring of a male tiger and a female lion. Interestingly, a liger typically grows larger than either of its parents, probably because it lacks certain growth-limiting genes. The opposite is true for tigons, which are far more rare. They tend to be smaller because both of their parents possess those gene limitations. Things get even more complicated when ligers and tigons successfully breed with lions or tigers, resulting in combinations such as the "titiger" (a tigoness mating with a tiger).

Big cat basics:

  • Although still in crisis in many locations, tiger numbers are growing, with nearly 4,000 believed to exist in the wild.

  • Male tigers, the largest big cat type, can weigh nearly 700 pounds (317.5 kg) and can devour about 90 pounds (41 kg) of meat in one sitting.

  • Every wild lion in Africa now lives in an area only 8 percent the size they once roamed.

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    • Big cat hybrids have different characteristics depending on which parent was the tiger and which was the lion.
      By: Mingis
      Big cat hybrids have different characteristics depending on which parent was the tiger and which was the lion.