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Nature’s Freak Cat: The Liger


By James Donahue

July 2005


A friend sent me a clipping from a Miami zoo that told of Hercules, a mammoth sized cat called a liger, which is a cross between a male lion that mated with a female tiger.


Hercules is three years old and still growing. He weighs about half a ton and already stands 10 feet tall when on his back legs. He can consume 20 pounds of meet every day and is capable of eating 100 pounds at a single setting.


It is said ligers are the largest of the known cat species. They can usually grow to over 900 pounds and stand as tall as 12 feet on their back haunches. Ligers are only known to occur among big cats in captivity, although mythology includes stories of giant cats that once roamed the forests near Singapore during the days when the area was known as the home of lions.


Such mating would be extremely rare in nature since lions are native to Africa and most tigers are in Asia. When the two species come in contact with each other in the wild, they are natural enemies and attempt to kill one another.


Putting these big cats together in captivity, however, apparently creates a different effect. Hercules is not the only liger in the world. Not only that, but male tigers have been known to breed with female lions, thus producing another odd creature known as a tigon.


Tigons are very different from ligers because they are dwarfs instead of giants. A fully grown tigon is usually no more than 350 pounds.


Hercules is an unusual cat. He can run at speeds of up to 50-miles-per-hour and he enjoys swimming, something lions and most cats will not do. Also ligers are not sterile and can reproduce.


And here is where cross breeding among the big cats starts getting complicated. If a liger were to reproduce with a tiger, the offspring would be called a titi. And if it were to reproduce with a lion, the result would be known as a lili.


As far as I could find out, such creatures have never been produced so we have no idea what they would look like.


Zoo keepers say they feed the Miami liger something they call the King Lion diet. This is made by taking a horse, a cow, a couple of pigs and a flock of chickens, putting them in a giant blender and grinding them into a mush, bones and all, until it produces something that looks like a raw bloody meatloaf.


The animal consumes about 25 pounds of this stuff every day.


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