One of the biggest cats in the prehistoric era of Earth was the American Lion, but it has been extinct for thousands of years. However, there is proof that breaks the myth that a tiger and a lion can’t produce a cub if they breed. It is extremely rare in the wild, but it’s possible when these big cats are bred in captivity. A Liger (Male Lion and Female Tiger) and Tigon (Male Tiger and Female Lions) results.


The liger is the biggest cat in the world and it simply dwarfs tigers and lions in size and weight. Their skulls are more than double the size of the heads of its respective parents. Jungle Island in Miami holds a Liger named Hercules that is recognized by Guiness World Records for being the “biggest cat in the world”. Hercules weighs over 1100 pounds, over twice the weight of his father, and enough to rival Polar Bears. Hercules still holds the record at the time of this writing and is healthy. Sinbad is also a liger that was shown on the National Geographic channel. He is reported to be the exact size and weight as Hercules.


Ligers have imprinted genes present in all feline big cats species. This gene can be expressed maternally or paternally, with great restrictions to species and gender. That’s why the Liger is much larger than its ‘brother’ species, the Tigon.

largest ligerFemale tigers express a gene that causes the pre-pubescent growth hormone of ligers to go on throughout its life, but at the cost of sterility. Female ligers, however, can remain fertile. They are to big cats what gigantism (caused by a pituitary tumor producing excess growth hormone) is to humans, except they can still use their powerful physical assets such as bone crushing jaws and slashing claws. Ligers also have the camoflauge stripes as that trait is passed down from their maternal tiger counterparts. Look at how big they can grow in this Liger video. On the main page of, you can find even more Liger and Tigon videos.

The truth is that ligers and tigons have been well known to the world for much of the last two centuries. In A. H. Bryden’s published work, Animal Life and the World of Nature, the knowledge of the way these cats are bred was explained in great detail as early as 1902.

It has remained for one of the most enterprising collectors and naturalists of our time, Mr Carl Hagenbeck, not only to breed, but to bring successfully to a healthy maturity, specimens of this rare alliance between those two great and formidable felidae, the lion and tiger.


Animal handler Peter Getz was killed by a liger he was taking care of in the Safari’s Animal Sanctuary. Such unstable personality changes are not rare when handling these dangerous animals and caution must be taken. In cross-breeding between species, the natural DNA process is not natural and many errors occur – such as split personality of aggression.

Cat conservationist Tippi Hedren has stated this on the National Geopraphic website:

Beyond appearance, the big cats betray their mixed ancestry with a split personality. They like to be in the water (a tiger trait) and are very social (a lion trait).

Although it’s rare, conflict in animal instinct can cause behavioral problems in the cat, especially for zoo-keepers.

The Ethics of Cross-Breeding

The dangers of cross-breeding between species are well known to all zoologists and animal owners. The technique isn’t down to science and the problems that manifest over time in these big cats get worse and worse. This is seen a lot in household dogs when they are cross-bred with a variety of different species.

Does man have the power to play God? Many would argue that these breeding events do cause in nature but those concerned with the ethics of zoo-keeping of animals would point out that zoos are gaining profit by showcasing ligers and tigons.


However, most recognized zoos in the United States prohibit cross-breeding between species, especially in the case of tigers and lions. Here is a popular video on Youtube that explains exclusive facts about the dangers of breeding cats of different species . The Octagon Wildlife Sanctuary and the Big Cat Rescue organizations seek to protect the ligers and tigons from the congenital defects other issues they have acquire during their growth.

The bottom line is that although big cat species such as the Siberian Tiger is the largest ‘pure’ taxon cat, and extinct animals like the American Lion was more naturally adept at surviving in the wild (it frequently competed against the Giant short-faced bear ), the liger still holds the title for being the biggest extant cat according to sheer mass, and it’s a quite rare to find these things in nature. Like with all animals, bred in captivity or in the wild, their power must always be respected.


Bryden, A.H. (contributor). “Animal Life and the World of Nature” (1902-1903, bound partwork).

Barnett, Lindsay (2008-10-31). “Liger attack victim dies from wounds in Oklahoma“, Los Angeles Times. Retrieved on 1 November 2008.

Growth dysplasia in hybrid big cats“. Retrieved on June 23, 2006.