|When Big Cats happen to mingle, they can sometimes mate and produce a wide variety of hybrids. |
The reasons hybrids exist vary from profit, to scientific research to accidental, but rare, work of nature.
Here are some interesting Big Cat facts and photos.
Four of the five living species of the Panthera genus — the lion (P. leo), jaguar (P. onca), leopard
(P. pardus), and tiger (P. tigris) — may produce a number of hybrid crosses. Due to its isolated
habitat and lack of cross-breeding data of captive specimens, the fifth member of the genus, the
snow leopard (P. uncia), is usually kept out of the equation.
The ability to hybridise is partly associated with how closely species are related to each other.
According to nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analysis, tigers are more closely related to snow
leopards than to lions, leopards and jaguars. Lions, leopards and jaguars are more closely related
to each other than to tigers.
The common ancestors of lions, leopards and jaguars split from other cats around 4.3 to 3.8
million years ago; while the common ancestors of tigers and snow leopards evolved around
3.9 million years ago.
The ancestor of jaguars evolved around 3.6 to 2.5 million years ago; while tigers began to evolve
into a unique species around 3.2 million years ago.
Lions and leopards split from one another about 3.1 to 1.95 million years ago.
While lions, leopards, and jaguars all form viable hybrids with each other, the tiger has only
formed viable hybrids with the lion (tiger/leopard matings resulted in aborted foetuses). None
of the species have been mated to the extremely rare snow leopard — captive snow leopards
are part of conservation programmes and therefore not available for frivolous cross-breeding.
The liger is a cat whose father is a lion and mother is a tiger. Obviously, this only happens in
captivity. They are social creatures who seem to get along with both, lions and tigers. They
also show genuine affection towards their human handlers. Though it is not always the case
with hybrids, but ligers get the best of both parents. They grow to be bigger, stronger, and
usually even healthier than either parent. Notice how in the featured photo the head size of
Hercules is twice as big as the head size of the lion and the tiger.
Hercules is currently THE biggest cat in the world, weighing over 1,100 lbs
(about half a ton)
A male liger
|A tiger, a liger and a lion side by side. You can clearly see that the stripes of the tiger
are more 'washed out' on the liger, and that his fur colour is midway between the
parents. A liger cub (left) and a huge grown liger (right).
|Tigons (or Tiglons) are the opposite of ligers; they are cats whose father was a tiger
and mother was a lion. Tigons are rarer than ligers, and they often carry marks from
both parents. Unlike ligers, they are usually no bigger than their parents — weighing
about 400 lb (180 kilos).
the Alipore Zoo in India, a female tiglon named Rudhrani, born in 1971,
mated to an Asiatic Lion named Debabrata. The rare, second generation hybrid was called a
Litigon. Rudhrani produced seven litigons in her lifetime; some of which reached impressive
sizes— a litigon named Cubanacan (died 1991) weighed at least 363 kilograms (800 lb),
stood 1.32 meters (4.3 ft) at the shoulder, and was 3.5 meters (11 ft) in total length.
|Leopons are hybrids resulting from the crossing of a male leopard with a lioness. The head
of the animal is similar to that of a lion while the rest of the body carries similarities to
leopards. These hybrids are produced in captivity and are unlikely to occur in the wild.
|A jaglion is a cross between a jaguar and a lion. This mesmerizing black beauty is a female
called Jahzara who was born in Canada. Her father was a jaguar and her mother a lioness.
The brighter jaglion who grew up with her as a cub is Tsunami.
A baby liliger namd Kiara. The liliger is a hybrid cross between a male lion and a ligress
(hybrid of tiger and lion). Kiara was born to 8-year-old female liger, Zita, and male African
lion, Samson. Male tiglons and ligers are sterile, but female hybrids can produce cubs.
|Kiara was the first liliger known to exist and was found to be calm, confident and strong.
|Lion cubs with their roaring father.
Adult male lions usually weigh between
330-550 lb (150-250 kg).
|The white lion
is NOT a distinct subspecies; but a special morph with a genetic
leucism, which causes paler colouration similar to that of the white tiger. The condition is
close to melanism, which is the reason behind the existence of black panthers. Having
normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin, white lions are NOT albinos.
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