Ligers? Wholphins? Grolar Bears!? Unbelievable Animal Hybrids

The Liger: Half Lion, Half Tiger and the World’s Largest Feline

A liger at Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia. Image: Aleksey Shilin / Wikimedia Commons

Meet the world’s largest feline: the liger. While ligers are certainly something to marvel at, you’ll never found one outside of a zoo—they’re a man-made hybrid cross between a male lion and tigress, something that would never occur in nature.


Ligers look something like a striped lion. They tend to inherit the tawny brown fur from their lion fathers and the dark stripes from their tigress mothers.

As a result of this union between the tiger, the largest and heaviest feline, and the lion, the second largest, ligers tend to be much larger and heavier than their parents. In fact, the largest feline in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records is a liger named Hercules, who weighs 922 pounds and measures 11 feet in length and 4 feet at the shoulder. He resides at Myrtle Beach Safari, a wildlife attraction in South Carolina.


Hercules the Liger. At 922 pounds (418.2 kilograms) and 11 feet (3.33 metres) in length and measuring 4 feet (1.25 metres ) tall at the shoulder, he is considered the world's largest living feline. Photo by Ali West.
Hercules the Liger.

At 922 pounds (418.2 kilograms) and 11 feet (3.33 metres) in length and measuring 4 feet (1.25 metres ) tall at the shoulder, he is considered the world’s largest living feline. Photo by Ali West.

Unfortunately, ligers face a host of challenges. Like many other unnatural hybrids, ligers often die in the womb or prematurely. If they do make it to adulthood, they are genetically or physically sterile and unable to reproduce.

They also suffer from a variety of uncomfortable genetic defects and diseases associated with both lions and tigers, such as neurological problems, cancer, arthritis, and organ failure.

A pair of ligers. Photo by Hkandy.
A pair of ligers. Photo by Hkandy.

For these reasons as well as the lack of conservation value and the threat to the mother tigress during birth, ligers are banned in most zoos and animal sanctuaries; and those that choose to breed the animals are frowned upon by big cat conservationists around the globe.