Wikijunior:Big Cats/Tigons and Ligers
Ligers and tigons are hybrids, the offspring of the pairing of a lion and a tiger. Ligers have lion fathers and tiger mothers. They usually grow much larger than their parents, and female ligers (sometimes called ligresses) can sometimes have babies. Tigons (also called tiglons) all have tiger fathers and lion mothers. They are usually smaller than their parents. Lions are very social animals while tigers tend to be lonely and to live by themselves. The offspring of a lion-tiger share the conflicting instincts of both parents. Sometimes they seek out interaction with other big cats, but other times they will attack them. So, they can be a danger if they are raised with other big cats. In general, however, ligers are gentle, even-tempered and tolerant.
Wild Ligers and Tigons have recently been found
Breeding offspring of a lion and tiger requires human intervention, since the two species do not live near each other in the wild. In the past, some zoos experimented with breeding lions and tigers with one another. Due to conservation efforts, hybridization on purpose is not allowed in most zoos. However, it happens regularly by accident, and some private breeders try to breed ligers for the purposes of creating something new and unusual.
Recently a wild Liger has allegedly been found in the far south of the Sahara Desert. Ligers were also allegedly found in the wild sometime between 1930's and the 1950s. However, tigers have never evolved in Africa, and if true would have had to been the result of released captive tigresses. Claims have been made for wild liger sightings in or near the Gir Forest in India in the past; today, there are no reliable reports of tigers within a hundred miles of the Gir Forest, making such a meeting extremely unlikely.
Ligers are the largest of the Big Cats. They can weigh up to about 1500 pounds (680kg), and stand up to 13 feet (4 m) tall on their hind legs. Tigons are sometimes called dwarfs, tions and tilons; while they do not exhibit many signs of dwarfism, fully grown tigons of both sexes usually weigh less than 350 pounds (160 kg), which is small for male lions or tigers.
Both hybrids have a combination of lion and tiger physical characteristics. However, the Ligers look more like their lion fathers with a hint of light striping on their backs and faces. Tigons have more defined striping like their tiger fathers. Like tigers, the striping pattern is unique to each individual animal. Tigons can also have small manes or spots.
Can they have offspring?
It was originally assumed that ligers couldn't have babies, which is true for most hybrid species, such as the mule (a cross between a horse and a donkey). However, females can have babies. There are such things as li-ligers and li-tigons along with ti-ligers and ti-tigons — these are mixes of ligers and tigons with lions and tigers.