Steve
Home            Big Cat Hybrids

Ligers, Tigons, Doglas and other Big Cat Hybrids
    
      Liger Cub           Liger (Panthera leo x Panthera tigris), Nowosibirsk Zoo. Taken by:  Алексей Шилин       A Liger. Photographed in1904.

The cat family of animals seems to have the ability to form many hybrids.  Although there are very many involving the smaller cats, this article is about the hybrids between the different species of Big Cats and the Puma.

Naming Hybrids

When two species of animal are crossed there is a naming convention.  The first part of the name is from the species the male came from while the second part is from the female’s species.

There are special cases where there is a common name for the hybrid.  For example if a male Donkey is crossed with a female horse, their baby is called a Mule, not a Dorse.  If the male is a Horse, their baby is called a Hinny, not a Honkey.

Ligers and Tigons
                       Tigon
Photo by the Bellman taken at Canberra Zoo.

If a male Lion is crossed with a female Tiger, their babies are called Ligers, while if the male is a Tiger, their babies are Tigons.  There are often several ways of forming a reasonable sounding name, so a Tiger Lion hybrid could be called a Tigon, a Tiglon or a Tilion.

The most common of Lion Tiger crosses is the Liger.  These have been produced for a long time.  One was even given to Queen Victoria in the nineteenth century.  These animals tend to be bigger than either parent.  Apparently they get a growth gene from their Lion father, and their Tiger mother does not provide them with growth inhibition.

With a Tigon, the male Tiger does not provide a growth gene, but the female Lion does inhibit the growth, so Tigons are often smaller than either parent.

Infertility

With most of the Big Cat hybrids, all the male hybrids are infertile but some of the females can have babies, and can be back crossed to either parent species, but their male babies will still be infertile.

Although many Big Cat hybrids have been produced in captivity, in most cases they do not normally occur in the wild.  However, there is at least one combination that has been reported many times, and even has a common name in India,

Doglas

In India, and other places, Leopards and Tigers occur together.  Both species are mostly solitary.  The males and females meet for mating.  It must happen sometimes that a large male Leopard meets a female Tiger that is ready to mate.

In Indian folk lore this does happen, although the reported Hybrids might just be large Leopards with unusual coat patterns.

Tigard

This animal would have a Tiger for a father, and a Leopard mother.  Because of the large size difference between these two animals, this would be excessively hard on the Leopard mother.  The only reported Tigards have been still born.

Reputable zoos try to avoid producing hybrids.  Some private zoos and circuses still do have them. 

Lions and Leopards

Lions and Leopards can also occur in the same areas.  There are several factors that make a hybrid between the two less likely than with Leopards and Tiger.  For one thing, the Lionesses are generally in a pride and are less likely to meet up with a randy male Leopard.  Solitary male Lions are more common than solitary Lionesses, but the size difference makes mating less likely with the male a Lion and the female a Leopard.  However, there are quite a few reports of natural hybrids between these two species. 

Again, as with Leopard Tiger crosses there has to be doubt about the accuracy of the identification of these supposed hybrids.

Jaglions and Liguars
 
               Jaglion
Photo By Sarah Hartwell (Messybeast) (Own work.) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or
CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons.
 

Although there have been reports of natural crosses between Lions and Tigers; Lions and Leopards; and Leopards and Tigers, a natural cross between Jaguars and the other three species of Big cat is virtually impossible because they come from different continents. 

They will hybridise in captivity. 

A Jaglion has a Jaguar Father and a Lioness mother.

A Liguar has a Lion as its mother and a Jaguar mother.

Jaguars and Leopards

These two species have been crossed in both combinations, producing Jagupards and Liguars.

Jaguars and Tigers

A Male Siberian Tiger has fathered a Tiguar to a female Jaguar, but the other way round has not been done to produce a Jagger, or should that be a Jigger, or maybe a Jiger?

Reasons for Producing Hybrids

Perhaps we should look at the reasons for doing these exotic crosses. 

Profit

One reason is simply profit.  Some private companies have found that these hybrids are very popular exhibits.  If no cruelty is involved, this may be a valid reason although serious zoos are tending to concentrate on their responsibilities towards conservation.

Accidental

There are several cases of crosses occurring without the owners planning it.

Science

Some scientific information has been obtained by these crosses.  In some cases we may need to rethink our ideas about relationships between the different species.

Puma Leopard Hybrids

The Puma is not classed as a Big Cat, although it is as big a Leopard.  It came as a surprise to many scientists that the Puma can be crossed with a Leopard.  Not all the attempted crosses survived, but some have done.  This is a case where some scientists have started to rethink the relationship of the Puma to the Big Cats.

Puma Jaguar Hybrids

Leopards and Pumas come from different continents so they are unlikely to cross naturally.  Jaguars and Puma ranges overlap quite a bit.  Of course these two species occupy different ecological niches, but they must meet occasionally. 

There have been many reports of natural hybrids between these two species, but there is doubt about the accuracy of the identification of the apparent hybrids.

.
Cat Index
Big Cats
 
Cats