Liger is the largest cat that ever lived on Earth (including extinct cats). Even the mighty (now extinct) saber-toothed tiger was not that big. Here are 20 amazing liger facts.
1. Liger is the hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger
The liger is a hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger, hence the name (Lion-Tiger). But, they typically grow larger than either parent species.
2. Liger is one of the largest cats that ever lived on Earth
Ligers typically grow much larger than either parent species, lions and tigers. Furthermore, they are one of the largest cats ever lived: they are as big as the mighty Saber-Toothed Tiger (Smilodon populator, see notes 1).
Males can reach a total length of 3.6 meters (11.8 feet) and can weigh more than 400 kilograms (880+ lb).
As of 2021, a male liger named Hercules is the largest non-obese living cat in the world, weighing 418.2 kg (922 lb).
Related: Hercules, the liger
Another male liger named Nook, which used to live in captivity in the US weighed over 550 kg (1,213 lb), and once up to 615 kg (1,400 lb). This is an enormous weight even for a liger.
For comparison, the records for the lion and tiger in captivity are under 500 kg (1,100 lbs).
Nook could rise up to 4 meters (13 feet) if it used to stand on its hind legs up in the air.
In 2007, at 21 years old, he was euthanized because of cancer. It is believed that Nook can be one of the largest cats ever walked on Earth.
Related: Top 5 largest prehistoric cats
2. Ligers can reproduce
Unlike many other hybrid animals, ligers can reproduce through cross-breeding with lions or tigers. For example, there are li-ligers, which their fathers are lions and mothers are ligers. There are also ti-ligers, where their fathers are tigers and mothers are ligers.
Male ligers have lowered testosterone levels and sperm counts, rendering them infertile while female ligers are fertile.
Despite being infertile, male ligers are still sexually active.
Related: Hybrid Big Cats
3. They enjoy swimming
Ligers do not afraid of water and they actually enjoy swimming and playing in the water, like their mothers, tigers.
4. Ligers only exist in captivity
Their parent species live in different continents: wild tigers mainly inhabit Asia, whereas the lion’s current natural habitat is almost entirely in Africa.
Lion and tiger habitats do not overlap except in one location: India’s Gir Forest. There are approximately 600 Asiatic lions living in the Gir Forest of Western India. But, typically, lions and tigers in the Gir Forest don’t enter each other’s territory, and they also do not show any interest in each other.
So, ligers only exist in captivity.
5. They are extremely social animals
According to experts, ligers inherit the best properties of their parents. For example, they enjoy swimming (a tiger trait), and they are very social (a lion trait).
They can get along with other big cats. They are also very friendly to their caretakers.
Ligers are also not as aggressive as male lions. They have very mild personalities.
6. They look like both lions and tigers
Ligers have stripes like a tiger (though liger stripers are faint) and a lion-like tawny background.
In addition, they may inherit rosettes from the lion parent (lion cubs have rosettes and some adults retain faint markings).
Male ligers also have a mane, like a male lion, but their mane is much shorter than their fathers’.
Related: 20 Amazing Lion Facts
7. Liger cubs are born through a normal delivery process
Liger cubs are of the same size as the tiger cubs at the time of birth, and a tigress (female tiger) can easily deliver them on her own, according to the Liger World website.
Contrary to the common myth, the cub doesn’t possess a risk for its mother tiger during birth.
8. Cubs grow at a rate of 0.5 kg every day
Ligers cubs have the fastest growth rate among all the big cats. On average, cubs grow at a rate of 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) every day.
So, by the end of the first year, a liger cub (actually now a young liger) can weigh up to 165 kg (363 lbs). Almost as large as a full-grown male lion!
By the time they are 3 years old, they can weigh over 320 kg (705 lbs).
9. Their heads and claws are huge!
Liger’s head is twice as big as their parent species’ heads, the lion and the tiger.
On average, a liger’s head is 70 cm (27.56 in) wide. For comparison, on average, a lion’s head is 35 cm (15 in) and a tiger’s head is 35 cm (13.78 in) in width.
Their claws are also huge. They are 5 cm long – twice longer than lion and tiger claws.
10. They have the strongest bite of all felids
The liger’s bite force is about 900 pounds (4,000 N) at the tips of its canines. This is huge!
For comparison, the lion and tiger bite forces are around 400 pounds and 450 pounds respectively.
11. Their roar sounds like a lion’s
But their roar is even stronger. They also cuff like a tiger.
Related: 20 Amazing Tiger Facts
12. They are fast and agile
Despite their enormous sizes, ligers are fast and agile, thanks to their incredibly strong muscles.
13. They sleep a lot
Like all big cats, ligers also spend most of the day sleeping or resting, up to 20 hours a day!
14. They are hypercarnivores
Like all cats, they are hypercarnivores (eat mostly meat). On average, they consume about 9-11 kg (20-25 lb) of meat every day.
But, like all cats, they sometimes consume grass, too.
15. They dominate lions and tigers
As a result of their huge size and strength, ligers dominate both lions and tigers.
According to experts and caretakers, either lions or tigers just back off even with the slightest aggression from ligers.
16. To date, only one person killed by a liger
In 2008, a 32-year-old caretaker named Peter Getz entered a liger’s enclosure in an Oklahoma animal sanctuary, despite the sanctuary’s clear protocol of not going inside the cage of the big cats.
The liger mauled Getz on the neck and back before other handlers rescued him and took him to a hospital. Unfortunately, Getz died the next day.
This incident still remains the only human casualty from a liger.
17. Shasta, a female was the longest-living liger ever
Sasha, who spent her entire life at the Hogle Zoo in Utah, US, still holds the record for the longest-living liger. She was born on May 14, 1948, and died in 1972 at the age of 24.
18. They can grow until they are 6 years old
Ligers can grow until they are 6 years old. For comparison, lions and tigers only grow until they are 4.
But, they do not grow through their entire life – it’s another common myth.
19. They don’t have a scientific name
Liger does not have any dedicated species name, unlike its parent species, lion (Panthera leo) and tiger (Panthera tigris).
20. Ligers do not have a poor immune system
Again, a common myth. Their immune system is not weak. They are as healthy as any other big cat.
- Saber-Toothed Tiger is actually not a correct term, but it’s quite common. Saber-Toothed Cat is a more accurate term since Smilodon was not closely related to tigers.