The Secret of Big Cat Hybrids Revealed

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When I was young, together with my classmates, we usually drew pictures. We made up stories about a variety of incredible beasts. The head of a rhino with the body of a lizard. The wings of an eagle and the tail of a monkey. However, these imaginations escaped with some of us into adulthood, and they bring those fanciful beasts into reality.

Humans have been breeding hybrid animals, which are the sexual fruit of two various species of animals, a long time ago. Breeders create these new animals for different reasons, like performing unique jobs, purely by accident, like Africanized "killer" bees, like pack mules, and just for fun, like Savannah cats. The story that led to the propagation of Savannah cats is fascinating. They were first bred in the 80s and acknowledged as an official cat breed in 2001. They are cross-bred between the domestic cat and a wild serval cat, making them particularly half-wild.

Since hybrid cats are the offspring of a cross-breeding between two separate species of cats, they are often infertile. This means they can't produce offspring of their own and are apt to congenital disabilities.

In the first quarter of 2017, a Russian zoo made news with the delivery of a liger cub called Tzar – an adorable big cat hybrid born to a male lion and a female tiger. The excitement produced by the news worldwide proved that people are intrigued by these weird, exotic big cat hybrids.

Gage Beasley's Full Size Lion Soft Stuffed Plush Toy

Among the big cat hybrids, one of the most popular is the tigon (a hybrid cat of a tiger and a lioness). The liger (a hybrid cat of a male lion and a tigress) is undeniably beautiful. It's important to note that these cat hybrids only materialize in captivity.

Many conservationists have lately condemned the propagating of lions and tigers as wicked, saying that it does not aid wildlife.

What You Should Know About Big Cat Hybrids

We see more examples of big cat hybrids being deliberately bred by those who want to manipulate wild animals for profit and, yes, for fun.

The breeding of big cat hybrids first started as part of scientific work in the 70s to examine possible antagonism to Feline Leukemia (FeLV) in big cats. These concerns aim better to understand heredity elements for leukemia and combat that illness. Domestic cats were propagated with the Asian Leopard Cat, a small wild cat aboriginal to South, East, and Southeast Asia.

They are a relatively small number of the big cat population, but the buzz in the news all over the place has often made it look like they are everywhere.

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Big cat hybrids are the outcome of cross-breeding various species of big cats. For instance, ligers are the offspring of cross-breeding a male lion with a female tiger, and tigons result from cross-breeding a male tiger and a female lion. Li-ligers are the result of a female liger and a male lion. This cross-breeding exercise is bonded with severe health and welfare problems; more on that later. 

Big cats hybrid is primarily found in circus and roadside attractions. They are publicized as interests and exploited for profit. They are restricted in certain areas of the United States and many parts of the world.

The Most Popular Big Cat Hybrids

Big cat hybrids remain pretty rare worldwide, so they attract so much attention. The most popular big cat hybrid is the liger (a tiger mother and a lion father). In contrast, tigons (a tiger father and a lion mother) seem to be rare.

For some reason, big cat lovers are very interested in ligers. They are captivated mainly by tigers; therefore, the fact that a tiger mom has been giving birth to a hybrid sounds interesting.

It is tough to calculate how many tigons and ligers exist worldwide because no one is tracking them.

Known cases of ligers are primarily recorded in zoos in the United States (where Hercules, the most significant liger lives) and in China. It is likely that many private owners in the United States also have big cat hybrids at home. However, to date, no specific figure exists to describe the sensation.

Can Big Cat Hybrids be Found in The Wild?

As stated earlier, big cat hybrids are often born in captivity. One of the reasons is the terrain – they currently don't happen in the wild. Lions and their cubs live mainly in Africa today, and tigers are domiciled in Asia. More importantly, these cats are from the same genus but not from the same species, so they cannot naturally interbreed. 


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Even when lions and tigers did overlap in the past, there is no history of them coupling and producing hybrids in the wild. Lions and tigers separated millions of years ago; they last had a shared ancestor some millions of years ago. So even though they can have intercourse, they are two distinct species, reproductively remote.

These hybrids are born when tigers and lions are kept together in captivity. In captivity, cats mate with whomever they are in the same compartment. As a zoo owner, if you deliberately keep female tigers with a male lion together, expect them to mate and probably have cubs, as in Russia recently.

Behavioral and Emotional Problems in Big Cat Hybrids

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Someone shortly discusses the potential behavioral and emotional problems these rare cat hybrids encounter. They are entirely artificial; mating between lions and tigers doesn’t occur in the bush because they do not co-exist in the same habitat.

The issues arise because the cats are of mixed origin. The captive breeders of ligers and tigons combine the vocalizations, general behavior (such as enjoying water and swimming), and the ability to climb trees of the two very different cats.

The lion lives in pride and is inherently friendly, while the tiger is isolated. The tiger likes water and is a swimmer. They can stay in the water all day. The lion can swim and will cross rivers for a reason but is less excited about the river. 

The lion lives in semi-desert and desert habitats and does not stay in the water all day to cool off as the tiger does. The tiger will climb a tree when required, whereas Leos are climbers. These are pretty significant differences.

It was recorded that the female parent of a big cat hybrid such as a leopon (leopard and lioness) is distressed by her cub's desire to play in the water and climb trees. These qualities are inherited from the father - tigons like water, just like their tiger father, which may make the lion mother emotional.

The issue is that the half-caste cat may have a completely different personality to its parent in different ways and in terms of being social or solitary.

Cross-breeding for Rare Traits and Colors

Distinctive colors in big cats, such as white lions and white tigers, result from genetic mutations. These big cats are not albinos, nor are they separate sub-species. The cats are inbred to produce cubs with these traits, which means they have been propagated with genetically closely related tigers. Consequently, they may suffer severe genetic abnormalities and other serious health problems.

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Unlike white tigers, a dual recessive gene carried by a small fraction of tigers motives partial loss of pigmentation in an animal, leading to white fur. White tigers are rarely found in the wild because both parents must possess this uncommon recessive gene. All white tigers in the zoo today are the outcome of inbreeding.

White lions and white tigers are found in zoos, magic shows, circuses, traveling shows, and roadside attractions, and they belong to private owners.

Conservation Value

Captive-bred white lions and white tigers serve no education or conservation purpose. However, exhibitors deceive the world into believing there is a need to preserve them. This impedes efforts to inform the public about the challenges of conserving big cats in the wild. 

About 4,000 tigers are in their home ranges, and the lion populations are gradually decreasing.

Generally, big cats hybrid has no educational or conservation value. Like white lions and white tigers, they are bred solely for profit.

Welfare and Health Problems

Cross-breeding big cat species compromises animal welfare and health by raising the chances of medical conditions, infection, and premature death. 

Cross-breeding big cat species have severe negative health impacts, including high neonatal mortality, cancer, neurological defects, sterility, genetic abnormalities, arthritis, gigantism, organ failure, and unsustainable growth. 

Ligers are prone to gigantism and experience diminished life span, conflicting instincts, arthritis, cancer, and various diseases. Tigons mostly don't survive infancy. They also have an elevated risk of neurological defects, dwarfism, congenital disabilities, depression, and immune deficiencies.

The continuous inbreeding of big cats causes genetic crises to be heightened and accumulate, leading to high mortality rates and disabilities. For instance, in white tigers, cross-breeding has led to facial malformations, cleft palate, hip dysplasia, spinal deformities, immune deficiency, strabismus (crossed eyes), clubbed feet, retinal degeneration, etc.


At times, the females of both hybrid species (tigons and ligers) are not sterile, which means they can reproduce. Fundamentally, this is fifty percent of the time. These females are cross-bred back to either a tiger or a lion to create another hybrid species.

Conclusively, little research has been conducted to determine whether all the points above are true or false. Nonetheless, the decision to cross-breed these creatures solely for our amusement and entertainment when their parent cats are getting extinct in the wild seems a terrible, selfish excuse. It is wicked to both the parent species and its hybrid offspring, and nothing is enchanting. In a nutshell, by breeding tigons and ligers, the propagators attempt to downplay God by creating potentially unhealthy, unstable beasts while ignoring the will of those already endangered.



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