We were sent this story by one of our readers (thanks Steve!) about Hercules, a liger. A liger is the offspring of a lion father and tiger mother. By the way, there are tigons, too, which have lion mothers and tiger fathers. Ligers and tigons have been bred in captivity, deliberately and accidentally. They are not known to exist in the wild due to their lack of overlapping natural range of habitat.
Hercules was born and lives at the Institute of Endangered and Rare Species, in Miami, Florida — this is part of the T.I.G.E.R.S. (The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species) and R.S.F. (Rare Species Fund), which we first mentioned when we told you about best friends, Roscoe (dog) and Suryia (orangutan). Hercules was the result of an accidental pairing between two cats that live at the institute. “Ligers are not something we planned on having,” said institute owner Dr. Bhagavan Antle. “We have lions and tigers living together in large enclosures and at first we had no idea how well one of the lion boys was getting along with a tiger girl, then lo and behold we had a liger.”
Hercules is 900 pounds and is ten feet tall when standing on his back legs; ligers tend towards gigantism (none of these photos have been altered). He currently holds the title of the largest cat by the Guinness Book of World Records.
He eats on a typical day 200 pounds of meat, usually beef or chicken, and is capable of eating 100 pounds in as a meal.
Hercules can run at 50mph. He likes swimming, something that lions absolutely despise but tigers do regularly. Conversely, he is very social like a lion (while tigers have a social system, they are much more solitary creatures than lions).
As hybrid offspring, ligers have a variety of health issues. They tend to have a shortened life span as well as birth defects and other mutations. Due to their size, the tiger mother is not large enough to give birth to the liger cub and it needs to be delivered by Ceasarian section. Liger males, by virtue of being hybrid offspring, are sterile making it impossible to produce a liger+liger litter.
Hercules seems completely healthy and is expected to live a long life.