A cat of enormous size and strength, Liger is quite an extraordinary animal. It is an amazing creature that has rarely occurred through history and is a true marvel in appearance. So great is the muscularity and power of Liger that if it ever existed in the wild, it would have been capable of taking down nearly every animal on earth!
The largest species of cat to have ever existed - Liger - is not even a species at all ~ it is a hybrid ~ a cross between a male lion and a female tiger that is given a scientific denotation of Panthera leo × Panthera tigris. The name is derivative of its heritage: 'Li' from lion and 'ger' from tiger. The appearance is indicative of the huge cat's origin ~ a tawny coat is marked by diffuse stripes and rosettes with a rudimentary mane. The attributes are also inherited from both parents ~ Ligers like to swim like tigers and are sociable like lions. The roar is more like that of a lion and so is the frequent laid back nature of the cat, in contrast to the ferocious and active lifestyle of the male tiger.
Hybrids have always existed in the wild and in captivity and numerous attempts at interspecies breeding of big cats have been made throughout history. The hallmarks of Liger are its massive physical proportions. With a weight over a thousand pounds and length greater than twelve feet, the Liger dwarfs the biggest lion and tiger in existence. The reason behind this is believed to be genetic - the male tiger and female lion both have a growth inhibiting gene that restricts the growth of their respective offspring to an extent. The concept behind Liger bypasses this condition by mating a male lion and a female tiger ~ the resulting cub can grow lifelong to become twice as big as either of its parents.
Withstanding all its magnificence - when I look at a Liger I feel awe and I feel...sorry! Yes it is true (bear me out for a while) ~ I feel sorry because I see a creature that is not meant to be in nature. I see an animal that has never existed in the wild and has never been created by conscientious breeders. An organism that is not a species in itself since it is unable to produce fertile offsprings (male Ligers are sterile!). An animal that lives most of its life in solitude, created for attracting audience or for Hollywood. A creature marred in its small population by low lifespan, genetic aberrations and neurological defects (head shakes in cubs!).
Experts worldwide condemn the breeding of Ligers as an unhealthy practice. All responsible animal captivity programs and zoos around the globe never try to mate lions with tigers. Big Cat Rescue calls it a 'despicable' act and hints the practice to be a purely commercial ploy. National Geographic News takes a skeptical look at it. At accredited zoos "keeping the two species separate has always been standard procedure," according to Jane Ballentine, a spokesperson for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. Plus, interspecies breeding tends to result in "diminished fitness of the offspring," according to Ronald Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley.
To me the Liger depicts the opposite sides of human nature - the side that craves beauty and ignores everything else and the side that honors the laws of morality and nature. The side that searches for lion tiger fight videos on YouTube and the side that condemns them as barbaric practices after having seen them ~ yes to me the Liger is indicative of the fickle nature of our own species. It is for us to decide which side do we want to take...!