Ligers are among the world's largest and fastest cats. The animal is found only in zoos because it is bred artificially, often for publicity. Many zoos don't actively promote breeding ligers because from a wildlife conservation standpoint they have no benefit. The space occupied by the liger is taken away from endangered animals that need the breeding ground, according to Liger.org, a website that educates the public about ligers.
A liger is born after a male lion and female tiger mate. Offspring of male tigers and female lions are called tigons.
Ligers are much larger than either of their parents. However, tigons are smaller than their parents. As of 2011, the largest liger lived in Wisconsin and was named simply Liger. It weighed 1,600 pounds.
When a liger reproduces with a lion, the offspring is called li-liger. A liger that reproduces with a tiger has a ti-liger. However, most female and all male ligers are sterile.
Ligers have stripes, like their fathers, and spots, like their mothers. The animal's coat is golden orange.
In the Wild
The occurrence of ligers in the wild is extremely unlikely because tigers are in Asia, and lions are native to Africa and India. However, the Asiatic lion subspecies historically had a broader range that overlapped with that of tigers.
The oldest liger is named Shasta, and she was 24 as of mid-2011. For every 12 liger births, two don't survive their first day.
Seventy-four living ligers were known in 2010. Thirty lived in the United States, 20 in China, nine in Germany, five in South Korea, four in Russia, four in South Africa and two in the United Kingdom.
Ligers can run up to 60 miles per hour. A lioness reaches a maximum of 40 miles per hour. The cheetah is the fastest land animal, reaching 75 miles per hour.
The liger is one foot shorter than the now-extinct American lion, which was one of the largest cats to ever exist. Adult ligers measure 12 feet long.
A mare and a donkey create a mule. A donkey and a horse create a hinny. A donkey and a zebra create a zeedonk. A cow and a bison create a beefalo. A dolphin and a whale create a wholphin.