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Ligers, Tigers and Bears-Oh My!

  • 06/15/09
  • Erin

“Does Africa have bears?”

Janice- Shreveport, LA, U.S.A.

Sadly, not any more. The only known species of “true bear” indigenous to the continent of Africa was the Atlas Bear (Ursus arctos crowtheri). It was a subspecies of the Brown Bear that was reported to have lived from Morocco to Libya. The last reported specimen was killed in theTetuan Mountains of Morocco in the 1870s.
“I’m in 9th Grade and I am currently doing a report on Tigers. I found your website and while it is very informative, there is no information on Tigers which surprised me. I would think the African Wildlife Foundation would have information on Tigers. Why don’t you have information on Tigers?”

Leatrice- New Castle, PA, U.S.A.

“Why doesn’t AWF have information on Tigers?” I get asked this question a lot. The honest-to-goodness reason AWF does not have any information on Tigers on our website or anywhere in our offices is this: there are no Tigers in Africa. No fooling. This is not a trick. A Tiger is many things, including beautiful, fierce, majestic and flat-out magical. But one thing a Tiger is not, is native to Africa.  That being said, there are plenty of other interesting and beautiful cats in Africa both big and small---Lions, Leopards, Cheetahs, Servals, Caracals, Sand Cats and Wildcats to name but a few.

“I was watching the movie, ‘Napoleon Dynamite’ the other day and the movie mentions an animal called a ‘Liger’---a Lion crossed with a Tiger. Do Ligers really exist or were they just made up for the movie?”

Justin- Omaha, NE, U.S.A.

   Ah yes, the Liger. “It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a Lion and a Tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic.” (Napoleon Dynamite from the film, Napoleon Dynamite).”
     Actually there is such a thing as a Liger. Ligers are a hybrid species created by mating a male Lion (Panthera leo) with a female Tiger (Panthera tigris). They grow to enormous sizes. In fact, the largest known living cat is a Liger: His name is Hercules and he weighs 900 pounds. (For comparison, a very large Lion can weigh around 650 pounds.)  Ligers are faintly striped, exhibit a lion-like face, and are maneless. They are the largest cats in the world, with Siberian Tigers being the #1 largest pure-bred sub-species. It is interesting to note that the male Liger, much like that of a more common hybrid, the donkey, is sterile and cannot have offspring,  while female Ligers are fertile and can have cubs.

[caption id="attachment_1158" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Ligers are a hybrid species created by mating a male Lion with a female Tiger."]Ligers are a hybrid species created by mating a male Lion with a female Tiger.[/caption]

While we’re all on the subject of Lion/Tiger hybrids, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Tigon. It’s a cross between a female Lion and a male Tiger. Unlike the Liger, male and female Tigons remain roughly the same size as their Lion mothers.  There have also been reported cases of Li-tigons (female Tigon and male Lion) and Ti-tigons( female Tigon and male Tiger).
Neither the Liger nor the Tigon have ever been known to exist in the wild.

About the Author

Heading up AWF’s membership desk for the past eight years, Erin Keyes has amassed quite a bit of knowledge about Africa’s wildlife and unique wild lands. She’s also an expert on AWF’s membership benefits and programs. She started this blog to share what’s she’s learned and to give AWF supporters another forum for asking questions. So, if you have questions about African wildlife, AWF’s work in Africa, or all the ways you can help Africa’s wildlife and unique wild lands endure, now’s your chance – just Ask Erin.

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