HYBRIDS BETWEEN JAGUARS AND TIGERS
There is one reported case of a "tiguar". A male tiguar, named Mickey was allegedly born at Altiplano Zoo, San Pablo Apetitlan in Mexico zoo in 2007. His father was a Siberian tiger and his mother a wild-born female jaguar captured in Mexico. There are sketchy descriptions of this purported hybrid. His coat is light red, neither spotted nor striped, but patterned with darker red rosettes stretched vertically. Mickey is a stocky, powerful-looking animal with a tiger-like face, white chin and mouth and dark golden spots on the face. At 3 years, he weighed 180kg and measured about 2.30m long, similar in size to a Bengal tiger.
However, considering his uniqueness, there are now authenticated photos of Mickey online and the above description sounds like a lion x tiger hybrid. Photos purporting to be an adult Mickey after a snowfall in Altiplano turned out to be a ligress called Zita! A video of the zoo showing a tawny big cat with pale rosettes shows a young lioness whose rosettes have not yet faded. Several people around the world, including some in Mexico, have tried to track down the fabled “tiguar”. The zoo is unfamiliar with that name, which is unsurprising as it would probably have a Spanish portmanteau name. Calls to zoo staff enquiring about hybrids between a jaguar and tiger received mixed responses – both “yes” and “no” and an indication that there might once have been a hybrid at the zoo (or at least no denial of a hybrid having been born there).
Did the tiguar ever exist or was it a misunderstanding, a misidentification, a publicity stunt or an internet hoax? There is a further possibility. The Zoo has been investigated for animal trafficking on several occasions; its involvement in the illegal animal trade includes supplying wild animals to the private collections of politicians and drugs barons. The rarer the animals, the more valuable and desirable it is (bears and big cats are especially prized as a form of security). The world’s only known tiger-jaguar hybrid would be a very valuable addition to a private collection, so if Mickey the tiguar did exist, he is most likely in private hands. It's very odd that if a tiguar ever existed at that zoo then there are not more photos from zoo visitors.
There is a claimed sighting of a lion x black jaguar cross (male) and a tiger x black jaguar cross (female) loose in Maui, Hawaii. There are no authenticated tiger/jaguar hybrids and the description matches that of a liger. The alleged tiger x black jaguar was large, relatively long necked (probably due to lack of a ruff or mane) with both stripes and "jaguar-like" rosettes on its sides. The assertion of hybrid identity was due to the combination of black, dark brown, light brown, dark orange, dark yellow and beige markings and the tiger-like stripes radiating from its face. It is more likely to have been a released liger since these are very large and have a mix of rosettes (lion juvenile markings) and stripes and can have a brindled mix of colours exactly as described (their markings are extremely variable).
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
For more information on the genetics of colour and pattern:
Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders & Veterinarians 4th Ed (the current version)
For more information on genetics, inheritance and gene pools see:
The Pros and Cons of Inbreeding
The Pros and Cons of Cloning
For more information on anomalous colour and pattern forms in big cats see
Karl Shuker's "Mystery Cats of the World" (Robert Hale: London, 1989 - some of the genetics content is outdated)
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