TIGON (TION, TIGRON, TIGLON)

 

The offspring of a male tiger and a lioness is a tigon (alternative names are tion, tigron or tiglon). Tigons have no scientific name, but Panthera tigris X leo has been posited. That lions and tigers can be crossbred is well documented. According to AP Gray in Mammalian Hybrids, the basic colour of lion/tiger hybrids is pale ochre to rust yellow-brown, more intensive than in the lion, but paler than in the tiger and with tiger striping. The mane of the males develops late and is shorter than that of a lion. L Reisinger(1929) reported a male liger as weighing as much as both parents together.

In "The Variation Of Animals And Plants Under Domestication" Charles Darwin wrote: "Many species of Felidae have bred in various menageries, although imported from diverse climates and closely confined. Mr. Bartlett, the present superintendent of the Zoological Gardens (18/17. On the Breeding of the Larger Felidae 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' 1861 page 140.) remarks that the lion appears to breed more frequently and to bring forth more young at a birth than any other species of the family. He adds that the tiger has rarely bred; "but there are several well-authenticated instances of the female tiger breeding with the lion [liger]." Strange as the fact may appear, many animals under confinement unite with distinct species and produce hybrids quite as freely as, or even more freely than, with their own species." The voluntary hybridisation of some zoo animals is also referred to as hypersexuality.

Late 1920s/early 1930s: A keeper introduces a lion cub to a tiger cub in a hamper with a view to them sharing a cage. The young tiger is described as "furious" when the lid is raised while the young lion is merely curious. At the time, mixed exhibits were considered most attractive. In Germany, Hagenbeck accomplished mixed exhibits of lions, tigers, bears and hyenas.

Late 1920s/early 1930s: A lion and tiger accustomed to sharing a cage, though the relationship was described as mutual tolerance rather than friendship.

Tigons are currently rarer than ligers. It is suggested that male tigers find the courtship behaviour of a lioness too subtle and may miss behavioural cues that she is willing to mate (though lionesses actively solicit mating). It is more likely that their smaller size makes them less attractive exhibits than ligers. This is borne out by the fact that in the 19th century and early 20th century, tigons were more common than ligers. The image below shows a lioness, supposedly with lion cubs, but they are suspiciously well striped. As many drawings of this time were of captive animals, could these be early tigon cubs?

Tiger crosses in captivity have been common for centuries. There is a recorded cross-breeding in India which dates back to 1837 when a tigon was presented to Queen Victoria from the princess of Jamnagar (an Indian state). The first record of tigon breeding in Britain came from a touring circus in the 19th Century. They had a tiger and a lioness which produced litter after litter of hybrid cubs. Queen Victoria saw the circus at a command performance at Windsor and the latest litter of hybrid cubs was shown to her.

The best known of these early tigons was Ranji, a huge male who was bred by Prince Ranjitsinji, Maharajah Jam Sahib of Nawangagar and presented by him to the Zoological Gardens in Regent's Park in 1924. Mr. Frohawk was commissioned by The Field to sketch Ranji. He found him shy and said "The hybrid favors [resembles] the tiger rather than the lion in the shape of the body and head and it is particularly interesting to note that although the creature is a male, the mane is not larger than that possessed by some tigers and there is at most a small tuft at the end of the tail. The coat, however, is tawny and entirely lacks the reddish-orange hue characteristic of all tigers except those of the colder regions of central Asia. The stripes, nevertheless, although comparatively faint are clearly traceable and the lower parts of the body are whitish as in tigers."

The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, 19th November, 1927, carried a long article on London Zoo tigon: FRIENDS IN CAPTIVITY-- VII. The Tigon. BY S. L. BENSUSAN. Illustrations by L.R. Brightwell. This week Mr. Bensusan writes of the Tigon at the Zoo, that aloof offspring of a tiger and a lioness, who shows but little of the tendency of the species from which he springs to respond to his captor's advances.

THE tigon seldom condescends to show himself to visitors. When he does he appears at first sight to be an utterly unfriendly and intractable beast; but he is strikingly handsome, with a beautiful light tawny skin that passes to white on the breast, and a lordly presence. His habit is to retire from the gaze of the vast company that flocks the Lion House on fine afternoons and at other times, when he emerges, to look out over the sea of heads into a void, perhaps not a void to him. If you ask the keeper of the Lion House, one of the oldest and most experienced in the gardens, a man who has been thirty years at his post and knows the nature of all the animals with which he has to deal, he will tell you that the tigon is less unfriendly than it was on arrival, but is still very far removed from the class that responds to kindness and attention. There are tigers and lions and leopards that the keeper can handle through the bars of the cage, and that others who are with him may also stroke with impunity. On the other hand, there are just a few animals there that will carry to the grave an undying hatred of man who has taken them from their fastness and sought, quite in vain, to balance captivity by the removal of all danger and anxiety about food supply. In the great world of animals there are many well content to sacrifice freedom in return for security, but there are always a few that place liberty above everything else. Such a one is the black panther, a creature with angry eye and cruel mouth, never at rest and never at peace. Such a one the Tigon has been, but his mood is changing.

Undoubtedly the tigon stands above the black panther in his attitude towards his captors. He seems rather to ignore them, to be content to accept his food and to find in his place of retirement something in the nature of a home from home. How he would have fared had he been set free in the Indian jungle is hard to say. Would he have developed the outstanding traits of his father the tiger, would he have inherited the cowardice of his mother the lioness? Would he have had the mother's capacity to climb or would he have been like the tiger which can reach no farther than it can stretch when standing on its hind legs? You can only speculate as he looks out from behind the bars past the gaping, curious crowd on the promenade and benches, far into the distance that he has perhaps peopled with creatures more to his liking, in surroundings more akin to those from which he was removed. Certainly he looks as though he would thrive, being strong and healthy. Lions are known to endure captivity for more than thirty years, tigers too are long lived. It may be that if he grows accustomed to his surroundings, the tigon, in years to come, will develop the friendliness of some of his neighbours because it is a fact, to which every trainer of wild animals will bear witness, that both the lion and the tiger have an affectionate disposition if you know how to find it. They remember their friends through years of separation. The most of them respond to kindness with affection.

The tigon, offspring of a tiger father and a lioness, was bred by an Indian potentate. This may not be the only experiment of the kind that has been carried out by the ruler through whose menagerie the tigon has reached London, and apparently it was not altogether successful, because, after the tigon was born, the parents fought and killed one another. We should remember that the affection between animals lasts only for a few weeks in the year and disappears with the passing of sexual attraction. Animals that have been lovers for a season frequently develop antipathies when the season of attraction has passed, nor is this phenomenon limited to animals. It is for nothing more than procreative purposes that the lion turns to the lioness, that birds assume their most beautiful plumage or touch the topmost height of song. So soon as the instinct has passed they revert to their natural conditions of indifference, even unfriendliness. Hagenbeck, the celebrated trainer, found in his experience that where trained troups of lions and lionesses were employed it was necessary to remove the males from the troup altogether for certain periods of the year, even his best four-footed friends being quite unreliable at times. He found that a love-sick lion was not only jealous of his own kind, but of any human being, even his keeper.

As a rule tigers and lions will not fraternise, and in olden days it was not uncommon for fights to be arranged between them to provide a sensation for the general public or for the guests of some owner of a great menagerie. There are records of this unpleasant form of entertainment running through history from Roman times. Yet there are occasions on which a lion has been attracted to a tigress or a tiger to a lioness, and Karl Hagenbeck, in the story of his experiences published nearly twenty years ago, tells a curious story of trouble between a lion called Leo, that was exhibited in the Old World and the New, and a great Bengal tiger called Castor. The lion, he tells us, was a bachelor, the tiger was mated to a beautiful Bengal tigress and when breeding time arrived the tigress attracted the attention of the lion. The tiger was extremely indignant and very jealous. The lion, conscious of his own strength, would not give way and the tigress was prepared to accept the attentions of one or other. One morning Mr. Hagenbeck, walking through his Zoological Garden, heard a tremendous roaring from the open air cage and found the lion and the tiger engaged in a terrific contest. They were standing on their hind legs and dealing mighty buffets on each other's heads. This was no more than the first stage. They were on the point of rushing into a struggle which would only have ended with the death of one of them, perhaps of both. The keeper intervened and by dint of great energy and courage, succeeded in separating them, but when they were apart, the ground on which they had struggled was covered with tufts of hair and little pools of blood.

At the same time there is inter-breeding between lions and tigers and other of the felidae without any intervention of man. Hagenbeck bred many young from lions and tigers and at one time had at least three of the offspring of a Somali lion and a small tigress. The male hybrid weighed as much as the two parents together, and visitors to his gar dens could not decide whether they were looking at tiger or lion. Hagenbeck found that hybrids were unusually tame and of very mild disposition. They were also unfertile. In another German menagerie there was a union between a lion and a female panther. Unfortunately the panther was not an ideal mother like Saturn, she devoured her offspring. In the Zoological Gardens of Stuttgart certain hybrids were bred by Herr Nill, and among them a cross between the brown and Polar bear, which was sent to our Zoological Gardens. We may be sure then that for the tigon there are no heirs, and there may be no companion so long as he lives. But he will remain an outstanding figure, a little tragic, even pathetic, since the world holds nothing of his kind, and he must follow his restricted way alone.

Another report was printed in the Illustrated London News, 14th June, 1952: TIGONS AND LIGERS. By Maurice Burton, D.Sc. IN the late 1920's, a tiger-lion hybrid was exhibited at the London Zoo. There was, if I remember rightly, a good deal of publicity given it but that this mostly centred around the speculation as to whether it should be called a tigon or a liger. The receipt of the photographs reproduced on this page recalled this, now, historical event, and it seemed worthwhile going into the question of hybrids between these two large cats. The literature on the subject is not extensive, and one of the best descriptions and analyses is that given by Pocock in 1935, after having examined the remains of the hybrid already referred to after its death a few years previously. He pointed out then that: “Although lion-tiger hybrids have been repeatedly bred for over a century, no statistics have been kept to show the incidence the parents’ characters upon the offspring.”

The Zoo hybrid of the 1920's was the offspring of a tiger and lioness, born in India and presented by H.H. the Jam Sahib of Nawanagar to the Zoological Society of London. Pocock found the mixture of parental characters to be distributed as follows. The lion ancestry was shown in the presence of a mane, a nearly uniform, buffish-tawny skin, with no sign of the orange ground-colour of the tiger, a tail-tuft which, although small, was as large as in some normal lions, and an almost complete suppression of stripes. There were faint stripes to be seen, but these were no more distinct than in some East African lions. The tiger characters were seen in the shape of the head and body, the general absence of dark tips to the hairs which are so characteristic of lions, an indistinct black dorsal stripe, a few thin blackish stripes at the tip of the tail, and the colour of the ears. These last were jet black, with a large tawny patch, instead of the usual white patch of the typical tiger, running to the outer edge near the tip of the ear. (According to the Aberdeen Press and Journal, 24th June 1924, when the hybrid was on display, its father was known to have been a lion, and the mother a tiger.)

This is a summary of the only detailed account we have of these hybrids. In 1902 Cornish recorded a hybrid from a lion-tigress cross bred by Hagenbeck and in the same year Menegaux recorded from Calcutta the result of a similar cross which included several offspring showing the usual mixture of characters but with stripes present in each case. In 1937 Eifrig reported upon some tiger-lioness hybrids he had seen in Dresden Zoo six years earlier. When he inspected them they were one-third grown, and all were like a tiger in the pattern of the coat. This pair of parents had had, apparently, two or three similar families, but no details were given of them. Eifrig also set on record, at the same time, that there was then a family of hybrids from a lion-tigress cross at the Munich Zoo which had shown when first born the stripes of the tiger as well as the spots of the young lion. He also reported that their voice combined the grunting of the tiger with the long-drawn-out cry of a lion, so that it came to resemble the voice of a leopard.

The story leading up to the present family of hybrids, from a tiger-lioness cross in the private menagerie of H.M. the Sultan of Morocco, in Rabat, is worth setting on record. It was noticed that the tiger and the lioness seemed to be on friendly terms, so their cages were brought together and the two animals given free access to each other’s cage. Not only did the two settle down on amicable terms, but in time the lioness gave birth to four cubs. When first born, they resembled lion cubs in general features, but later developed the stripes of the tiger well as the heavy fore-limbs.

One of these cubs broke its back while playing, a few days after it was born. Later, one was exchanged for a Bengal tigress with the Ben Amar circus, and one was presented to Professor Urbain, of the Vincennes Institute in Paris, who, with his colleague M. Rinjard, published a very brief note on the animal in 1950. The fourth, Bent Kouigher by name, is still the pet of the Sultan’s menagerie. In all four, the characteristics of both parents seem to hve been fairly well mixed. Although the product of a tiger-lioness cross, like the one exhibited at the London Zoo years ago, there is more of the tiger in them than in that one. There is no recognisable mane, but there is a distinct cheek-ruff typical of the tiger; the general proportions of both head and body recall those of tiger; there is the small tail-tuft of a lion; and the stripes, although numerous, are not so pronounced as in even the most lightly-marked tiger. The voice is said to be rattling and guttural and to combine the mewing of the tiger with the roar of the lion.

One of the first things to emerge from this brief study is that a lion and a tiger, for all the striking differences between them in the adult, must be very closely related. Thus, when their characters are mixed, as in the hybrids, it requires a specialist like Pocock to sort them out, and even he was obviously in some difficulty in doing so. Moreover, the differences between the two seem to be superficial rather than deep-seated. It is usually stated that the skulls of a lion and a tiger can be readily distinguished, but Pocock showed that this was true only when two or a few were examined, but not the case when a long series of skulls from each species are laid side by side. Furthermore, in seeking to decide whether the skull of the London Zoo hybrid was more lion-like or more tiger-like, the best he could arrive at, after a long series of measurements on it and on a number of lion and tiger skulls, was that the skull of the hybrid was nearest that of the Indian tiger.

Linked with this close similarity, if not actual affinity, between the two species must be noted a readiness to be companionable and to mate. It is not without significance that the parents of Bent Kouigher showed sufficient signs of friendliness to cause their cages to be placed side by side and the doors opened to allow them to come together. In spite of this, however, what little we know of these hybrids clearly shows that in the many instances where, as in zoos and circuses. mixing has been permitted, the union is often fruitless, or the cubs are still-born, or else they fail to survive for long.

The bars to hybridisation, especially in the higher animals, are many. In the wild, the habitat and what may be called the call of the species, constitute the first bar. By the call of the species I mean those features of appearance and tricks of behaviour which two animals of a species have in common and which make them more at home with each other than with a member of another species, no matter how closely related. The second obstacle is the stereotyped behaviour pattern which all species exhibit in their courtship. Normally each step in the unfolding pattern gives the necessary stimulus to the performance of the next step, and as a rule the courtship breaks down if at some stage the appropriate behaviour by one or other partner is not performed. Such gaps can, under abnormal conditions, be bridged, but they usually constitute a barrier. The next obstacle to the hybridisation is, as we have seen, that even if courtship is successful and the actual mating is mechanically successful, there may be no offspring, or there may be offspring which fail to survive. Finally, there is the sterility of the offspring themselves. So far as the ligers [or tigons] themselves are concerned, there seems to be ample proof of this, for all attempts at mating between the hybrid and a normal mate have been completely unsuccessful.

According to the Shields Daily News, 31st August 1954, ”These tigons. First the talk was about tigons (hybrids between tigers and lionesses) and now it swings to ligers (hybrids between lions and tigresses). Our correspondence columns have recently contained two letters on Tigons. They have aroused much interest locally and prompted Mrs N. Monsen, of Sandringham Gardens. North Shields, to write to Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester about the tigon she saw there in 1945. Now the superintendent of the zoo. Mr Gerald T. Iles. has sent her a photograph of the tigon, which we reproduce here, and has given her some information on the liger. He says there are one or two tigons and ligers alive in the world today, including a fine young male tigon in the Vincennes Zoological Park. Paris, and ligers at the Bloemfontein Zoo. South Africa and in Salt Lake City. U.S.A. Maude, the Belle Vue tigon, lived for 13 years until December 1949 at the zoo. Her brother. who was also at Belle Vue. died in 1942. Mr Iles says he always understood that the Belle Vue tigons were bred at the Dresden Zoological Gardens, although he actually purchased them from the famous Hagenbeck's Zoo in Hamburg. Now the Director of the Dresden Zoo has told him that the animals did not come from there, but Mr Iles thinks the director may be wrong, since he did not hold the position at the time the tigons were born.” In "At Home In The Zoo" (1961), Gerald Iles wrote "For the record I must say that I have never seen a liger, a hybrid obtained by crossing a lion with a tigress. They seem to be even rarer than tigons." In contrast, Iles was more easily able to acquire tigons for Belle Vue Zoo, Manchester.

tigon

"At the zoological Gardens in London there has been produced a most interesting hybrid between a tiger and a lion. It has been dubbed the "tigon". It is decidedly not a noble-looking beast, is very long in the leg, where the stripes are most prominent, and of a general sandy hue." The image (from "Wonders of Animal Life" edited by J A Hammerton (1930)) appears to be an edited photograph to give readers the general impression of such a beast (it is probably Ranji, noted earlier).

A tigon is often smaller than either a lion or tiger though some have attained or exceeded the size of the smaller parent. They may be less robust than either parent. There is less interest in them because they are less spectacular than ligers. The actual size and appearance depends on which subspecies are bred together and how the genes interact. The smaller size of the tigress compared to the lion means that cubs may be stillborn, premature (there isn't enough space in the womb for them to develop any further) or sickly and not able to survive. Premature birth can lead to health problems in those that do survive.

The tigon supposedly bred at London Zoo (probably Ranji, imported from India) was exhibited in the lion house. Another observer described it as a striped beast with a ruff round its neck and a surprised expression. Belle Vue Zoo in Manchester, England had a succession of tigons between 1936 and 1968. Kliou (male) and Maude (female) were born at Dresden Zoo, Germany in 1932 and were bred from a Manchurian tiger x African lioness mating. They were acquired by the Hagenbecks at an early age. Gerald Iles of Belle Vue Zoo obtained them from Heinrich Hagenbeck at Hamburg Zoo in 1936. Gerald Iles, who obtained them for Belle Vue Zoo wrote in "At Home In The Zoo" (1961): "The male was a large animal with a mane - not so much as a lion but more than the ruff of a tiger. His general colour was a pale fawn with light brown shadow stripes on the head and body. The under parts were almost white, as in the tiger, and the ears bore the marking of the tiger and the colour of the lion. The female was similar except taat she lacked the mane. She was larger than the usual tigress or lioness. Both roared like lions. The price for the pair was £325 which I though comparitively cheap for such rarities, even in those days."

KLIOU AND MAUD. Daily Dispatch, Jan 28th 1939: THE first attempt to solve the problem of overcrowding in the house centred on Kliou and Maud, the tigons, who once lived so happily together, but to-day are deadly enemies. After a separation of several months, thought the keepers, the hearts of these erstwhile cage-mates might have softened. They were wrong. How wrong they discovered about ten seconds after they had opened the door between the cages. Kliou bounded through the door and stood stock-still as his eyes lighted on his former mate. Then two sets of teeth were bared and the fight began. Kliou, as the aggressor, chased Maud all over the cage, clawing at her and biting, she did not let him have it all his own way, and got in one or two well-aimed blows as she sped across the cage. The climax came when she retreated on to the flat top of the sleeping den at the back of the cage. Kliou followed her and they were quickly locked in fierce struggle, each reared on hind, legs. They lost their balance and came crashing down on the cage floor six feet below. Maud was underneath, bleeding profusely from a wound on her paw, and it seemed she must be badly injured. Keepers with long bars and loud voices managed to drive her assailant back into his own cage, and were relieved to see that Maud was not badly hurt.

Kliou, like all F1 males, was sterile, but this did not prevent him from trying to mate with Maude (who was probably fertile and was evidently coming into oestrus). The fact that Maude did not conceive meant she would have been in oestrus unusually often and Kliou's attempts appear to have become a nuisance to her. To begin with, Kliou and Maude shared an enclosure and mated frequently, but they later fought when Maude repelled Kliou's attempts to mate and had to be housed separately. Kliou made repeated attempts to get into Maude's cage. Kliou died of tuberculosis in March 1942 and Maude became even more serene and regal. She died aged 18 of gastro-enteritis in December 1949 after catching a chill when the lion house heating failed. In 1957, Belle Vue zoo obtained another tigon called Rita. Rita came from Paris Zoo who had obtained her from the "Sultan" of Morocco. She was smaller than either Kliou or Maude, perhaps coming from different subspecies of lion and tiger, and lived until February 23rd, 1968. When Manchester zoo's last tigon died it was valued at $12,000.

tigon

tigon

Left: Female tigon and her male ti-tigon offspring sired by a Siberian tiger. The ti-tigon is 75% tiger and more tiger-like than his mother.  

Right: Male tigon showing pale striping and lion-like mane.

tigon

“Maybe part striped like a tiger, and tawny colored like a lion,” he suggested. “So far as I know a lion and a tiger have never been mated. In their native haunts they don’t meet. You can’t mate captive adults. They’d fight. Probably kill each-other. The only way you can do it - if you can do it at all - is to bring them up together from babies.” Bistany has raised his pets from birth. Both were born in the zoo and reared on a bottle. Orphans, you might call them. Their mothers, as the captive big cats so often do, refused to nurse them. Skippy’s sister was killed by her mother. So Bistany raised them on cow’s milk. When Skippy was old enough he put them together, and they hit it off right from the start. Such rare progeny - born before in a German menagerie - are known as “tigelions” if the father is a tiger, "‘ligers” if the father is a lion. “

In 1938, a tigon was exhibited at Central Park Zoo. This was reported by several papers: “A liger or tigon or lioger or tilion or – well, an odd-looking beast, aged 4, with a puzzled look on its face and a glint in its eye romped in solitude Saturday in a cage in Central Park (NY). Where he came from only the directors of the zoo knew. The donor, they said preferred to ream anonymous and they were not going to let the cat out of the bag One thing was made public - papa was a Siberian tiger; mama was an African lioness, and the offspring rare, resembling a lion save for its head. But New York’s surprise is still to come: In winter when the pelt s in its prime the stripes appear.” And also “THE TIGON. One of nature's strangest hybrids, a 4 year old cub of an African lioness and a Siberian tiger, is the latest resident of the Central park zoo in New York City. The animal, known as a tigon, resembles a lion with the exception of the head, but its ears are striped like a tiger's, and in winter time, when the pelt is in its prime, the body shows the tiger’s stripes. The animal had been bred in the Hamburg, Germany, zoo, and is the gift of an anonymou- donor. The head keeper of the zoo explains that when the tigon resembles a lion more than it does a tiger it is known as a liger.”

tigon

Three "tiglon" cubs (in photo) were owned by Mr and Mrs Lawrence (Jungle Larry) Tetzlaff of Caribbean Gardens, Naples, Florida (now Naples Zoo) in the 1960s. Evelyn Currie, one of the first female lion and tiger tamers for Ringling Brothers Circuses, had a a tiglon that she boasted (incorrectly) was the only one in captivity in the world. In 1966 her "tiglon" Tillie, was exhibited at Dietch's Zoo in Fairlawn, New Jersey. Three tigons were born in Ohio Park Zoo (Sandusky, Ohio) in 1969 (The Chicago Tribune) and at the time there were believed to be only 4 tigons in the world. The tigons were featured in several newspapers in July and August 1975.

In July 1998, the Indian Express Newspaper reported the approaching death of the country's last known surviving zoo tigon. Ranjini, born in 1973, resembled a lioness in size and shape, but with a slightly smaller head and jaw and a brighter yellow coat with faint tiger-like stripes. Ranjini, kept at Calcutta zoo, was bred from a Bengal tiger and an African lion and lived to the age of 25 years. There were only 2 known living tigons in 1976; both in Calcutta zoo: a 5 year old female named Rudrani and her 3 year old sister Ranjini. The zoo's first tigon was Rudhrani, born in 1971, was mated to an Asiatic lion called Debabrata and produced 7 li-tigons in her lifetime. Some of these reached impressive sizes - a li-tigon named Cubanacan (died April 12th, 1991) was believed to weigh at least 800lb/363 kg, stood 52 inches/1.32m at the shoulder and 11.5ft/3.5 m total length (1994: GBWR "largest litigin"). However, Ranjini was not allowed to have a mate due to pressure to end the breeding of hybrids. The zoo was also discouraged by the problem of sterility in the male hybrids (in both tigons and li-tigons). The original tiger and lioness, parents of the two female tigons, had also died, ending the prospect of producing further tigons. In 1985, the Indian Government forbade the cross-breeding of lions and tigers following a campaign by the Worldwide Fund for Nature. This ended a long tradition of lion/tiger breedings in the country. These date back to 1837 when the princess of Jamnagar (an Indian state) presented a tigon to Queen Victoria.

Tigons were also once kept at a French safari park on the estate of an (unidentified) aristocrat. When female tigon Noelle was born at Shambala in 1978, there were only 3 other tigons known in the United States (there might have been others in private hands). Apollo, a tigon at Moscow zoo, was bred from an Ussuri tiger. A tigon was kept at the Valley Of The Kings sanctuary in Wisconsin. Java, a male tigon, was 3 years old in 1998 and came from a farm in Mississipi to protect him from mistreatment, according to the JES Exotic Sanctuary (now Valley of the Kings) in Sharon, Wisconsin, about 100 kilometres west of Chicago. He was undersized at 375 lbs, but was still growing. Java the tigon was killed by lightning during a severe storm in 1999. According to Valley of the Kings (correspondence), there may be as many as 30 or 40 tigons in captivity in 2005, most being owned by private collectors who may have obtained them illegally and who do not advertise their existence. China's first tigon was born at Hongshan Zoo in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, in 2002. It lived only one week.

In December 2000, Australia's National Zoo in Canberra acquired a brother and sister pair of tigons. Aster (male) and Tangier (female) had been bred accidentally in 1987 at a circus to a Bengal tiger and a lioness. They were hand-raised and spent their first several years at a private facility. In 1994, while the tigons were at Ashton's Circus, a toddler lost both his arms when he put them through the bars of the tigons' cage and was severely mauled by Aster. The tigons were 7 years old. The resulting claim stated that the tigons had been placed in an inappropriate area that was a clear attraction for children. There was no safety fencing and the perimeter was not properly supervised. The circus also lacked safe and proper procedures for the housing and exercising of the tigons. Because the facility did not provide adequate quality housing, along with its lions and tigers from the facility, the tigons were moved to the National Zoo. In spite of a "no hybrids" policy, the Zoo took the tigons on humane grounds because there were few other options for the pair.

At almost 20 years old, Aster and Tangier were healthy, having been overweight when they arrived at the Zoo (Aster has since died of old age). They occupied a large enclosure with log climbing frames and a moat in which they sometimes paddle. They ate about 4 kgs of beef, horse, kangaroo, goat, rabbit and chicken per day, excepting 2 "starve" days to mimic the normal lifestyle of big cats (not all hunts are successful). Aster weighed approx 160 kg (around the same as a large adult female Bengal tiger, but small for a male). Tangier weighs 145 kg (average for an adult female Bengal). They had been housed together for their entire life and mated regularly when Tangier was in season. Due to the sterility of male tigons, no offspring were produced. Although the tigons are popular attractions with visitors, the Zoo has no plans to breed further hybrids or to mate Tangier to either a lion or tiger to ascertain whether she is fertile.

In August 2001, Shanghai Safari Park had 4 tigon cubs from an accidental pairing of African lioness "Huanhuan" and Siberian tiger "Huihui". Unfortunately, none survived. The two male and two female cubs' legs and necks resembled their mother, but their faces and tails were tiger-like. The front part of their bodies were lion-like and the rear part tiger-like. The parents were both 3 years old and are stars of the park's animal troupe. The lioness was in her mating season when the troupe was on a out-of-city tour and chose the tiger as her mate. The 4 dead cubs will be preserved as specimens and put on display. In 2005, 2 tigons and 3 ligers were bred at the Shenzhen safari park, in southern China (near Hong Kong). In April 2005, a "tigron" (which was actually a liger!) called Samil was born at the Italian Circus in Vigo, northwestern Spain. Samil is a cross between a female tiger and a lion and therefore is a liger.

G Peters included several hybrids (liger, tigon, leopon, leguar) in his "Comparative Investigation of Vocalisation in Several Felids" published in German in Spixiana-Supplement, 1978; (1): 1-206.

tigon

 

LIGER & TIGON COLOURS

White tigers have been crossed with lions to produce white ligers. Everland Zoo (Yongin Farm Zoo) in Seoul, Korea has produced white ligers, possibly from white tigers and leucistic lionesses. Big Cat Rescue's white tiger apparently co-habitates with a lion, as it was the intention of the original owner to breed white ligers. Golden tigers have been crossed with lions to produce golden ligers. In theory white tigers could be crossed with white lions to produce truly white ligers. White tigons or golden tigons are also possible, but because tigons do not attain the huge size of the liger there is far less interest in breeding them.

A black liger would be an impressive creature, but to breed one would require both a melanistic tiger and a melanistic lion because the gene for black must be inherited from both parents and to guarantee a black liger requires both parents to be black. Very few true melanistic tigers have ever been recorded. Most "black tigers" are due to pseudo-melanism i.e. the markings are so heavy that the tawny background colour is almost hidden. No reports of black lions have ever been substantiated.

In felines, "blue" means a slate-grey colour. Genetically, it is a form of melanism where the colour has been diluted from black to grey. To breed a blue liger would require a blue (i.e.grey) tiger and a black lion (or black tiger and blue lion. Or blue tiger and blue lion). Blue tigers have been recorded in China, but none have occurred in captivity. To date, no grey lions have been recorded.

WHY ARE LIGERS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN TIGONS?

REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING

Historical accounts of ligers and tigons (chronological order): CJ Cornish et al (undated), R De Davison (1863), K Ackermann (1898), A Rörig (1903), Deutshe Landwirtshaftliche Presse (1904), Boettger (1906), T Noack (1908), A Sokolowsky (1909), H Przibram (1910), SS Flower (1929), L Reisinger (1929), Sir PC Mitchell (1930), H Heck (1932), RI Pocock (1935), CWG Eifrig (1937), WA Craft (1938), L Heck (1941), VG Stefko and VP Narskii (1946), B E—(1946), American Fur Breeder (1948), Illustrated (1948), H Pilcher (1948), B Grzimek (1949), A Urbain and J Rinjard (1950), P Leyhausen (1950), C Hagenbeck (1951), O Antonius (1951), H Petzsch (1951, 1956), M Burton (1952), A Kemner (1953)< Farmer's Weekly Bloemfontein (1953), F Petter (1955), H Hemmer (1966, 1968), International Zoo Yearbook (1970, 1971)

Guggisberg, C. A. W. 1975. Wild cats of the world. Taplinger Publ. Co., New York
Leyhausen, P. 1950. Beobachtungen an Löwen-Tiger-Bastarden mit einigen Bemerkungen zur Systematik der Grosskatzen. Z. Tierpsychol., 7:46-83.
Robinson's Genetics for Cat Breeders & Veterinarians 4th Ed (the current version)

Textual content is licensed under the GFDL.

BACK TO HYBRID & MUTANT BIG CATS INDEX