What are hybrid wild cats?
A hybrid is the offspring – the babies – of two different animal species from the same family when they crossbreed or interbreed. The hybrid animal usually cannot have babies.
In wild cats, for example, the Lion is closely related to the Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, and Jaguar. Although they rarely crossbreed – because they live in different countries or regions – if they do, they produce hybrid wild cats. Zoos do not encourage crossbreeding, called hybridization, because they want to conserve pure genes, and because it may not be safe for the babies.
Here are some examples of wild cat hydridization:
The hybrid of a male Lion and female Tiger is a Liger. The Liger is larger than the Lion and the Tiger. The male Liger cannot produce babies – he is sterile – whereas the female Liger can have babies – she is fertile.
The hybrid of a female Lion and a male Tiger is a Tigon or a Tiglon. The Tigon is smaller than the Lion and the Tiger.
The hybrid of a female Lion and a male Leopard is a Leopon. The Leopon has a head that looks like a Lion and a body that looks like a Leopard.
The recent increase in domestic cat breeders crossbreeding a domestic cat with a wild cat is controversial. Scientists and animal groups in the United Kingdom, and across the globe, want governments to have legislations to make this form of hybridization illegal to prevent the suffering of hybrid babies. These domestic-wild hybrid wild cats are not suitable in a domestic home environment, says the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary, the UK RSPCA, and the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, because they grow large and strong with predatory instincts.
Photographs: Liger by National Geographic, and Tigon by crownridgetigers.com
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM