When considering what are the largest members of the "Cat" family, you may think of Lions and/or Tigers. While these are the biggest existing in the wild, they are dwarfed by the hybrid supercats known as "Ligers".
Ligers are a result of crossbreeding a male lion with a tigress (female tiger). Ligers are the largest of all known cats. Crossbreeding a male tiger and a lioness doesn’t result in liger cubs however, they are called tiglons instead. Tiglons don’t grow as large as ligers, their adult size is almost like that of a tigress. Crossbreeding between the two species is possible because lions and tigers have the same genus (Panthera). The famous liger Hercules with his trainer Bhagaven Antle (below-left). A male tiglon (below-right).
The reason why ligers grow so large is due to imprinted genes. The growth inhibiting gene is inherited from a lioness. As a liger is a cross between a lion and tigress, it’s missing this growth inhibiting gene so they grow abnormally large. Ligers are known to easily reach over 320 kg in weight and 10 ft in length, with males being on average larger than females. Currently the largest living liger is over 420 kg, his name is Hercules and is known by the Guinness Book of World Records. Some believe that ligers continue to grow for the rest of their lives, however further growth after six years hasn’t been seen. The more likely explanation for size is that during their growing years, they grow faster than the average lion or tiger. Despite being very big, it’s believed that ligers will not have an advantage in the wild. They must hunt alot more often to get enough food to maintain life in their big bodies. Female (below-left) and a Male (below-right).
Ligers have a lion-like tawny background and on it a tiger-like stripping pattern. Their underparts are more like a tiger’s, pale. Although these are the comman colours, their actual colours really depend on their parents subspecies. It’s possible to cross a white lion with a white tigress to produce a white liger, but it would be very difficult due to rarity. The closest this has been done is by crossing lions with white tigresses, but they produce pale golden ligers.