Liger vs Tigon: 6 Key Differences Explained

Written by Patrick Sather
Published: September 17, 2021


Ligers, tigons, and bears, oh my! People have flocked to large cat hybrids for years due to their novelty, size, and unique appearance. Despite widespread interest, few people know the differences between a liger vs tigon. These large cat hybrids result from the mating between a tiger and lion, with each belonging to a different male-female pairing. Ligers and tigons do not naturally occur in the wild because their ranges do not overlap. However, just because their ranges do not overlap does not mean there exists no historical precedent for these unique species. In 1798, French naturalist Etienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire made a color palate off the offspring of a lion and tiger during a trip to India. Furthermore, the term “liger” is nearly 90 years old, giving further credit to the long-term interest in lion and tiger hybrids. 

Thanks to the rise of zoos and captive breeding programs, mating between lions and tigers occasionally occurs on accident. In addition, some breeders purposely place the animals together in the hopes of creating hybrid offspring. That said, many conservationists frown upon this practice due to hybrids’ many health complications. Still, more than 100 ligers currently exist worldwide, with a fewer, unspecified number of tigons. In this article, we’ll compare the traits of a liger vs tigon and discuss six key differences that separate the species. Also, we’ll finish by answering some frequently asked questions about ligers and tigons. 

Comparing Ligers vs Tigons

To complicate matters further, breeding between ligers and tigons can create second-generation hybrids. For years, researchers believed that all ligers and tigons could not bear children, making them effectively sterile. However, recent breeding efforts indicate otherwise. There now exists multiple examples of female ligers and tigons getting pregnant and giving birth to viable offspring. While these second-generation cats do not pertain to this article, we’ve included a brief description of two known hybrids. 

Litigon

A litigon is the result of a pairing between a male lion and a female tigon. The first known litigon was born at the Alipore Zoo in Calcutta, India, in 1971. Although few exist, estimates suggest they can grow up to 11 feet long and weigh up to 798 pounds. 

Liliger

A liliger represents the offspring of a male lion and a female liger. The Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich, Germany, witnessed the first liliger birth in 1943. No data currently exists that estimates 

how large they can grow. 

Titigon

A titigon occurs when a male tiger mates with a female tigon. The first known titigon occurred in 1983 when a titigon was born at the Shambala Preserve in Acton, California.

Tiliger

A tiliger is the name for the offspring of a male tiger and a female liger. Only a handful of tiligers exist in captivity, most of them in the United States.  

LigerTigon
ParentsMale lion
Female tiger
Male Tiger
Female Lion
Size9.8 to 11.8 feet long
710 to 1,210 pounds
4 feet to 9 feet long
200 to 500 pounds
Color and MarkingsTawny-orange to beige
Feint stripes on backs and spots on bellies
Black, dark brown, or sandy markings
Darker orange color
White bellies
More prominent, darker markings
ManeMales have short or no manesMales have short manes
Health IssuesGigantism
Obesity
Dwarfism
Birth issues due to size of cubs
Bite Force900 psi400 to 450 psi

The 6 Key Differences Between Ligers vs Tigons

Ligers and Tigons: Parents

Ligers and tigons both represent the offspring of lions and tigers. However, they result from different pairings of parents. To create a liger, a male tiger must mate with a female tiger. On the other hand, a male tiger must mate with a female lion to make a tigon. The names respective names of each big cat are created by taking parts of each parent’s name, with the male’s name appearing first. Hence, “lion/tiger” produces “liger,” while “tiger/lion” leads to “tigon.” So long as this formula is followed, it does not matter which species of lion or tiger is used to create a liger or tigon.

Ligers and Tigons: Size

The biggest and most noticeable difference between a liger vs tigon is their respective sizes. Of the two, the liger measures noticeably larger. In fact, the liger ranks as the most massive feline in the world. Ligers typically measure between 9.8 to 11.8 feet long, and non-obese specimens weigh from 710 to over 900 pounds. However, obese ligers can easily reach up to 1,210 pounds. For example, a liger named Hercules holds the record for the largest living non-obese cat on Earth, weighing an incredible 922 pounds. Ligers grow larger than either parent species due to no growth limiting gene, which usually comes from female lions. Since neither male lions nor female tigers possess this gene, liger offspring continue to grow throughout their lifetime. 

Meanwhile, tigons never grow larger than either parent species.  tIn fact, though they will often measure the same size as either parent, they occasionally measure smaller. The average tigon measures between 4 to 9 feet long and weighs between 200 to 500 pounds. This difference in size varies depending on which genes appear more dominant in the offspring. If the lion genes dominate, tigons generally grow to smaller sizes. If the tiger genes dominate, they can grow to the size of an adult tiger. 

Ligers and Tigons: Color and Markings

Although the colorings and markings on a liger vs tigon appear similar, a trained eye can spot several critical differences between them. In general, the color of a liger is tawny orange and more similar in color to a lion than a tiger. They possess faint stripes on their backs and spots on the bellies. Most of their markings appear black, brown, or a sandy-beige color. On the other hand, tigons appear more like their tiger fathers than lion mothers. Their coats are generally a darker orange color, and they possess darker stripes on their back than a liger. A tigon typically sports a white belly covered in spots and displays darker, more prominent markings than the rosettes on a liger. 

Ligers and Tigons: Mane

Male ligers and tigons both possess the potential to grow manes. However, this does not mean that their manes always appear noticeable. In addition, there is no guarantee that some males will develop a mane. For example, there exist male ligers both with and without manes. If a liger does grow a mane, it will not grow as complete as a typical lion’s mane. For example, the largest liger in the world, Hercules, does not possess a mane. When a liger does grow a man, it will usually appear in the same color as their body. On the other hand, a tigon almost always grows a mane. That said, its mane appears more similar to the ruff of a tiger and does not grow as complete as a lion’s mane. 

Ligers and Tigons: Health Issues

Like many hybrid offspring, ligers and tigons face numerous health issues. Congenital disabilities are common in infants, and many do not live to see adulthood. However, both ligers and tigons face specific health issues related to the particular genes they inherit from their parents. For example, ligers frequently live with gigantism. This is due to the fact that they do not inherit a growth-inhibiting gene from either parent. In addition, this makes them particularly susceptible to obesity, so ligers require plenty of exercise and care to make sure they do not overeat. Meanwhile, tigons often live with dwarfism due to the growth-inhibiting gene they inherit from their lion mothers. In addition, congenital disabilities and complications occur more frequently with tigons due to the large size of the cubs. Their large size puts more pressure on female lions giving birth, which leads to higher rates of death in mothers and infants. 

Ligers and Tigons: Bite Force

The bite force is another difference that separates a liger vs tigon. Their bite forces differ due to the respective sizes of their heads. On average, a liger’s head is much broader and larger than a tigon’s and can reach up to 18 inches wide. Thanks to its more prominent head, a liger can deliver much more crushing power with each bite. According to estimates, a liger’s bite force can reach up to 900 psi. Due to their smaller size, a tigon’s bit force barely measures half the strength of a liger’s. It’s estimated that the average tigon’s bite force reaches between 400 to 450 psi. 

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Ligers vs Tigons

How long can ligers and tigons live?

No research exists that estimates the lifespan of tigons. If they live to adulthood, ligers typically live between 13 to 18 years. However, some specimens can live over 20 years. 

How much do ligers eat?

Due to their enormous size – and appetites – a liger will continue to eat long after most cats finish their meal. A liger will frequently eat up to 50 pounds of raw meat in a single meal.